One of the biggest roles of science fiction is to prepare people to accept the future without pain and to encourage a flexibility of the mind. Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories.” – Arthur C. Clarke


If you have trained with me or studied with me online, you’ll be aware that I tend to make reference to sci-fi films and literature a fair bit to illustrate my points in class or in the clinical environment, and I do so for a wide range of reasons. Today I wanted to extend that a little bit further and explain how science fiction can actually be good for your mental health and well-being.


Aliens, light sabres, super fast space travel, time-machines, spaceships are all part of what you may call Science Fiction. In simple words, any form of fiction that deals with scientific technology, extraterrestrial beings, or alternate realities comes under the umbrella of Science Fiction. It is important to note that Science Fiction is commonly confused with fantasy fiction. For instance, the famous series Harry Potter or my beloved Lord of the Rings would be considered pure fantasy rather than science fiction as it is not rooted in the semblance of scientific possibility or a futuristic world, whereas Star Wars set in a different galaxy exploring an alternate world using spaceships would be categorised as science fiction. Given that Science Fiction may majorly rely on vivid imagination and unreal scenarios, some people pass it for being frivolous and silly; however, most well-written science fiction has more to say than it seems on the surface. Science fiction tugs at a primal itch in us which is curious to understand the unknown and imagine the impossible. This creates space in us for what lies beyond us, expanding us as people at a fundamental level, bearing real psychological benefits for us

Today I’m offering up a number of ways in which science fiction benefits us psychologically and why you should definitely put the genre on your book list:

1. Expanded Imagination And Curiosity

Fiction expands our imagination and gives us the power to transcend mundane reality. Science fiction takes it to another level. With the creation of an alternate world and imagining futuristic possibilities, the writer/filmmaker gives the reader/viewer a vocabulary to grasp more than what the eye sees. It tugs right at the heart. This gives the reader/viewer the ability to think beyond conventional limits, pushing their boundaries. A person rich in imagination can achieve wonders and science fiction makes it possible to do so. In addition to this, it gives you cognitive flexibility because as your brain gets used to entertaining unconventional and out of the box ideas, it allows us to look at things from different perspectives and have acceptance of views different from our own.

2. Social and Environmental Commentary

Science fiction often deals with the impact of scientific technology on the world and nature. Consuming science fiction and engaging with it on a critical level can spread awareness about the effects of technology on the world and make us more cognizant of how we go through the world. These stories can serve as important cautionary tales as fiction has the freedom of showing us dystopian visions of what the world will look like if we keep on exploiting nature.

3. Escapism

While science fiction can play an important role in making readers/viewers more socially aware, it can also serve as a form of catharsis and escapism. Reading about faraway lands as characters hop onto spaceships travelling through time. The readers/viewers can find a strange sense of comfort in these narratives completely different from their own reality. At the same time, science fiction also evokes a sense of awe and wonder. I recall first reading Iain M Banks Culture series of novels and being in absolute awe while reading the descriptions of the huge spaceships with their own intelligence travelling light years into space.

4. Increased Curiosity Towards Science

Research shows that people who read science fiction are usually driven to be interested in science at large, especially children. When children read science fiction, they feel enthralled by the world of science which on the other hand might feel like a dull and boring one at school. This can serve well in terms of inculcating scientific knowledge and awareness in children through fiction. Social and environmental awareness can be reached much more easily compared to if these children were told to follow certain rules verbally without the element of wonder that science fiction creates. In the times we live in, it is extremely important that our children know that there is a world beyond video games and social media that can be equally captivating which can in turn polish their creativity skills.

5. Lowered Levels Of Anxiety

Experts have noted that reading science fiction helps with anxiety and existential dread. The thrill and complexity of these plots help people deal with their own complex existence giving them a sense of purpose and meaning. When you step out of your world and immerse yourself in the ups and downs of a story that has nothing to do with you, it releases happy hormones uplifting your mood as you see the characters at hand navigate challenges in the book or the movie and come out of them successfully. A lot science fiction also deals with existential questions talking about the end of the world or a food crisis, for instance, these are questions that too keep us in a sense of fear without realising. When these books and films give voice to our fears and questions that we have suppressed in a fun and engaging way, it eases us into finding answers to these questions and also teaches us to live with the uncertainty that comes with them as when science fiction talks about the futuristic world, essentially what it is showing is not some unreal world made to entertain us, it is rather a reflection of how much human beings have progressed and the kind of scientific advancements we have become capable of.

