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Potentiating Empathic Growth: Generating Imagery While Reading Fiction Increases Empathy and Prosocial Behavior

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Abstract

The value of narrative fiction as a vehicle for empathic growth is touted across diverse disciplines, but these ideas have rarely undergone empirical scrutiny. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether enhancing imagery generation while reading fiction can potentiate empathy and prosocial behavior. Participants (N = 98) were randomly assigned to generate imagery across multiple sensory domains while reading (imagery-generation condition), focus on the semantic meaning of words in the story (verbal-semantic condition), or read the story as they would for leisure (leisure-reading condition). Participants who generated higher levels of imagery were significantly more transported into the story and felt significantly higher empathy for the story’s characters. Individuals in the imagery-generation condition were over 3 times more likely to exhibit prosocial behavior than individuals in the leisure-reading condition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

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... Some researchers, while agreeing that narrative fiction enhances social cognition more strongly than expository non-fiction does, trace the effects to specific text features such as literariness, social content, or stylistics/structure (e.g., Chlebuch et al., 2020;Johnson et al., 2013b;Małecki et al., 2016;Panero et al., 2016). Others postulate that the effects rely on reader characteristics, such as emotional transportation (Bal & Veltkamp, 2013) or imagery generation (Johnson et al., 2013a). ...
... Furthermore, the extant evidence base mainly relies on measures of social cognition though some researchers have considered morality as well. For instance, in an investigation by Johnson et al. (2013a), participants read a fictional story and were instructed to either generate imagery during reading, focus on word meaning, or read the story with a view to being entertained. The imagerygeneration group was over three times more likely to engage in prosocial behaviour after the reading assignment than the entertainment group. ...
... The second route is more direct, via observational learning (Black & Barnes, 2021;Johnson et al., 2013a;Mumper & Gerrig, 2019). Readers are thought to be able to learn morally positive attitudes and behaviours when a story character is rewarded for morally positive behaviour or penalized for morally negative behaviour. ...
Article
We present two experiments examining the effects of reading narrative fiction ( vs. narrative non-fiction vs. expository non-fiction) on social and moral cognition, using a battery of self-report, explicit and implicit indicators. Experiment 1 ( N = 340) implemented a pre-registered, randomized between-groups design, and assessed multiple outcomes after a short reading assignment. Results failed to reveal any differences between the three reading conditions on either social or moral cognition. Experiment 2 employed a longitudinal design. N = 104 participants were randomly assigned to read an entire book over seven days. Outcome variables were assessed before and after the reading assignment as well as at a one-week follow-up. Results did not show any differential development between the three reading conditions over time. The present results do not support the claim that reading narrative fiction is apt to improve our general social and moral cognition.
... The majority of these experiments test the degree to which one-time exposure to different genres affects social cognition immediately after exposure, although some exceptions have included delayed post-tests (e. g., Appelet al., 2016;Bal & Veltkamp, 2013). In addition, most of these experiments have focused on social cognition, primarily using the RMET (see Dodell & Tamir, 2018, for a meta-analytic overview), although some have examined the effect of stories on self-report measures of empathy (e. g., Bal & Veltkamp, 2013;Djikic et al., 2013) or prosocial behavior (Johnson et al., 2013;Koopman, 2015b). Overall, the results have been inconsistent. ...
... What they did discover was a small effect of reading fiction on social cognition as a whole, including other outcome variables such as self-reported empathy. In fact, the largest effect size among the studies included in the meta-analysis was obtained with a self-report scale: the perspective-taking subscale of Davis's (1980) Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) (Johnson et al., 2013). ...
... Researchers have used both the perspectivetaking subscale and the empathic concern subscale. One study found a positive effect on self-reported perspective-taking after reading narrative fiction (Johnson et al., 2013). However, another study found no effect for perspective-taking or empathic concern (Djikic et al., 2013). ...
Chapter
Fiction-when it is listened to, or when it appears in print, film, and video games-introduces people not only to storyworlds, but also to characters, their relationships, and complex social interactions. A growing body of research suggests that people who listen to, read, or watch fiction may learn social skills from stories through various mechanisms, including identifying with and forming parasocial relationships with characters, and simulating the social experiences depicted in the story. This chapter begins by reviewing theories that explain the potential effects of engaging with fiction and the possible mechanisms through which these effects might manifest. We then describe the methods used to investigate the effects of fiction and present a brief overview of both cor-relational and experimental findings. This overview indicates that there is robust evidence of an association between lifetime exposure to fiction and social cognition, but results from experimental studies have been mixed. Finally, we identify the most important gaps in the current research and propose directions for future research. Despite recent efforts to test the effects of manipulating engagement with fiction on a limited range of social cognitive abilities, many aspects of social cognition have yet to be explored, and there is a clear need for longitudinal intervention studies.
... Do improvements in social cognition generalize to improved real-world or day-to-day social behavior? Evidence that fiction reading increases prosocial behavior, and not just social cognition, suggests it may (Johnson, 2012;Johnson, Cushman, Borden, & McCune, 2013;Koopman, 2015), but further work is needed. ...
... Thus, the benefits to social cognition may depend on the quality of a reader's engagement with a text and motivation to understand the characters (Keen, 2006). For example, fiction's impact may depend on a reader's propensity to be transported into narratives, generate imagery while reading, or to simulate other minds (Bal & Veltkamp, 2013;Calarco, Fong, Rain, & Mar, in press;Johnson, 2012;Johnson, Cushman, et al., 2013;Tamir et al., 2016). In the absence of this type of reader engagement, fiction is unlikely to effect any change at all. ...
... Rate empathy felt towards a group of people (Arab-Muslims in Johnson et al., 2013;Depressed/bereaved individuals in Koopman, 2015). Imposing Memory Task (Kinderman, Dunbar, & Bentall, 1998) Panero et al. (2016) contained mixed samples with student and Mechanical Turk participants and were not included in the moderator analysis. ...
Article
Scholars from both the social sciences and the humanities have credited fiction reading with a range of positive real-world social effects. Research in psychology has suggested that readers may make good citizens because fiction reading is associated with better social cognition. But does fiction reading causally improve social cognition? Here, we meta-analyze extant published and unpublished experimental data to address this question. Multilevel random-effects meta-analysis of 53 effect sizes from 14 studies demonstrated that it does: compared to nonfiction reading and no reading, fiction reading leads to a small, statistically significant improvement in social-cognitive performance (g = .15–.16). This effect is robust across sensitivity analyses and does not appear to be the result of publication bias. We recommend that in future work, researchers use more robust reading manipulations, assess whether the effects transfer to improved real-world social functioning, and investigate mechanisms.
... Therefore, the advice for future research was to use a pre-reading instruction focusing on a specific component of transportation (e.g., imagery; Green, 2004, p. 261). Johnson, Cushman, Borden and McCune (2013) made a successful first attempt in this direction. Instead of pre-reading instructions, they gave participants an imagery generation training, which subsequently resulted in increased transportation when reading a narrative. ...
... If specific reading instructions would indeed prove powerful in altering reading experiences these could be used to promote reading in people who do not read for leisure, which could have positive consequences for among others school success (Chiu & McBride-Chang, 2006;Mol & Jolles, 2014;Retelsdorf, Köller, & Möller, 2011) second language learning (Lao & Krashen, 2000;Lee, Schallert, & Kim, 2015;Yamashita, 2008), social cognition and empathy (e.g., Fong, Mullin, & Mar, 2013;Johnson et al., 2013;Mar & Oatley, 2008;Oatley, 2016), or persuasion (e.g., Dal Cin, Zanna, & Fong, 2004Green & Brock, 2000). If, however, other factors (e.g., individual trait differences) are found to be a stronger driver of absorption and appreciation than imagery instructions, this would indicate that using such instructions in for instance educational settings is not an optimal intervention to increase reading pleasure. ...
... Perhaps the explicit mental imagery the participants were instructed to perform in this study was too different from the implicit mental simulation elicited by stories during naturalistic reading, and was therefore relatively unrelated to reading experiences. This could also explain why submitting participants to a more implicit mental imagery training before reading, did prove effective in increasing experienced transportation (Johnson et al., 2013). ...
