Bintel Blog

The Kafka Vitamin

By Jake Marmer

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A recent study published in Psychological Science claims that absurdist literature stimulates the mind, heightening its capacity and potential, both at the time of reading — and afterwards. To prove this, 40 people participated in an experiment where they read Kafka’s “Country Doctor” and were observed by scientists Travis Proulx and Steven J. Heine.

The results are reported in their paper but seem to suggest that reading absurdist literature (Kafka) or arguing against the possibility that your own self is unified (sounds a little like Freud!) can improve people’s ability to understand new types of patterns in reading and elsewhere.

I personally fell asleep every single time I tried read The Castle, which by now must have tried a dozen times. I might have been up for Fourier analysis in my dreams, but at this point, I’m no longer sure.

Tom Jacobs outlines the details and the ramifications of the experiment readably and comprehensively at Miller-McCune. Wonder what Kafka would say if he knew his work is being used for psychological experiments — he’d probably agree with Jacobs’ conclusion that: “if a Kafkaesque work of literature seems strange on the surface, our brains amp up to dig deeper and discover its underlying design. Which, all things considered, is a hell of a lot better than waking up and discovering you’ve turned into a giant cockroach.”


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