Conference Paper

Turner, R. (2017). Bookworm, Film-buff or Thespian? Investigating the relationship between fictional worlds and real-world social abilities.

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

The notion that fiction benefits our social skills is gaining traction in empirical Psychology: studies have shown that exposure to fictional prose positively relates to empathic abilities, and recent research has indicated causal effects of fiction on our understanding of, and behaviour towards, others in the real world. However, people differ in the media they access and the stories they engage with, and yet the significance of medium and genre remain unclear. I will discuss the findings of a recent study showing divergent associations between fiction experience and and empathic abilities (perspective taking, empathic concern, fantasy and prosocial behaviour), and suggest that (i) medium and genre represent important areas for further inquiry, (ii) fiction exposure paradigms could benefit from media and genre dimensions, (iii) reading and comedy may particularly hone empathic skills. Finally, I will discuss the broader implications of the research for enhancing our understanding of fiction engagement processes and effects. Fiction is consumed via an increasing range of media, and this research represents a first step towards a comprehensive understanding of its social impact.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Theory of Mind (ToM) may be defined as the ability to understand the mental states, such as beliefs, desires, intentions, and emotions, of others. Impairment of ToM ability leads to disorders with pathologies in social skills, such as autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. In addition to differences in ToM ability among patient populations, there is variation between neurotypical individuals. Unfortunately, ToM tasks are usually developed for children or patients with cognitive disorders and cannot detect variations in healthy adults. As an alternative tool, humor may be used. Humor plays a role in social communication and requires many different cognitive functions. Humor is believed to represent complex high-order cognitive processes. There are numerous types of humor; the most complex type is considered ToM humor, where an understanding of social/emotional content is necessary. Given the need for a ToM assessment test suitable for healthy adult populations, we developed a test for measuring humor comprehension and appreciation, with and without ToM content (ToM-HCAT). The present ToM-HCAT test is a performance test consisting of cartoons. The test measures perceived funniness, reaction time to perceived funniness decision, and meaning inference. Cartoons were selected after pilot studies involving 44 participants. Subscales were constituted according to expert views and confirmed by confirmatory factor analysis (N = 135). Goodness of fit values for the final 35-item test were acceptable to excellent: GFI = 0.97; AGFI = 0.97; NFI = 0.97; RFI = 0.97, and SRMR = 0.067. Both categories were internally consistent (α1 = 0.84, α2 = 0.94). External validity was assessed against autistic traits. One hundred and three participants completed the Autism Spectrum Quotient and were grouped by +0.5 standard deviations from the mean as high in autistic traits. The meaning-inference scores of the subscale with the ToM cartoons were significantly lower (p = 0.034) for the high autistic traits group, providing evidence of external validity. In conclusion, we developed and validated a test for assessment of ToM by humor comprehension and appreciation. We believe that the present test will be useful for the detection of variations in ToM ability in the healthy adult population.
Article
Full-text available
Literary narrative fiction may be particularly effective in enhancing Theory of Mind (ToM), as it requires readers to contemplate author and character intentions in filling the literary ‘gaps’ that have been suggested to characterise this fiction type. The current study investigates direct and cumulative effects of reading literature on ToM using confirmatory Bayesian analyses. Direct effects were assessed by comparing the ToM skills of participants who read texts that were manipulated to differ in the amount of gap filling they required. Cumulative effects were assessed by considering the relationship between lifetime literary fiction exposure and ToM. Results showed no evidence for direct effects of reading literature on ToM. However, lifetime literary fiction exposure was associated with higher ToM, particularly cognitive ToM. Although reading a specific piece of literary fiction may thus not have immediately measurable effects on ToM, lifetime exposure to this fiction type is associated with more advanced ToM.
Article
Full-text available
Empathy-currently defined as the sharing of another's affective state-has been the focus of much psychological and neuroscientific research in the last decade, much of which has been focused on ascertaining the empathic ability of individuals with various clinical conditions. However, most of this work tends to overlook the fact that empathy is the result of a complex process requiring a number of intermediate processing steps. It is therefore the case that describing an individual or group as 'lacking empathy' lacks specificity. We argue for an alternative measurement framework, in which we explain variance in empathic response in terms of individual differences in the ability to identify another's emotional state ('emotion identification'), and the degree to which identification of another's state causes a corresponding state in the self ('affect sharing'). We describe how existing empathy paradigms need to be modified in order to fit within this measurement framework, and illustrate the utility of this approach with reference to examples from both cognitive neuroscience and clinical psychology.