Article
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It is well established that readers form mental images when reading a narrative. However, the consequences of mental imagery (i.e. the influence of mental imagery on the way people experience stories) are still unclear. Here we manipulated the amount of mental imagery that participants engaged in while reading short literary stories in two experiments. Participants received pre-reading instructions aimed at encouraging or discouraging mental imagery. After reading, participants answered questions about their reading experiences. We also measured individual trait differences that are relevant for literary reading experiences. The results from the first experiment suggests an important role of mental imagery in determining reading experiences. However, the results from the second experiment show that mental imagery is only a weak predictor of reading experiences compared to individual (trait) differences in how imaginative participants were. Moreover, the influence of mental imagery instructions did not extend to reading experiences unrelated to mental imagery. The implications of these results for the relationship between mental imagery and reading experiences are discussed.
... Those who feel more transported into narratives enjoy them more (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004;Hall & Bracken, 2011); they also, perhaps because transportation involves losing oneself in a story at the expense of awareness of the real world (Green & Brock, 2000), find a story more realistic when they have felt transported into its world (Green, 2004;Hall & Bracken, 2011). Various investigations have highlighted the importance of transportation as a mechanism contributing to effects of fiction exposure: transportation into narratives has been shown to lead to greater prosocial behavior (Johnson, Cushman, Borden, & McCune, 2013), more effective persuasion (Appel & Richter, 2010), greater empathy (Bal & Veltkamp, 2013), and greater likelihood of endorsing story-consistent beliefs (Dal Cin, Zanna, & Fong, 2004;Green, 2004). ...
... Previous studies suggest that the effects of fictional content can depend on narrative engagement (transportation as a mediator: Green & Brock, 2002 [Study 4];Johnson, Cushman, Borden, & McCune, 2013; transportation as a moderator: Appel & Richter, 2010;Mazzocco, 2010;Richter, Appel, & Calio, 2014). If sci-fi has a unique effect on creativity either through priming or depleting the imagination, then we would not expect to see an association between transportation and the outcome variables in the realistic or control conditions. ...
Article
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Past research suggests that reading science fiction (sci-fi) correlates not only with a propensity to think the impossible could become possible, but also with a tendency to say that morally taboo actions could be permissible in some circumstances (Black, Capps, & Barnes, 2017). Here, in a pre-registered experimental study, we tested the immediate effects of exposure to sci-fi television shows on moral imagination and creativity. Although there were no main effects of viewing sci-fi (compared to viewing realistic television and a control), we found an interaction between condition and narrative engagement: in the sci-fi group only, participants who reported feeling less transported into the story tended to subsequently generate fewer scenarios in which normally taboo acts would be morally permissible (compared with highly transported individuals in the sci-fi group as well as both the control and realistic TV show groups). The same pattern of results held for creativity: there was a significant interaction between condition and narrative engagement, such that there was an effect of transportation only for those who watched sci-fi, with participants who were more transported into the sci-fi narrative generating more unique uses for a common object than those who experienced low transportation into sci-fi. This pattern of results is discussed with respect to the cognitive demands of engaging with science fiction
... Overall, reading fiction directly causes a small increase in empathy (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2017). There are far fewer studies examining whether reading is associated with increased prosocial behavior, but these studies suggest that reading leads to increases in empathy, which translates into more prosocial behavior (Johnson, 2012;Johnson, Cushman, Borden, & McCune, 2013;Koopman, 2015). Prosocial behavior is more likely when readers are more transported into the story (Johnson, 2012), have higher imagery while reading (Johnson et al., 2013), and are reading personal life narratives, regardless of whether they are seen as true stories or fictional (Koopman, 2015). ...
... There are far fewer studies examining whether reading is associated with increased prosocial behavior, but these studies suggest that reading leads to increases in empathy, which translates into more prosocial behavior (Johnson, 2012;Johnson, Cushman, Borden, & McCune, 2013;Koopman, 2015). Prosocial behavior is more likely when readers are more transported into the story (Johnson, 2012), have higher imagery while reading (Johnson et al., 2013), and are reading personal life narratives, regardless of whether they are seen as true stories or fictional (Koopman, 2015). ...
... Leopold et al., 2019). Further, visualization strategies have been found to improve memorization (η 2 = 0.325, Marre et al., 2021) and empathy during reading of fiction texts (d = 0.92, Johnson et al., 2013). However, it could also be argued that some non-specified feature of imagery strategy use such as attention resulted in the gains, or that the imagery strategies resulted in increased propositional processing. ...
Article
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Mental imagery is foundational to human experience, lying at the heart of cognition and reading, however research has failed to conclusively investigate and demonstrate a link. Therefore, we conducted three studies measuring adults' reading and imagery performance. In Study 1, the mental imagery skills of 155 adults were measured using two established self-report measures, namely the Plymouth Sensory Imagery Questionnaire (Psi-Q) and the Spontaneous Use of Imagery Scale (SUIS), and a novel imagery comparison task. In Study 2 (n = 452), a control for speeded processing replaced the SUIS. In Study 3 (n = 236), we added a measure of reading speed. Findings indicate that the objective measurement of mental imagery was associated with reading performance, whereas self-report measures were not. Further, reading comprehension linked more strongly to mental imagery than reading speed did. Findings demonstrate, for the first time, that mental imagery processes are intrinsically linked with reading performance.
... Short story. Participants read a short story written by Stephanie Schmidt Johnson (Johnson, Cushman, Borden, & McCune, 2013). The story involves a student from a troubled home who is unable to go with their friends to play after school because they do not have a bike to ride with them. ...
Preprint
Psychopathy has been related to overall negative perceptions of others in past research, but the reason for these negative attitudes is unclear. The current study investigated the relationship between psychopathy and attitudes toward others and attempted to explain these negative attitudes by testing empathy and early maladaptive schemas as mediators and social dominance orientation as a moderator for this relationship. There were 191 participants in the current study; participants first read a short story and took a scale assessing attitudes toward the characters; then, they completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, the SDO7, the Young Schema Questionnaire-SF, and the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, in that order. Psychopathy was significantly negatively related to empathy and attitudes toward the characters and significantly positively related to social dominance orientation and early maladaptive schemas. Both empathy and early maladaptive schemas partially mediated the relationship between psychopathy and attitudes toward others. These results help to clarify some of the questions surrounding the interpersonal functioning of individuals high in psychopathy and could potentially be used to help create interventions to address these interpersonal deficiencies.
... Empathy and mental stamina, two celebrated benefits of stories, both relate to enlisting inner embodied experience while engaging with written text (Johnson et al., 2013;Mol and Jolles, 2014) and other story modes (Quinlan and Mar, 2020). Yet children are rarely asked about what stories make them experience in embodied terms. ...
Article
Literacy research and practice are invigorated by evidence that stories enhance empathy and concentration. Both benefits are associated with attending to inner sensory states afforded by stories. Yet children are rarely asked about how stories, steeped as they are in characters' bodily actions, affect them in bodily terms. We have conducted a qualitative study inviting 9‐ to 12‐year‐olds (N = 19) to share their embodied story experiences. To this end, we developed a toolkit of story excerpts and activities supported with bespoke props that can be adopted in research but also in classrooms and other practice. The toolkit was tested in school‐based focus groups (accompanied by in‐class observations) and home‐based individual interviews. We introduce the toolkit and discuss some of the key prerequisites of its use. Further, we present three main types of embodiment statements provided by our participants: what‐statements about the trigger of one's embodied experience, how‐statements about the sensory or motor quality of the experience and what‐and‐how statements combining both aspects. We consider the distinct potentials of these statement types for fostering children's embodied self‐awareness and story awareness in educational settings and beyond.
... Una ricerca che indaga sui comportamenti di aiuto conseguenti a determinate letture è quella di Dan Johnson (Johnson 2013) che ha dimostrato se e come la lettura potesse influenzare l'incremento dell'empatia. Attraverso la lettura di un breve racconto, costruito in maniera tale da stimolare la compassione verso alcuni personaggi, l'autore ha di-mostrato come i lettori divenivano inclini (con intensità proporzionale al trasporto che la storia suscitava in essi) a compiere gesti di aiuto (nel caso specifico aiutare lo stesso autore a raccogliere degli oggetti caduti sul pavimento). ...