6. Sense Of Community

Science Fiction is a very celebrated genre amongst its fans. People who enjoy science fiction are often die-hard fans and end up having endless conversations, arranged themed parties, attending events with fellow fans and commenting on these pieces of fiction. A lot of this literature also gives rise to different fan theories that people often love to engage with and solve. This genre of fiction is so thrilling and exciting that it inspires a different kind of enthusiasm in people; hence, providing a sense of community to all its fans whereby people from different backgrounds can bond over a favorite character or scene! There are fan and bot accounts dedicated solely to science fiction characters who respond to people’s queries and worries. For instance, a character who is known for being wise and powerful will often run anonymous accounts sharing free advice and help to people across the globe. Fiction and literature can truly give meaning to people’s lives whereby an alternate world full of characters and dialogues can give them the power to get through real life. When these experiences are shared with others and people realise that there are other people on the globe who share their sentiments, these feelings of community are increased a great deal. Magical, right?

7. Re-Kindled Hope

Earlier, I talked about the cautionary aspect of science fiction, stating that science fiction sometimes shows the adverse impact of scientific technology on the world, this can spread awareness amongst people to be more careful of how they interact with nature. Often this kind of science fiction is known as dystopian fiction whereby the writer/filmmaker shows you a completely gloomy and ruined world making us more wary of our actions. On the contrary, what science fiction can also do is present a utopian world to the reader/viewer. This can be an effort to show what the world could look like if we were all to play a positive part in it. This could be communicated through heroic characters overcoming evil and triumph of truth. This kind of content fills people with hope and optimism and fills them with the belief that even if not a utopian world, they can still create some good change and see its ripple effect when done consistently.

Read this great article on hope, as it expands this point in great detail and quotes one of my favourite science fiction films: Finding Hope in Difficult Times.

8. Psychological Resilience

Science fiction as opposed to, for instance, romantic or fantasy fiction is often based around emotionally resilient and heroic characters. These characters are often seen grappling with ideas bigger than reality and navigate adversity through the power of imagination and consistent hard work. These qualities can become a part of our psychological make-up. We might not become the next Star Wars hero, but these characters still do have a positive impact on us. We do subconsciously imbibe their integrity and fortitude during difficult situations. With increased hope and a changed outlook of looking at the world, when we have words and characters that we can look up to, it makes us more resilient and braver as people.

9. Enhancing Empathy

Much like most fiction, science fiction acts a way for us to understand relate with experiences of others beyond us. A slightly different way in which science fiction functions; however, is that it helps us find connection with characters and sub-realities that have nothing to do with us. For instance, if there is a film about aliens; if you think about it, these are strange looking creatures, we have nothing in common with. They are often comical, and one might not at first associate any serious sentiment with them. However, the power of writing and words helps us build a connection with them making us understand and empathise with what we do not even understand. This is a crucial empathy building exercise especially for children as when they see different creatures and put themselves in their shoes, the same logic can then be used by their parents who can ask them to apply it to other children around them whom they might not like and have a fight with. These creatures and unreal worlds also inspire a deep sense of fascination which can further incentivise the child to act in a manner that is kind and gentle.

10. Delight And Fun

Lastly, science fiction is fun, just simply fun. The simple pleasure of a book or a film transporting you to a faraway land evoking so many feelings within you is underrated. Hence, the plain fact that science fiction has the capability to entertain us, make us laugh, and at the same time also move us is an unparalleled psychological benefit of Science Fiction. A lot of other form of fiction especially romantic fiction may set up unreachable ideals of love and beauty; on the other hand, something like science fiction does not inherently set up any such expectations or ideals. It is often so out of touch of reality and so unreal that it almost already gives you a disclaimer that everything that you are about to consume is detached from reality and that is the fun part about it!

Final Word

In conclusion, science fiction is a crucial genre of fiction which helps us expand our imagination and build empathy. When we explore stories that exist on a plane that goes beyond our imagination, we are forced to push our limits and think beyond what the conventions make us think. Science fiction also is extremely important especially for children as it motivates them to learn more about science which they might find boring when taught as a lecture in school. Science fiction makes you cognitively flexible and by consuming ideas and possibilities beyond the mundane, you are able to build an appetite for bigger and larger than life ideas. Imagination becomes your coping and survival skill and takes you beyond. One major way in which science fiction has an extraordinary psychological impact on people is provide them community in the form of shared fandom over something positive. When people like the same super-heroes and get excited over similar dialogues, it creates a special kind of intimacy between them which gives them a sense of purpose. Simultaneously, the fun and delight that comes with consuming science fiction cannot be neglected. The experience of reading or watching something that makes something so seemingly unrelatable connect with us is pleasurable in an unmatched way. Hence, science fiction should not be looked at as frivolous and something for children because it is so cut off from reality, but rather be critically engaged with as to what is being said beneath the grandeur of the scientific and technological jargon.


Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” – Albert Einstein


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