A new study compares our psychological reactions to things that upend our accepted world-views. Participants responded to the simple moral of Aesop's fable about the tortoise and the hare in which perseverance wins the race, and then, in turn, to the more pessimistic take of Kafka's "An Imperial Message," a story in which no matter how hard one tries, one doesn't succeed:

When there’s a challenge to our established world-view, whether from the absurd, the unexpected, the unpalatable, the confusing or the unknown, we experience a psychological force pushing back, trying to re-assert the things we feel are safe, comfortable and familiar.

That’s a shame because stories like Kafka’s contain truths we’d do well to heed.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.