Chapter
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Uno studio condotto da John Hutton presso il Centro Me- dico dell’ospedale pediatrico di Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) ha coinvolto bambini di età compresa tra i 3 e i 5 anni, il 37% dei quali appartenenti a famiglie con basso reddito. In seguito alla va- lutazione dell’esposizione del bambino alla lettura attraverso la scala Reading dello Stim-Q1 i soggetti sono stati esaminati con risonanza magnetica funzionale: tale strumentazione ha permesso di valutare in che misura l’ascolto di alcune letture attraverso una cuffia riuscisse a influenzare l’attività cerebrale. Dalla ricerca è emerso che i bambini con maggiore abitudine ad ascoltare storie lette dai genitori, attivavano in modo molto più significativo specifiche aree cerebrali che supportano l’elaborazione semantica, aree fondamentali per la lingua orale e in se- guito per la lettura. Questo studio dimostra come nei bambini sottopo- sti precocemente alla pratica della lettura, in modo frequente e con scel- te di qualità, vengono stimolati e sviluppati circuiti neurali più robusti a supporto della comprensione di testi e delle capacità narrative (Hutton, Horowitz-Kraust, Mendelsohn, DeWitt, Holland, 2015).
... The past few years have seen a surge of empirical research in literary studies, psychology, and neurosci- ence, investigating connections between literary reading and aspects of prosocial behavior, most prominently, those of empathy and mentalizing (see e.g. Black & Barnes, 2015;Djikic, Oatley, & Moldoveanu, 2013;Johnson, Cushman, Borden, & McCune, 2013;Koopman, 2015Koopman, , 2016Koopman, , 2017Mar, Oatley, Hirsh, dela Paz, & Peterson, 2006;Mar, Oatley, & Peterson, 2009;Pino & Mazza, 2016;see Keen, 2007, for a book-length overview; and Burke, Fialho, & Zyngier, 2016, for a review of studies of empathy in light of contemporary literary theory and neurosci- ence). Several studies (e.g. ...
Article
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This article presents the design, methodology and materials of an inter-Nordic study of literary reading among students in teacher education, in which relations between literary style and experiential aspects of literary reading (e.g., empathy and transportation) were assessed empirically. The participants in the study read Katherine Manfield’s (1922) short story “The Fly” in the original version vs. in a manipulated version where typical features of literariness (e.g., metaphors and similes) were removed. Combining quantitative measures of empathy, appreciation of literature, and aspects of reading engagement with qualitative methods, the aim of the study was to probe the depths of readers’ subjective reading experience. In reporting the study the article introduces paradigms and measures from interdisciplinary empirical research on literary reading which is less known in a Nordic context but which is rapidly gaining momentum internationally.
... En comparación con otras investigaciones sobre juegos de vídeo y televisión, los estudios sobre los efectos de los libros son prácticamente inexistentes (Ferguson, 2014). El valor de la ficción narrativa como vehículo para el crecimiento empático es presentado en diversas disciplinas, pero esas ideas raramente han sido sometidas a escrutinio empírico (Johnson, Cushman, Borden, y McCune, 2013). ...
Article
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Las competencias sociales y emocionales tienen una gran importancia en el éxito académico y en la adaptación personal y social. El objetivo de este estudio es determinar si los hábitos de lectura están relacionados con el desarrollo de estas competencias. Participaron 106 alumnos, entre los 6 y 10 años, de una escuela de la Región Autónoma de Madeira, Portugal. Fueron utilizadas las versiones portuguesas del: Teste de Comprensión Emocional; Inventario de Inteligencia Emocional; Prueba Cognitiva de Inteligencia Social; Prueba de Evaluación de Competencia Social. Fueron contabilizados los libros leídos en el primer semestre del año escolar anterior. Los resultados indican que los grandes lectores presentan mayor comprensión emocional y más competencias en la resolución de problemas sociales.
... Therefore, training readers to enhance their abilities in envisioning what they read should help to increase the strength of their empathy. 75 Identification and transportation affect the hippocampus, and several specific areas of the cortex of the brain. 76 77 These are the same areas where most Theory of Mind neural responses to real, observed stimuli are activated. ...
Article
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Recent studies in a variety of disciplines have linked the reading of fiction specifically with measurable increases in empathy using both self-reported instruments and neurological examinations. Through a review of the recent studies and experimental evidence, the author contends that empathy can be trained using fiction through specific titles chosen and/or guided discussions. The act of transportation into the story and identification with the characters can lead to substantive changes in perception and world view. Therefore, fiction collections in academic libraries provide a needed resource and should be considered as such.
... Since mental transport into fiction is necessary for social benefits (Bal & Veltkamp, 2013;Johnson 2012;Johnson et al., 2013a), our Fantasy Scale results suggest that effects of fiction could depend on what reading format students use, or anticipate using. Because our psychological assessments were collected anonymously, it was not possible to connect individual students' ...
Article
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We tested sixth graders for empathy and theory of mind before and after an academic unit on either Wonder or The Crossover. Wonder was associated with improved perspective-taking; students who read The Crossover increased in concern for others. Faux pas detection increased in both genders with Wonder, and in girls with The Crossover. Students who read The Crossover in print showed improved understanding of facial expressions, while students who used iPads declined. Young adult fiction is associated with improved social cognitive skills, but effects depend on gender and reading format, as well as on the choice of individual book.
... Of all variables considered here, word imageability had the strongest effect, accounting for about ¼ of the variance in immersion ratings. In line with Johnson (2013) and Oatley (2016), this suggests that text passages with a high imagery potential facilitate immersion via increased empathy and fiction feelings. ...
Chapter
A key assumption of the neurocognitive poetics model (NCPM; Jacobs, 2015a) of literary reading is the duality of immersive and aesthetic processes being conceived as rival forces driven by different text features and their implicit vs. explicit processing. With regard to the experiential phenomenon of immersion, the NCPM specifies a variety of facilitative processes at both the affective-cognitive and neuronal levels which will be further differentiated here in the light of results from recent neurocognitive and behavioral studies on reading short stories, excerpts from novels, and poems.
... The original studies that showed associations between fiction reading and improved social understanding were correlational, but more recently people have undertaken experimental tests. Two such tests reported that the more transported readers were into a fictional story, the greater was their affective empathy, and the more likely they were to help someone pick up some pencils that had been dropped on the floor (Johnson, 2012;Johnson, Cushman, Borden, and McClune, 2013). Another found that people low on the personality trait of Openness who read a fictional short story had better self-reported empathy than those who read a non-fictional literary essay (Djikic, Oatley, and Moldoveanu, 2013). ...
Chapter
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Some philosophers have questioned the value of fiction and argued that the emotions it prompts are inappropriate because they are not about real people. Recent evidence indicates that engaging with fiction can enable important psychological effects. Fiction is about inner truth, truth of other minds and of one's own. The chapter proposes four bases for a psychology of fiction. (1) Fiction is not principally description but simulation of social worlds. (2) Fiction is an abstraction that develops from the imaginative activities of childhood play. (3) Empirically it has been found that reading fiction enables people to acquire better empathy and understandings of other minds. (4) Artistic fiction is a kind of indirect communication that enables people to change their selfhood by small amounts not by persuasion but in their own ways. These changes are mediated by the emotions readers experience as they put aside their own concerns and take on those of literary characters.
... Through stories, individuals may develop and test those capacities for attention, intelligence and cooperation that are necessary for an effective management of the most complex social interactions [59]. The emphatic and prosocial effect of fiction exposure is moreover potentiated when subjects generate imagery that makes the narrative situation more concrete to them [125]. Personal characteristics, however, imply different consequences of exposure to certain fictional narratives in terms of emphatic understanding and prosocial behavior [126]. ...
... Nevertheless, the findings from this study align with evidence suggesting that short-term engagement with fiction can help improve intergroup attitudes (Appel & Mara, 2013;Johnson, Cushman et al., 2013). This effect requires an emotional engagement with the story, which in turn is associated with changes in intergroup emotions. ...
Article
Fictional narratives can serve as an indirect contact strategy when direct contact between two groups is not feasible. This study investigated whether exposing cisgender individuals to transgender-related fiction was associated with reduced transnegativity. Two emotion-related mediators were examined in this relationship: transportation into the story (proximal to fiction exposure) and intergroup anxiety (proximal to contact theory). Cisgender participants (N = 84) viewed or read stories involving transgender characters or read a science article. Those who encountered transgender characters reported lower transnegativity than those who read the control story. Transportation into the story and intergroup anxiety serially mediated this relationship. The findings suggest conditions under which a fictional story can expand an audience’s social world and thereby serve as a strategy for prejudice reduction.