Article
Full-text available
Prior research has shown that there are parallels in the ways that people judge the possibility of extraordinary events, such as time travel, and the moral permissibility of extraordinary actions, such as a medical examiner dissecting his own mother’s body (Shtulman & Tong, 2013). One arena in which people frequently encounter extraordinary events and actions is that of fiction. The purpose of this research was to investigate the relationship, if any, between exposure to various literary genres and both moral and modal judgment. The Genre Familiarity Test (GFT), an author recognition checklist based on similar instruments (e.g., Stanovich & West, 1989), was developed to assess exposure to seven different genres, including fantasy and science fiction. Exposure to genres was compared to scores on two tasks adapted from Shtulman and Tong (2013) tapping participants’ intuitions about physical possibility and moral permissibility. Results suggest that reading genre fiction is differentially related to both moral permissibility and physical possibility judgment, with strong evidence for distinct relationships between familiarity with Science Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary Literary, and Romance genres and the two types of judgment.
Article
Full-text available
“Mindreading” refers to the ability to attribute mental states, including thoughts, intentions and emotions, to oneself and others, and is essential for navigating the social world. Empirical mindreading research has predominantly featured children, groups with autism spectrum disorder and clinical samples, and many standard tasks suffer ceiling effects with neurologically typical (NT) adults. We first outline a case for studying mindreading in NT adults and proceed to review tests of emotion perception, cognitive and affective mentalizing, and multidimensional tasks combining these facets. We focus on selected examples of core experimental paradigms including emotion recognition tests, social vignettes, narrative fiction (prose and film) and participative interaction (in real and virtual worlds), highlighting challenges for studies with NT adult cohorts. We conclude that naturalistic, multidimensional approaches may be productively applied alongside traditional tasks to facilitate a more nuanced picture of mindreading in adulthood, and to ensure construct validity whilst remaining sensitive to variation at the upper echelons of the ability.
Article
Full-text available
Our ability to infer and understand others’ thoughts and feelings, known as theory of mind (ToM), has important consequences across the life span, supporting empathy, pro-social behavior, and coordination in groups. Socialization practices and interpersonal interactions help develop this capacity, and so does engaging with fiction. Research suggests that lifetime exposure to fiction predicts performance on ToM tests, but little evidence speaks to the type of fiction most responsible for this effect. We draw from literary theory and empirical work to propose that literary fiction is more likely than genre fiction to foster ToM, describe the development of a new method for assessing exposure to literary and popular genre fiction, and report findings from 3 samples testing the specificity of the relation between exposure to literary fiction and ToM. Results indicate that exposure to literary but not genre fiction positively predicts performance on a test of ToM, even when accounting for demographic variables including age, gender, educational attainment, undergraduate major (in 2 samples), and self-reported empathy (in 1 sample). These findings offer further evidence that habitual engagement with others’ minds, even fictional ones, may improve the psychological processes supporting intersubjectivity. We discuss their implications for understanding the impacts of fiction, and for models of culture more generally.
Article
Full-text available
Empathy is a multidimensional process that incorporates both mentalizing and emotional sharing dimensions. Empathic competencies are important for creating interpersonal relationships with other people and developing adequate social behaviour. The lack of these social components also leads to isolation and exclusion in healthy populations. However, few studies have investigated how to improve these social skills. In a recent study, Kidd and Castano (2013) found that reading literary fiction increases mentalizing ability and may change how people think about other people's emotions and mental states. The aim of our study was to evaluate the effects of reading literary fiction, compared to nonfiction and science fiction, on empathic abilities. Compared to previous studies, we used a larger variety of empathy measures and utilized a pre and post-test design. In all, 214 healthy participants were randomly assigned to read a book representative of one of three literary genres (literary fiction, nonfiction, science fiction). Participants were assessed before and after the reading phase using mentalizing and emotional sharing tests, according to Zaki and Ochsner' s (2012) model. Comparisons of sociodemographic, mentalizing, and emotional sharing variables across conditions were conducted using ANOVA. Our results showed that after the reading phase, the literary fiction group showed improvement in mentalizing abilities, but there was no discernible effect on emotional sharing abilities. Our study showed that the reading processes can promote mentalizing abilities. These results may set important goals for future low-cost rehabilitation protocols for several disorders in which the mentalizing deficit is considered central to the disease, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders and Schizophrenia.
