Why Kafka Makes You Smarter

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic vermin." The first line of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis immediately launches readers into a surreal world where a man transforms into a bug and his family barely notices. Surrealist stories aren't just entertaining pursuits—reading Kafka or other dreamlike tales makes people better at performing cognitive tasks, according to a new study from researchers at University of California in Santa Barbara and the University of British Columbia.

The psychology researchers showed a group of subjects The Country Doctor, a Kafka story about a doctor who travels to see an ill patient but ends up naked in bed with the patient before escaping the house sans clothes. Another group read a similar tale, which was rewritten to be logical. After reading, both groups completed a grammar exercise where they had to identify letter strings.

"People who read the nonsensical story checked off more letter strings—clearly they were motivated to find structure," Travis Proulx, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSB and co-author of the study, told the Guardian. "But what's more important is that they were actually more accurate than those who read the more normal version of the story. They really did learn the pattern better than the other participants did."

Proulx theorizes that those who read the original Kafka story were better able to find patterns because their brains craved structure after reading something that was seemingly absurd. He also believes that people who are experiencing identity crises would search for structured patterns in life. [Image credit.]

What Koalas and Humans Have in Common

There's something strange about koala fingerprints. Read more bizarre koala facts here.

Don't Have Space For a Christmas Tree? Decorate a Pineapple Instead

Christmas trees aren't for everyone. Some people can't fit a fir inside their cramped abodes, while others are turned off by the expense, or by the idea of bugs hitchhiking their way inside. Fake trees are always an option, but a new trend sweeping Instagram—pineapples as mini-Christmas "trees"—might convince you to forego the forest vibe for a more tropical aesthetic.

As Thrillist reports, the pineapple-as-Christmas-tree idea appears to have originated on Pinterest before it, uh, ripened into a social media sensation. Transforming a pineapple into a Halloween “pumpkin” requires carving and tea lights, but to make the fruit festive for Christmas all one needs are lights, ornaments, swaths of garland, and any other tiny tchotchkes that remind you of the holidays. The final result is a tabletop decoration that's equal parts Blue Hawaii and Miracle on 34th Street.

In need of some decorating inspiration? Check out a variety of “Christmas tree” pineapples below.

[h/t Thrillist]


More from mental floss studios