... The relatively small body of psychological research that has examined the impact of arts engagement on prosocial outcomes is promising. Among adults different studies of specific art forms (e.g., singing, dancing, reading, acting) have provided evidence that engagement with that particular art form can promote empathy (Mar, Oatley, Hirsh, dela Paz, & Peterson, 2006) or prosocial responses (Greitemeyer, 2009;Johnson, Cushman, Borden, & McCune, 2013;Wiltermuth & Heath, 2009). Using a representative and longitudinal sample of over 30,000 adults in the UK, Van de Vyver & Abrams (2017) established a reliable and substantively meaningful longitudinal relationship between arts engagement and subsequent prosociality, even when accounting for socio-demographic variables, income, and personality differences. ...
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We report the results of two experiments which test the potential of arts engagement for promoting prosocial intentions. Experiment 1 (N = 216) tested the impact of a participatory arts intervention (vs. a control condition) on children's empathy and interpersonal prosocial intentions. Experiment 2 (N = 174) tested the impact of a participatory arts intervention (vs. a control condition) on children's prosocial intentions toward outgroup members under competitive and non-competitive conditions. Experiment 1 showed that the participatory arts intervention significantly increased children's interpersonal prosocial intentions, but not their empathy. Experiment 2 showed that, under competitive conditions, the participatory arts intervention significantly increased prosocial intentions toward outgroup members, an effect that persisted for six months beyond the intervention. Under non-competitive conditions, the participatory arts intervention consolidated improvements in prosocial intentions toward outgroup members. Overall, the results confirm the hypothesis that participatory arts engagement can promote prosocial intentions during middle childhood.
... In an experiment on empathetic effects [43], the more readers were transported into a fictional story, the greater were found to be both their empathy and their likelihood of responding on a behavioral measure: helping someone who had dropped some pencils on the floor. The vividness of imagery during reading has been found to improve transportation and to increase empathy [44]. To investigate such imagery, participants in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine were asked to imagine a scene when given between three and six spoken phrases, for instance, 'a dark blue carpet' . . . ...
Article
Fiction is the simulation of selves in interaction. People who read it improve their understanding of others. This effect is especially marked with literary fiction, which also enables people to change themselves. These effects are due partly to the process of engagement in stories, which includes making inferences and becoming emotionally involved, and partly to the contents of fiction, which include complex characters and circumstances that we might not encounter in daily life. Fiction can be thought of as a form of consciousness of selves and others that can be passed from an author to a reader or spectator, and can be internalized to augment everyday cognition. In long-term associations and shorter-term experiments, engagement in fiction, especially literary fiction, has been found to prompt improvements in empathy and theory-of-mind.Improvements of empathy and theory-of-mind derive both from practice in processes such as inference and transportation that occur during literary reading, and from the content of fiction, which typically is about human characters and their interactions in the social world.Comprehension of stories shares areas of brain activation with the processing of understandings of other people.Both fiction and everyday consciousness are based on simulations of the social world; thus, reading a work of fiction can be thought of as taking in a piece of consciousness.The study of fiction helps us understand how imagination works to create possible worlds, and how mental models are formed of others and ourselves.
... Although social neuroscientists have traditionally investigated empathy as an interpersonal phenomenon directed to human beings (e.g., Lamm et al., 2010), empathic responses also extend to aesthetic contexts (i.e., imagined affective experiences, beliefs, or intentions of inanimate characters of the artwork or of the artist) and, in fact, empathy is considered to be a constitutive element of the aesthetic experience in cinema (D'Aloia, 2012), figurative art (Freedberg & Gallese, 2007), literature (Johnson et al., 2013), and music (Levinson, 1997). As argued by the philosophers Robert Vischer (1873) and Theodor Lipps (1903), appreciation of art draws crucially on the beholders' ability to resonate with the piece of art, thereby underlining the importance of individual characteristics and suggesting that highly empathic individuals may have more intense and pleasurable aesthetic experiences. ...
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Individuals with a predisposition to empathize engage with sad music in a compelling way, experiencing overall more pleasurable emotions. However, the neural mechanisms underlying these music-related experiences in empathic individuals are unknown. The present study tested whether dispositional empathy modulates neural responses to sad compared with happy music. Twenty-four participants underwent fMRI while listening to 4-min blocks of music evoking sadness or happiness. Using voxel-wise regression, we found a positive correlation between trait empathy (with scores assessed by the Interpersonal Reactivity Index) and eigenvector centrality values in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), including the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC). We then performed a functional connectivity (FC) analysis to detect network nodes showing stronger FC with the vmPFC/mOFC during the presentation of sad versus happy music. By doing so, we identified a “music-empathy” network (vmPFC/mOFC, dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, primary visual cortex, bilateral claustrum and putamen, and cerebellum) that is spontaneously recruited while listening to sad music and includes brain regions that support the coding of compassion, mentalizing, and visual mental imagery. Importantly, our findings extend the current understanding of empathic behaviors to the musical domain and pinpoint sad music as an effective stimulus to be employed in social neuroscience research.
... Differences in the extent to which narrative engagement is evoked during reading have already been found to modulate the effect of (literary, fictional) narratives on empathy and prosocial behavior (e.g., Bal & Veltkamp, 2013;Johnson, 2012Johnson, , 2013Johnson, Cushman, et al., 2013a;Johnson, Jasper, et al., 2013b;Stansfield & Bunce, 2014;Walkington et al., 2019). However, as Tay et al. (2018) point out in their model on the role of the arts and humanities in human flourishing: it remains to be seen whether these forms of engagement are mediators (i.e., text-dependent) or moderators (i.e., reader-dependent). ...
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It is often argued that narratives improve social cognition, either by appealing to social-cognitive abilities as we engage with the story world and its characters, or by conveying social knowledge. Empirical studies have found support for both a correlational and a causal link between exposure to (literary, fictional) narratives and social cognition. However, a series of failed replications has cast doubt on the robustness of these claims. Here, we review the existing empirical literature and identify open questions and challenges. An important conclusion of the review is that previous research has given too little consideration to the diversity of narratives, readers, and social-cognitive processes involved in the social-cognitive potential of narratives. We therefore establish a research agenda, proposing that future research should focus on (1) the specific text characteristics that drive the social-cognitive potential of narratives, (2) the individual differences between readers with respect to their sensitivity to this potential, and (3) the various aspects of social cognition that are potentially affected by reading narratives. Our recommendations can guide the design of future studies that will help us understand how, for whom, and in what respect exposure to narratives can advantage social cognition.
... However, when instead people find their way into a world of meaning that keeps on feeding their ingenuity, and recruits their own imaginative capacity, to empower them by means of a resolutory reframing of their experience and knowledge, deep and lasting change becomes possible. Fictional narratives may remarkably contribute to pro-social behavioral change through immersive engagement with suitable story-worlds (Johnson 2012;Johnson et al. 2013)-and may even anticipate such change (Martins and Baumard 2020)-but it must be assured that they may fully deploy their world-(re)making potential. The reference cognitive model for effective behavioral change cannot be the behavioral response induced by artificial laboratory stimulation (Bardsley 2005;Chivers 2019), but the cognitive and emotional activation related to a strongly meaningful experience, which leads in turn to a change of perspective which makes a difference for the individual (Johnson 2018). ...
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Fictional narratives cannot be considered as mere escapist entertainment, and have a significant social cognition potential. Their study is also important in understanding the mechanisms of behavioral change, as many fictions focus on processes of personal transformation of the main characters. Romantic fictions are of special interest in this regard, as the formation of a new couple entails negotiation and mutual adaptation between partners, with possible transformation of personal attitudes, value orientations, and behaviors: ‘marrying’ a new idea or cause is, tellingly, the strongest possible metaphorical statement of adoption. Korean TV series (K-dramas) are a particularly interesting source of case studies in this regard due to the specific characteristics of their production system. We analyze a K-drama, My Ajussi, where the lead characters go through a complex process of personal change, through the lens of the so-called Tie-Up Theory, which has proven useful in the analysis and interpretation of fictional representations of human mating processes, and show how the context provided by the potential formation of the couple between the two main characters provides us with valuable insights about human behavioral change and for policy design strategies to tackle societal challenges.
... This may enhance group cohesion and provide advantages in competition with other groups whose fictive worlds are less rich or absent. Fiction has been shown to increase prosociality (Johnson, 2012;Johnson et al., 2013;Smith et al., 2017). For example, a recent study of the Agta, a Filipino hunter-gatherer population, found that having good storytellers was associated with increased cooperation within groups (Smith et al, 2017). ...
Preprint
Why has fiction been so successful over time? We make the case that fiction may have properties that enhance both individual and group level fitness by (a) allowing risk-free simulation of important scenarios, (b) effectively transmitting solutions to common problems, and (c) enhancing group cohesion through shared consumption of fictive worlds.