Article
Full-text available
In this chapter a broadened perspective on antisocial behavior is proposed, which includes not only what is customarily considered antisocial behavior (e.g., aggression, theft, bullying) but also prejudice and discrimination toward outgroup members. This broadening is balanced by a narrowing of the causal factors that are considered, with an exclusive focus on empathy, or lack thereof, as the psychological dimension underlying the diverse types of antisocial behavior. It is argued that antisocial behavior is facilitated by low levels of dispositional empathy, but also by social psychological processes that actively curtail empathic reaction to others (us versus them distinction, dehumanization). The discussion of empathy as a thread common to a variety of antisocial behaviors also serves as a bridge between the personality and social psychological literature.
Article
Full-text available
This study investigated the effects of foregrounding on affective responses (i.e., emotions) during reading, and on empathy and reflection after reading, using both quantitative and qualitative measures. In addition, the influence of personal factors (trait empathy, personal experience, exposure to literature) on empathy and reflection was explored. Participants (N = 142) were randomly assigned to read 1 of 3 versions of an excerpt from a literary novel about the loss of a child. Versions differed in the level of foregrounded textual features: the "original" version possessed a high level of semantic, phonetic, and grammatical foregrounding; semantic foregrounding was removed in the manipulated version "without imagery"; and semantic, phonetic and grammatical foregrounding were removed in the manipulated version "without foregrounding." Results showed that readers who had read the "original" version scored higher on empathy after reading than those who had read the version "without foregrounding." A quantitative analysis of qualitative data showed that participants reading the original version experienced significantly more ambivalent emotions than those in the version without foregrounding. Reflection did not seem to be influenced by foregrounding. Results suggest that personal factors may be more important in evoking reflection. (PsycINFO Database Record
Article
Full-text available
Previous research has shown that reading award-winning literary fiction leads to increases in performance on tests of theory of mind (Kidd & Castano, 2013). Here, we extend this research to another medium, exploring the effect of viewing award-winning TV dramas on subsequent performance on a test of theory of mind ability, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Hill, Raste, & Plumb, 2001). In 2 separate studies, participants were randomly assigned to watch either an award-winning TV drama (Mad Men or West Wing for Study 1; The Good Wife or Lost for Study 2) or a TV documentary (Shark Week or How the Universe Works for Study 1; NOVA Colosseum or Through the Wormhole for Study 2). In both studies, participants who viewed a TV drama performed significantly higher on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test than did those who viewed a documentary. These results suggest that film narratives, as well as written narratives, may facilitate the understanding of others’ minds.
Article
Full-text available
Stories can elicit powerful emotions. A key emotional response to narrative plots (e.g., novels, movies, etc.) is suspense. Suspense appears to build on basic aspects of human cognition such as processes of expectation, anticipation, and prediction. However, the neural processes underlying emotional experiences of suspense have not been previously investigated. We acquired functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data while participants read a suspenseful literary text (E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman") subdivided into short text passages. Individual ratings of experienced suspense obtained after each text passage were found to be related to activation in the medial frontal cortex, bilateral frontal regions (along the inferior frontal sulcus), lateral premotor cortex, as well as posterior temporal and temporo-parietal areas. The results indicate that the emotional experience of suspense depends on brain areas associated with social cognition and predictive inference.
Article
Full-text available
This study investigated the effects of text genre (expository, life narrative, literary narrative), personal factors (trait empathy, personal experience, exposure to literature), and affective responses during reading (most relevantly: sympathy/empathy with the character) on two types of empathy: empathic understanding and pro-social behavior (donating). Participants (N = 210) read two texts within the same genre, about depression and grief, with one week between sessions. A genre effect was observed for pro-social behavior in the case of depression, with more people donating in the life narrative condition. Personal experience predicted empathic understanding and prosocial behavior for depression, but not for grief. Empathic understanding was further predicted by trait empathy, exposure to literature, and sympathy/empathy with the character. These results demonstrate the relevance of looking at readers’ personal characteristics and suggest a repeated exposure effect of literature on empathic understanding.
Article
Full-text available
Recent studies have shown that reading literary fiction can prompt personality changes that include improvements in abilities in empathy and theory-of-mind. We review these studies and propose a psychological conception of artistic literature as having 3 aspects that contribute to such changes. These are that literary fiction is simulation of selves with others in the social world; that taking part in this type of simulation can produce fluctuations that are precursors to personality changes; and that the changes occur in readers' own ways, being based not on persuasion but on indirect communication.