... Previous research has found that providing visual images can be more consequential for audience members who are low in general tendencies to create mental imagery than for those high in this trait. Johnson, Cushman, Borden, and McCune (2013) found that readers trained with imagery generation experienced more transportation and were more likely to have prosocial behaviors than those who read the same story for leisure. ...
Preprint
Many scholars use Green and Brock’s (2000) transportation scale to measure the degree to which audiences become absorbed into a narrative. In a pair of studies, we explore if the scale performs the same in relation to text-based versus audio-visual (AV) narratives. In Study 1, 125 participants were exposed to one of two versions (text or AV) of the same narrative. A confirmatory factor analysis indicates that the scale is not unidimensional and the factor structure is not consistent between formats. Measurement invariance across the text and AV groups was not supported. In Study 2, a larger (N=498) more diverse sample was employed, as well as different stimuli. Again the scale was not unidimensional and measurement invariance was not supported. These results indicate the scale may not be valid for audio-visual narratives, and also suggest that the concept of transportation itself may be distinct depending on the medium.
... We began with a Warmup Exercise in which the children were asked to close their eyes and conjure mental images in multiple sensory modalities, all related to viewing, manipulating, and tasting an imaginary lemon. The procedure was adapted from Johnson, Cushman, Borden, and McCune's (2013) ELS study which found that such multisensory imaging if undertaken prior to reading deepens one's engagement with text, yielding positive effects for transportation into the story world and empathy with characters. In our design this exercise aimed at introducing an introspective mood while also demonstrating that, despite the expression's visual connotations, 'mental images' can occur in any sensory modality including movement, touch, or taste (Kuzmičová, 2014). ...
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Fiction, more than expository text, nurtures intimate connections between text and the reader’s life experiences. This dimension of reader response is underexplored in relation to children. Adapting methods from Empirical Literary Studies to educational research objectives, we employed the concept of ‘remindings,’ i.e. reminiscing prompted by text, in studying children’s life-resonant responses to self-selected leisure books. Six workshops were run in primary classrooms during which participants (N = 148; age 8–11) engaged in remindings and mental imagery. Written remindings were then analysed for systematic variation across fiction book genres (Real-world vs. Fantasy; Relationships vs. Adventure). We found that Real-World Adventure books prompted remindings of discrete life events, while Real-World Relationships books prompted remindings of more diffuse experiences. Fantasy Adventure books were the least likely to prompt remindings. Further genre-based differences emerged in the distribution of themes within remindings. We consider the consequences of these insights for supporting young readers.
... Donahue (2009) andVan Laer et al. (2014) review the recent literature on transportation. The most relevant study is Johnson et al. (2013). They found that constructing vivid mental imagery causes people to be more emotionally involved in a story they read. ...
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... 15 Appel and Richter 2007. 16 Gerrig and Rapp 2004Mar et al. 2006;Mar and Oatley 2008;Mar, Oatley and Peterson 2009;Johnson 2012;Johnson et al. 2013;Kidd reflect humanistic assumptions about literature than its actual influence. 87 Zagzebski 2001, p. 246. ...
Book
Challenging existing methodological conceptions of the analytic approach to aesthetics, Jukka Mikkonen brings together philosophy, literary studies and cognitive psychology to offer a new theory on the cognitive value of reading fiction. Philosophy, Literature and Understanding defends the epistemic significance of narratives, arguing that it should be explained in terms of understanding rather than knowledge. Mikkonen formulates understanding as a cognitive process, which he connects to narrative imagining in order to assert that narrative is a central tool for communicating understanding. Demonstrating the effects that literary works have on their readers, he examines academic critical analysis, responses of the reading public and nonfictional writings that include autobiographical testimony to their writer's influences and attitudes to life. In doing so, he provides empirical evidence of the cognitive benefits of literature and of how readers demonstrate the growth of their understanding. By drawing on the written testimony of the reader, this book is an important intervention into debates on the value of literature that incorporates understanding in new and imaginative ways.
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This research examined how mental imagery practice can increase future self-continuity to reduce procrastination. A total of 193 undergraduate students were randomly assigned to a present-focused meditation or to a future self-focused mental imagery condition. Participants in both conditions were asked to listen to their respective audio recording twice per week for four consecutive weeks and to complete a pre-intervention, half-point, and post-intervention questionnaire. At the four-week mark, hierarchical regression analyses revealed that both future self-continuity and empathic perspective taking were significantly higher for the mental imagery condition than the meditation condition. While vividness of future self moderated change in future self-continuity, affective empathy for future self mediated the relation between vividness of future self and future self-continuity. Lastly, only empathic perspective taking was a significant moderator of change in procrastination across time. The influence of empathy and future self-continuity on procrastination is discussed.
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Prior research has shown that cumulative written fiction exposure is correlated with (Mar, Oatley, Hirsch, de la Paz, & Peterson, 2006; Mar, Oatley, & Peterson, 2009) and 1-time exposure to literary fiction increases (e.g., Black & Barnes, 2015a; Kidd & Castano, 2013) performance on an emotion-reading task. However, Panero and colleagues (2016) found that although lifetime fiction exposure is a reliable predictor of performance, the causal effects previously observed may be more fragile (see also Samur, Tops, & Koole, 2017). The current article is an exploration of the extent to which the ability of fiction to affect social cognition may depend not only on what is read, but also how one reads. Specifically, an argument is made that the effect of fiction on social cognition may depend on the degree to which the reader contributes imaginatively to the text and that, although drawing meaning from literary fiction may require high levels of imaginative engagement, popular and genre fiction may allow for engaging in this way. This stance is discussed with respect to the role that emotional investment in a story and its characters might play in influencing readers of popular fiction to read in a "literary" way. (PsycINFO Database Record
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Considerable psycho-physiological research on empathy examines biological structures such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) and oxytocin systems as efficacious methods for strengthening positive emotional responses. This study recruited 76 adult participants (54 female, 23 male) for the purpose of evaluating the effects oxytocin and fiction reading have on empathetic responses. Participants completed a measure of trauma and received either intranasal oxytocin, a story created to induce emotional responses, or a neutral non-fiction story. Results supported existing research stating that heart rate variability (HRV) is a more sensitive measure of stress. HRV statistically significantly interacted between type of stressor and PTSD symptomology Fa×b (1, 70) = 5.018, p = .028, η2 =0.06. Scores on the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) indicated there were increases in empathy across time, but were not impacted by exposure to stress or treatment condition. Trauma was identified as a statistically significant factor on heart rate variability F(1, 70) = 8.39, p = .005, η2 = .10. Treatment condition did not impact cortisol levels across time F(2, 71) = .2.532, p = .087, η2 = .11. Taken together, these results suggest support for the use of biomarkers in measuring the rate of stress and recovery for those with and without trauma. These findings suggest potential avenues for translational research and implications for theory and practice.
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Imaginative resistance is a reluctance to buy into morally deviant fictional worlds. While most people have little trouble imagining acts of violence happening in fiction, they will struggle to entertain the idea that such acts could be the moral thing to do, even within a fictional universe. Although this phenomenon has received a lot of attention from philosophers, it is absent from the translation studies literature despite its relevance. This article explores the significance of imaginative resistance for the literary translation process. A number of areas are identified where translation research can make an important contribution to philosophical debates on this issue. In particular, imaginative resistance is theorized as a new translation double bind. By bringing together research from two disciplines, this article aims to encourage novel ways of thinking about both the translation process and the puzzle of imaginative resistance. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14781700.2019.1633393
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􏰋􏰌􏰃-L’esposizione alla lettura ad alta voce di testi letterari, adeguati all’età, con personaggi articolati e complessi che affrontano situazioni emotivamente dense favorisce lo sviluppo di una serie di competenze socio-emotive e relazionali. Nikolajeva (2013), suggerisce che leggere e ascoltare narrativa può aiutare gli studenti a sviluppare empatia, proprio come è accaduto a Grace. Allo stesso modo, la lettura di narrativa può stimolare la comprensione del lettore di ciò che gli altri stanno vivendo in una data situazione (Kozak & Recchia, 2018) stimolando e allenando le abilità legate alla “teoria della mente”. 􏰏􏰑􏰄􏰉􏰃􏰌􏰑􏰟 􏰖􏰑􏱊􏰄􏰌􏰃􏱚􏰋􏰐􏰃􏱇􏰯􏱈􏰎 􏰍􏰈􏰛􏰛􏰋􏰊􏰑􏰍􏰔􏰋 􏰔􏰜􏰋 􏰌􏰋􏰛􏰛􏰋􏰊􏰋 􏰋 􏰃􏰍􏰔􏰄􏰌􏰕􏰃􏰊􏰋 􏰉􏰃􏰊􏰊􏰃􏰕􏰑􏰐􏰃 􏰇􏰈􏰤 􏰃
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Emotions have a life beyond the immediate eliciting situation, as they tend to be shared with others by putting the experience in narrative form. Narrating emotions helps us to express, understand, and share them: the way we tell stories influences how others react to our emotions, and impacts how we cope with emotions ourselves. In Emotion and Narrative, Habermas introduces the forms of oral narratives of personal experiences, and highlights a narrative's capacity to integrate various personal and temporal perspectives. Via theoretical proposals richly illustrated with oral narratives from clinical and non-clinical samples, he demonstrates how the form and variety of perspectives represented in stories strongly, yet unnoticeably, influence the emotional reactions of listeners. For instance, narrators defend themselves against negativity and undesired views of themselves by excluding perspectives from narratives. Habermas shows how parents can help children, and psychotherapists can assist patients, to enrich their narratives with additional perspectives. Table of contents: https://assets.cambridge.org/97811070/32132/toc/9781107032132_toc.pdf
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Previous studies suggest that narrative fiction promotes social justice by increasing empathy, but critics have argued that the partiality of empathy severely limits its effectiveness as an engine of social justice, and that what needs to be developed is universal compassion rather than empathy. We cre- ated Compassion-Cultivating Pedagogy (CCP) to target the development of two social-cognition capabilities that entail compassion: (1) recognition of self-other overlap and (2) cognizance of the situational, uncontrollable causes of bad character, bad behavior, and bad life-outcomes. Employing a pre/post within- and between-subjects design, we found that students in the CCP classes, but not students in conventionally taught classes, improved in these two areas of social cognition and also exhibited increased preference for compassionate social policies for stigmatized groups. This finding sug- gests that pedagogy can play a significant role in literature’s contribution to social justice, and that further efforts to develop and test pedagogies for improving social cognition are warranted.
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Advocates of moral enhancement through pharmacological, genetic, or other direct interventions sometimes explicitly argue, or assume without argument, that traditional moral education and development is insufficient to bring about moral enhancement. Traditional moral education grounded in a Kohlbergian theory of moral development is indeed unsuitable for that task; however, the psychology of moral development and education has come a long way since then. Recent studies support the view that moral cognition is a higher-order process, unified at a functional level, and that a specific moral faculty does not exist. It is more likely that moral cognition involves a number of different mechanisms, each connected to other cognitive and affective processes. Taking this evidence into account, we propose a novel, empirically informed approach to moral development and education, in children and adults, which is based on a cognitive-affective approach to moral dispositions. This is an interpretative approach that derives from the cognitive-affective personality system (Mischel and Shoda, 1995). This conception individuates moral dispositions by reference to the cognitive and affective processes that realise them. Conceived of in this way, moral dispositions influence an agent's behaviour when they interact with situational factors, such as mood or social context. Understanding moral dispositions in this way lays the groundwork for proposing a range of indirect methods of moral enhancement, techniques that promise similar results as direct interventions whilst posing fewer risks.
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Individuals’ knowledge and attitudes about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) work together to shape the stigma held about ASD. One way that this information is communicated to the public is through popular media; however, little is known about the effectiveness of fictional depictions of ASD in educating and shaping attitudes about ASD. The purpose of this research was to investigate the impact media has on knowledge about and attitudes towards ASD, compared to that of a college lecture on the subject. Exposure to one episode of a fictional drama depicting ASD, compared to watching a lecture, resulted in more accurate knowledge, more positive characteristics associated with ASD, fewer negative characteristics associated with ASD, and a greater desire to learn more about ASD.
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There is a long tradition in philosophy and literary criticism of belief in the social and moral benefits of exposure to fiction, and recent empirical work has examined some of these claims. However, little of this research has addressed the textual features responsible for the hypothesized cognitive effects. We present two experiments examining whether readers' social and moral cognition are influenced by the perspective from which a narrative is told (voice and focalization), and whether potential effects of perspective are mediated by transportation into the story or by identification with the protagonist. Both experiments employed a between-subjects design in which participants read a short story, either in the first-person voice using internal focalization, third-person voice using internal focalization, or third-person voice using external focalization. Social and moral cognition was assessed using a battery of tasks. Experiment 1 (N 258) failed to detect any effects of perspective or any mediating roles of transportation or identification. Implementing a more rigorous adaptation of the third-person story using external focalization, Experiment 2 (N 262) largely replicated this pattern. Taken together, the evidence reported here suggests that perspective does not have a significant impact on the extent to which narratives modulate social and moral cognition, either directly or indirectly via transportation and identification.
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Three studies examined the relationship between social dominance orientation (SDO), the experience of moral elevation, and Whites' donations to charitable organizations. Study 1 used video clips depicting acts of moral excellence to elicit a state of moral elevation (a distinctive feeling of warmth and expansion, which is accompanied by admiration, affection, and even love for people whose exemplary moral behavior is being observed). Results show that moral elevation increased participants' willingness to donate to a Black-oriented charity and attenuated the negative effect of the group-based dominance (GBD) component of SDO on donation behavior. Studies 2 and 3 replicate and extend these findings by using a written story to elicit a state of moral elevation and examining actual donations to a Black-oriented charity. Results show that moral elevation increased donations to the Black-oriented charity and neutralized the negative influence of GBD.
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Fiction literature has largely been ignored by psychology researchers because its only function seems to be entertainment, with no connection to empirical validity. We argue that literary narratives have a more important purpose. They offer models or simulations of the social world via abstraction, simplification, and compression. Narrative fiction also creates a deep and immersive simulative experience of social interactions for readers. This simulation facilitates the communication and understanding of social information and makes it more compelling, achieving a form of learning through experience. Engaging in the simulative experiences of fiction literature can facilitate the understanding of others who are different from ourselves and can augment our capacity for empathy and social inference. © 2008 Association for Psychological Science.
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Past research provided abundant evidence that exposure to violent video games increases aggressive tendencies and decreases prosocial tendencies. In contrast, research on the effects of exposure to prosocial video games has been relatively sparse. The present research found support for the hypothesis that exposure to prosocial video games is positively related to prosocial affect and negatively related to antisocial affect. More specifically, two studies revealed that playing a prosocial (relative to a neutral) video game increased interpersonal empathy and decreased reported pleasure at another's misfortune (i.e., schadenfreude). These results lend further credence to the predictive validity of the General Learning Model (Buckley & Anderson, 2006) for the effects of media exposure on social tendencies.
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Although dozens of studies have documented a relationship between violent video games and aggressive behaviors, very little attention has been paid to potential effects of prosocial games. Theoretically, games in which game characters help and support each other in nonviolent ways should increase both short-term and long-term prosocial behaviors. We report three studies conducted in three countries with three age groups to test this hypothesis. In the correlational study, Singaporean middle-school students who played more prosocial games behaved more prosocially. In the two longitudinal samples of Japanese children and adolescents, prosocial game play predicted later increases in prosocial behavior. In the experimental study, U.S. undergraduates randomly assigned to play prosocial games behaved more prosocially toward another student. These similar results across different methodologies, ages, and cultures provide robust evidence of a prosocial game content effect, and they provide support for the General Learning Model.
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Contemporary approaches to moral development and moral education emphasize propositional thinking and verbal discussion of abstract moral dilemmas. In contrast, this article proposes that narratives (stories) are a central factor in a person's moral development. Support for this position comes from recent theoretical contributions of Bruner, Sarbin, Spence, Tulving, and others, who have emphasized narrative thought as a major form of cognition that is qualitatively different from abstract propositional or scientific thinking. In addition, over the last 10 to 20 years psychologists investigating and conceptualizing moral development have come to emphasize such processes as empathy (Hoffman), caring and commitment (Gilligan), interpersonal interaction (Haan), personal character and personality (Coles; Hogan; Staub; Rushton). It is proposed that narratives and narrative thinking are especially involved in how these processes lead to moral development and therefore that narrative should be rehabilitated as a valuable part of moral education.