Article
Full-text available
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of reading medium and a paratext manipulation on aspects of narrative engagement. In a 2 (medium: booklet vs. iPad) by 2 (paratext: fiction vs. nonfiction) between-subjects factorial design, the study combined state oriented measures of narrative engagement and a newly developed measure of interface interference. Results indicated that, independently of prior experience with reading on electronic media, readers in the iPad condition reported dislocation within the text and awkwardness in handling their medium. Also, iPad readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were less likely to report narrative coherence and transportation, while booklet readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were, if anything, more likely to report narrative coherence. Finally, booklet (but not iPad) readers were more likely to report a close association between transportation and empathy. Implications of these findings for cognitive and emotional engagement with textual narratives on paper and tablet are discussed.
Article
Full-text available
Immersion in reading, described as a feeling of 'getting lost in a book', is a ubiquitous phenomenon widely appreciated by readers. However, it has been largely ignored in cognitive neuroscience. According to the fiction feeling hypothesis, narratives with emotional contents invite readers more to be empathic with the protagonists and thus engage the affective empathy network of the brain, the anterior insula and mid-cingulate cortex, than do stories with neutral contents. To test the hypothesis, we presented participants with text passages from the Harry Potter series in a functional MRI experiment and collected post-hoc immersion ratings, comparing the neural correlates of passage mean immersion ratings when reading fear-inducing versus neutral contents. Results for the conjunction contrast of baseline brain activity of reading irrespective of emotional content against baseline were in line with previous studies on text comprehension. In line with the fiction feeling hypothesis, immersion ratings were significantly higher for fear-inducing than for neutral passages, and activity in the mid-cingulate cortex correlated more strongly with immersion ratings of fear-inducing than of neutral passages. Descriptions of protagonists' pain or personal distress featured in the fear-inducing passages apparently caused increasing involvement of the core structure of pain and affective empathy the more readers immersed in the text. The predominant locus of effects in the mid-cingulate cortex seems to reflect that the immersive experience was particularly facilitated by the motor component of affective empathy for our stimuli from the Harry Potter series featuring particularly vivid descriptions of the behavioural aspects of emotion.
Article
Full-text available
Previous studies have found a positive relationship between exposure to fiction and interpersonal sensitivity. However, it is unclear whether exposure to different genres of fiction may be differentially related to these outcomes for readers. The current study investigated the role of four fiction genres (i.e., Domestic Fiction, Romance, Science-Fiction/Fantasy, and Suspense/Thriller) in the relationship between fiction and interpersonal sensitivity, controlling for other individual differences. Participants completed a survey that included a lifetime print-exposure measure along with an interpersonal sensitivity task. Some, but not all, fiction genres were related to higher scores on our measure of interpersonal sensitivity. Furthermore, after controlling for personality, gender, age, English fluency, and exposure to nonfiction, only the Romance and Suspense/Thriller genres remained significant predictors of interpersonal sensitivity. The findings of this study demonstrate that in discussing the influence of fiction print-exposure on readers it is important to consider the genre of the literature being consumed.
Article
Full-text available
Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies. Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind (ToM), in adults. We present five experiments showing that reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective ToM (experiments 1 to 5) and cognitive ToM (experiments 4 and 5) compared with reading nonfiction (experiments 1), popular fiction (experiments 2 to 5), or nothing at all (experiments 2 and 5). Specifically, these results show that reading literary fiction temporarily enhances ToM. More broadly, they suggest that ToM may be influenced by engagement with works of art.
Article
Full-text available
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.
Article
Full-text available
Actors must imagine themselves in a different world: they must adopt the perspective of multiple characters, grasp their beliefs and intentions, and feel their emotions. In this study we tested the hypothesis that actors have unusually sharp mind-reading abilities and unusually strong empathy. In Study 1, adolescent actors outperformed adolescents without acting experience in their ability to imagine the mental states expressed by pictures of peoples' eyes (a theory of mind measure), but did not excel on empathy as measured by a self-report scale. In Study 2, we replicated these findings with young adults using a different measure of theory of mind. These findings show that adolescent and adult actors are skilled in reading others' mental states, but do not report above average levels of empathy. Thus, strength in theory of mind can exist independently of strength in empathy.