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In a prior review involving a meta-analysis (Underwood & Moore, 1982), no relation between affective empathy and prosocial behavior was found. In this article, the literature relevant to this issue is reexamined. The studies were organized according to the method used to assess empathy. When appropriate, meta-analyses were computed. In contrast to the earlier review, low to moderate positive relations generally were found between empathy and both prosocial behavior and cooperative/socially competent behavior. The method of assessing empathy did influence the strength of the relations; picture/story measures of empathy were not associated with prosocial behavior, whereas nearly all other measures were. Several possible explanations for the pattern of findings are discussed, as are the implications of the findings.
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Transportation was proposed as a mechanism whereby narratives can affect beliefs. Defined as absorption into a story, transportation entails imagery, affect, and attentional focus. A transportation scale was developed and validated. Experiment 1 (N = 97) demonstrated that extent of transportation augmented story-consistent beliefs and favorable evaluations of protagonists. Experiment 2 (N = 69) showed that highly transported readers found fewer false notes in a story than less-transported readers. Experiments 3 (N = 274) and 4 (N = 258) again replicated the effects of transportation on beliefs and evaluations; in the latter study, transportation was directly manipulated by using processing instructions. Reduced transportation led to reduced story-consistent beliefs and evaluations. The studies also showed that transportation and corresponding beliefs were generally unaffected by labeling a story as fact or as fiction.
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Mental imagery has, until recently, fallen within the purview of philosophy and cognitive psychology. Both enterprises have raised important questions about imagery, but have not made substantial progress in answering them. With the advent of cognitive neuroscience, these questions have become empirically tractable. Neuroimaging studies, combined with other methods (such as studies of brain-damaged patients and of the effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation), are revealing the ways in which imagery draws on mechanisms used in other activities, such as perception and motor control. Because of its close relation to these basic processes, imagery is now becoming one of the best understood 'higher' cognitive functions.
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This handbook concisely introduces narrative form to advanced students of fiction. Beginning with a survey of major theorists and approaches, and using clearly defined terms, Narrative Form explains critical vocabulary and offers a variety of strategies for analyzing the formal qualities of fiction. Keen suggests that interpretations of form can be effectively integrated with contemporary approaches to literature, including feminist, postcolonial, and cultural studies methodologies. Narrative Form shows how to use the language of formal analysis accurately and innovatively.
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The literature suggests students gain important skills when directly involved with faculty in research. However, students at smaller institutions are often faced with limited research opportunities and faculty members are faced with limited participant-pools, funding, and space to perform research. Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk) may provide a solution to many of these problems. MTurk provides an online human participant-pool, along with tools to build experiments, and it allows data to be collected quickly and inexpensively. In this study of narrative fiction and empathy, data was collected using the traditional, laboratory-based approach, and on MTurk using identical measures and protocols. Results indicated MTurk data exhibits comparable reliability, gender and ethnicity composition to data collected in the laboratory. Two important differences emerged: MTurk participants were 10 years older, on average, and they demonstrated higher scores on trait measures of empathy and state measures of involvement into the story presented in the study. A brief user's guide to MTurk is presented that caters to first-time users. Finally, common pitfalls and their solutions are presented with the hope that faculty and students can begin doing research on MTurk immediately.
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Helping and aggression are core topics in social psychology. So far, abundant evidence that violent media decreases helping and increases aggression has been collected. However, recent theoretical and empirical work has demonstrated that the media may also increase prosocial outcomes and decrease antisocial outcomes. In fact, exposure to media with prosocial content increases the accessibility of prosocial thoughts, empathy, and helping behavior and decreases aggression and aggression-related cognition and affect. The present article reviews this research and provides an overview of when and why media exposure instigates helping and reduces aggression.
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Theorists from diverse disciplines purport narrative fiction serves to foster empathic development and growth. In two studies, participants’ subjective, behavioral, and perceptual responses were observed after reading a short fictional story. In study 1, participants who were more transported into the story exhibited higher affective empathy and were more likely to engage in prosocial behavior. In study 2, reading-induced affective empathy was related to greater bias toward subtle, fearful facial expressions, decreased perceptual accuracy of fearful expressions, and a higher likelihood of engaging in prosocial behavior. These effects persisted after controlling for an individual’s dispositional empathy and general tendency to become absorbed in a story. This study provides an important initial step in empirically demonstrating the influence of reading fiction on empathy, emotional perception, and prosocial behavior.
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This study explores how characteristics of the reader and the text affect readers' spontaneous production of mental imagery, both during reading and later, in recalling their reading. The authors considered reader characteristics such as reading achievement, prior knowledge, vividness of mental imagery, and interest in passages read. Four naturally occurring texts were used: 1 poem, 1 story, and 2 expository texts. These texts included 10 selected features that were predicted to evoke imagery (e.g., description of emotions, figurative language). The 26 fifth-grade students were asked to read the texts orally and to stop at designated points to think about and report what strategies they were using to construct and recall meaning. After reading each passage, students responded to questions about their mental imagery and interest and completed a 10-item multiple-choice comprehension test. The authors found that imagery occurred spontaneously both during and after reading of all four texts used in the study, and that the production of imagery was affected by both reader and text characteristics. The vividness of readers' mental imagery was significantly related to imagery reports during and after reading for all four texts used in the study. Readers' interest ratings of the passages were also associated with imagery variables. The authors also found that imagery reported during reading differed from imagery recalled after reading in relation to text genre and to text features. The authors conclude that the relationship between mental imagery and reading comprehension is more complex than was previously believed. /// [French] La présente recherche explore en quoi les caractéristiques du lecteur et les caractéristiques du texte influencent la production d'images mentales, durant la lecteur et au moment du rappel, après la lecture du texte. Les caractéristiques du lecteur qui ont été prises en compte sont: le niveau de lecture, les connaissances antérieures, la vivacité (tendance à produire des images vivantes) et l'intérêt pour le texte lu. Quatre textes naturels ont été utilisés: un poême, une histoire et deux textes informatifs. Ces textes comportaient 10 caractéristiques considérées comme devant générer des images (ex. langage figuré). Vingt-six enfants de cinquième année primaire ont été invités à lire les textes oralement et à arrêter à des endroits précis pour penser au texte et dire quelles stratégies ils utilisaient pour construire le sens et se rappeler du texte. Après avoir lu chaque passage, les enfants répondaient à des questions sur les images mentales qu'ils avaient construites et sur leur intérêt pour ce qu'ils avaient lu en plus de passer un test de compréhension à choix multiples. Les auteurs ont vérifié que des images mentales était produites spontanément, à la fois pendant et après la lecture des quatre textes et que la production d'images mentales était influencée à la fois par les caractéristiques du lecteur et par les caractéristiques du texte. Ainsi, des relations significatives ont pu être établies entre la production d'images mentales pendant et après la lecture, la vivacité du lecteur et son intérêt pour le texte. Des différences ont toutefois été trouvées entre les images mentales rapportées durant la lecture et celles produites après la lecture, celles-ci différant également selon le type de texte et les caractéristiques du texte. Les auteurs concluent que les relations entre la production d'images mentales et la compréhension en lecture sont plus complexes que prévu au départ. /// [Spanish] Este estudio explora cómo las características del lector y del texto afectan la producción espontánea de imagenes en los lectores, tanto durante la lectura y posteriormente, cuando están recordando su lectura. Los autores consideraron las características de los lectores, tales como sus logros en lectura, conocimiento previo, vividez (tendencia a producir imagenes mentales vívidas), y el interés en los pasajes leídos. Se usaron cuatro textos que ocurrieron naturalmente: un poema, una historia y dos textos expositorios. Estos textos incluían 10 características seleccionadas que predecían la ocurrencia de evocar imaginación (p.ej., lenguaje figurativo). Se les pidió a 26 estudiantes de quinto grado que leyeran los textos oralmente y que se detuvieran en los puntos designados a pensar en ellos y que reportaran qué estrategias estaban usando para construir y recordar significados. Después de leer cada pasaje, los estudiantes respondieron a preguntas sobre sus imagenes mentales e interés y completaron una prueba de comprensión de 10 items de opción múltiple. Los autores encontraron que las imagenes ocurrían de forma espontánea tanto durante como después de la lectura de los cuatro textos, y que la producción de las imagenes se veía afectada por ambos: el lector y las características del texto. La vividez de las imagenes mentales en los estudiantes y su calificación del interés en los pasajes estaban significativamente relacionados con los reportes de imaginación durante y después de la lectura de los textos. Los autores también encontraron que la imaginación reportada durante la lectura difería de la imaginación recordada después de la lectura en relación al género del texto y a las características del texto. Los autores concluyeron que la relación entre imaginación y comprensión de lectura es más compleja de lo que se pensaba anteriormente. /// [German] Diese studie untersucht, auf welche Weise die Leser- und Texteigenschaften sich auf das spontane Erstellen innerlicher Bilder seitens des Lesers auswirken, und zwar während des Lesens und nacher, wenn die Leser sich an das Gelesene erinnerten. In Betracht gezogen wurden Eigenschaften wie z.B. Leseleistungen, Vorwissen, Lebhaftigkeit (Hang zum Erstellen lebhafter innerlicher Bilder) und Interesse an den gelesenen Stücken. Vier Texte, die normaler natürlicher Art waren, wurden verwendet: ein Gedicht, eine Geschichte und zwei Erörterungstexte. Diese Texte beinhalteten 10 ausgewählte Merkmale, von denen vermutet wurde, daß sie innerliche Bilder hervorrufen würden (z.B. bildliche Sprache). Die 26 Schüler der 5. Klasse sollten den Text mündlich lesen und an bestimmten Stellen aufhören, um darüber nachzudenken und zu berichten, welche Strategien sie beim Erstellen und Abrufen von Bedeutungen verwendeten. Nach dem Lesen jedes Stückes beantworteten die Schüler Fragen hinsichtlich ihrer innerlichen Bilddarstellungen und ihres Interesses und vervollständigten einen 10-teiligen Multiple-Choice-Verständnistest. Es wurde festgestellt, daß sowohl während des Lesens als auch nach dem Lesen aller vier Stücke spontan innerliche Bilder entstanden, und daß das Erstehen innerlicher Bilder von Leser- und Texteigenschaften beeinflußt wurde. Die von den Schülern gezeigte Lebhaftigkeit und die interessenbezogene Einstufung der Texte zeigten eine wesentliche Beziehung zu den Berichten innerlicher Bilder während des Lesens und nach dem Lesen aller vier Texte. Die innerlichen Bilder, die während des Lesens entstanden, unterschieden sich von denen, die während des Zurückdenkens entstanden, in bezug auf das Textgenre und die Textmerkmale. Die Verfasser schlossen daraus, daß die Beziehung zwischen innerlichen Bildern und Leseverständnis komplexer ist, als ursprünglich angenommen wurde.
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Research reveals that inducing empathy for a member of a stigmatized group can improve attitudes toward the group as a whole. But do these more positive attitudes translate into action on behalf of the group? Results of an experiment suggested an affirmative answer to this question. Undergraduates first listened to an interview with a convicted heroin addict and dealer; they were then given a chance to recommend allocation of Student Senate funds to an agency to help drug addicts. (The agency would not help the addict whose interview they heard.) Participants induced to feel empathy for the addict allocated more funds to the agency. Replicating past results, these participants also reported more positive attitudes toward people addicted to hard drugs. In addition, an experimental condition in which participants were induced to feel empathy for a fictional addict marginally increased action on behalf of, and more positive attitudes toward, drug addicts.
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Although often confused, imagining how another feels and imagining how you would feel are two distinct forms of perspective taking with different emotional consequences. The former evokes empathy; the latter, both empathy and distress. To test this claim, undergraduates listened to a (bogus) pilot radio interview with a young woman in serious need. One third were instructed to remain objective while listening; one third, to imagine how the young woman felt; and one third, to imagine how they would feel in her situation. The two imagine perspectives produced the predicted distinct pattern of emotions, suggesting different motivational consequences: Imagining how the other feels produced empathy, which has been found to evoke altruistic motivation; imagining how you would feel produced empathy, but it also produced personal distress, which has been found to evoke egoistic motivation.
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Previous research has shown that exposure to violent media increased aggression-related affect and thoughts, physiological arousal, and aggressive behavior as well as decreased prosocial tendencies. The present research examined the hypothesis that exposure to prosocial media promotes prosocial outcomes. Three studies revealed that listening to songs with prosocial (relative to neutral) lyrics increased the accessibility of prosocial thoughts, led to more interpersonal empathy, and fostered helping behavior. These results provide first evidence for the predictive validity of the General Learning Model [Buckley, K. E., & Anderson, C. A. (2006). A theoretical model of the effects and consequences of playing video games. In P. Vorderer, & J. Bryant, (Eds.), Playing video games: Motives responses and consequences (pp. 363–378). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates] for the effects of media with prosocial content on prosocial thought, feeling, and behavior.
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In the interest of developing a more holistic and integrated understanding of young children’s experience of stories, this study describes preschoolers’ emotional attachments to stories and the cultural beliefs and practices which surround such attachments. Thirty-two European-American, middle-class families, participated in an interview study of their children’s story attachments, and five of these mothers also participated in a short-term, longitudinal diary study. Every child experienced at least two emotional attachments to stories. Children were captivated by stories presented in different media, with many attachments occurring around video stories in addition to books. They expressed their attachments by repeatedly requesting the story, expressing strong feelings, and enacting the story in pretend play. Story attachments were social in two fundamental ways: children created relationships with the characters in their favorite stories, and story attachments emerged in the context of relationships with caregivers whose beliefs and practices supported such attachments.
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In recent years, abundant evidence from behavioral and cognitive studies and functional-imaging experiments has indicated that individuals come to understand the emotional and affective states expressed by others with the help of the neural architecture that produces such states in themselves. Such a mechanism gives rise to shared representations, which constitutes one important aspect of empathy, although not the sole one. We. suggest that other components, including people's ability to monitor and regulate cognitive and emotional processes to prevent confusion between self and other, are equally necessary parts of a functional model of empathy. We discuss data from recent functional-imaging studies in support of such a model and highlight the role of specific brain regions, notably the insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the right temporo-parietal region. Because this model assumes that empathy relies on dissociable information-processing mechanisms, it predicts a variety of structural or functional dysfunctions, depending on which mechanism is disrupted.
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Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a relatively new website that contains the major elements required to conduct research: an integrated participant compensation system; a large participant pool; and a streamlined process of study design, participant recruitment, and data collection. In this article, we describe and evaluate the potential contributions of MTurk to psychology and other social sciences. Findings indicate that (a) MTurk participants are slightly more demographically diverse than are standard Internet samples and are significantly more diverse than typical American college samples; (b) participation is affected by compensation rate and task length, but participants can still be recruited rapidly and inexpensively; (c) realistic compensation rates do not affect data quality; and (d) the data obtained are at least as reliable as those obtained via traditional methods. Overall, MTurk can be used to obtain high-quality data inexpensively and rapidly. © The Author(s) 2011.
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Previous research has documented that playing violent video games has various negative effects on social behavior in that it causes an increase in aggressive behavior and a decrease in prosocial behavior. In contrast, there has been much less evidence on the effects of prosocial video games. In the present research, 4 experiments examined the hypothesis that playing a prosocial (relative to a neutral) video game increases helping behavior. In fact, participants who had played a prosocial video game were more likely to help after a mishap, were more willing (and devoted more time) to assist in further experiments, and intervened more often in a harassment situation. Results further showed that exposure to prosocial video games activated the accessibility of prosocial thoughts, which in turn promoted prosocial behavior. Thus, depending on the content of the video game, playing video games not only has negative effects on social behavior but has positive effects as well.
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Hypotheses involving mediation are common in the behavioral sciences. Mediation exists when a predictor affects a dependent variable indirectly through at least one intervening variable, or mediator. Methods to assess mediation involving multiple simultaneous mediators have received little attention in the methodological literature despite a clear need. We provide an overview of simple and multiple mediation and explore three approaches that can be used to investigate indirect processes, as well as methods for contrasting two or more mediators within a single model. We present an illustrative example, assessing and contrasting potential mediators of the relationship between the helpfulness of socialization agents and job satisfaction. We also provide SAS and SPSS macros, as well as Mplus and LISREL syntax, to facilitate the use of these methods in applications.
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In recent studies of the structure of affect, positive and negative affect have consistently emerged as two dominant and relatively independent dimensions. A number of mood scales have been created to measure these factors; however, many existing measures are inadequate, showing low reliability or poor convergent or discriminant validity. To fill the need for reliable and valid Positive Affect and Negative Affect scales that are also brief and easy to administer, we developed two 10-item mood scales that comprise the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). The scales are shown to be highly internally consistent, largely uncorrelated, and stable at appropriate levels over a 2-month time period. Normative data and factorial and external evidence of convergent and discriminant validity for the scales are also presented.