Article
Full-text available
Phonological processing skills have been shown to account for some, but not all, of the variance in the word recognition ability of both children and adults. In two studies with adult subjects in the United States, the authors investigated whether orthographic processing ability--the ability to form, store, and access orthographic representations--can account for some of the additional variance in word recognition and spelling skill. A new measure of individual differences in exposure to print--the Author Recognition Test--was developed and validated in the two studies. This measure was designed to be relatively free of a confound that has plagued most print exposure indicators used in studies of adults: the tendency of respondents to give socially desirable answers. The Author Recognition Test was shown to be a remarkably robust and independent predictor of word processing ability. In Study 2, subjects' performance on this measure was shown to predict variance in orthographic processing independent of phonological factors. The results of the two studies were supportive of the idea that there are individual differences in reading and spelling caused by variation in orthographic processing skills. Moreover, these orthographic processing skills appear to be linked to print exposure, and thus to be environmentally mediated, rather than being simply indirect products of differences in phonological processing ability. Both studies demonstrate the potential usefulness of the Author Recognition Test as an indicator of print exposure in research on the cognitive consequences of literacy. /// [French] Les recherches antérieures ont montré que certaines habiletés de traitement phonologique comptent pour une partie de la variance dans la reconnaissance de mots aussi bien par les adultes que par les enfants. Deux expériences ont été menées auprès d'adultes américains pour voir dans quelle mesure le traitement orthographique peut compter pour une partie de variance supplémentaire dans la reconnaissance de mots et l'épellation. Une nouvelle mesure du degré d'exposition à l'écrit a été développée et validée dans les deux expériences: Le test de reconnaissance d'auteurs (ART). Cette mesure a été développée pour contourner le problème posé par les méthodes habituellement utilisées dans les recherches auprès d'adultes, qui font qu'ils ont tendance à répondre en conformité avec ce qu'ils jugent socialement acceptable. Le test de reconnaissance d'auteurs s'est révélé un prédicteur extrêmement robuste et indépendant de l'habileté à traiter des mots. Dans la seconde expérience, les résultats des sujets à cette mesure ont permis de prédire une partie importante de la variance pour le traitement orthographique indépendamment des facteurs phonologiques. Les résultats aux deux expériences appuient l'idée qu'une partie des différences individuelles en lecture et en épellation est due aux habiletés de traitement orthographique. De plus, ces habiletés de traitement orthographique apparaissent liées au degré d'exposition à l'écrit ce qui permet de poser comme hypothèse que l'acquisition de ces habiletés est conditionnée par l'environnement et n'est pas uniquement le produit des différences individuelles dans les habiletés de traitement phonologique. Les deux expériences ont confirmé l'utilité du test de reconnaissance d'auteurs comme mesure du degré d'exposition à l'écrit dans les recherches sur les conséquences cognitives de la littéracie. /// [Spanish] Las habilidades de procesamiento fonológico han explicado algunas, pero no todas, las variaciones en la habilidad para reconocer palabras tanto en niños como en adultos. En dos experimentos con sujetos adultos en los Estados Unidos, los autores investigaron si la habilidad de procesamiento ortográfico puede explicar la varianza adicional en el reconocimiento de palabras y su habilidad ortográfica. Una nueva medida de diferencias individuales en la exposición a materiales impresos--La prueba de reconocimiento de autores (ART)--fue desarrollada y validada en dos experimentos. Esta medida fue diseñada para estar relativamente libre de un problema que han sufrido la mayoría de los indicadores de exposición a materiales impresos que se usan en estudios de adultos--la tendencia de los sujetos a dar respuestas que ellos piensan son las que se esperan de ellos; las socialmente deseables. La prueba de reconocimiento de autores demostró ser un predictor notablemente robusto e independiente para predecir la habilidad de procesar palabras. En el Experimento 2, el desempeño de los sujetos en esta medida demostró que podía predecir la variabilidad en el procesamiento ortográfico, de manera independiente de los factores fonológicos. Los resultados de dos experimentos apoyan la idea de que hay diferencias individuales en lectura y ortografía causadas por la variación en las habilidades del procesamiento ortográfico. Además, estas habilidades de procesamiento ortográfico parecen estar relacionadas con la exposición a materiales impresos, y de esta manera estar mediados ambientalmente más bien, que ser simplemente productos indirectos de diferencias en la habilidad del procesamiento fonológico. Ambos estudios demostraron la ayuda potencial que la prueba de reconocimiento de autores tiene como un indicador de exposición a materiales impresos en la investigación de las consecuencias cognitivas del alfabetismo. /// [German] In der Vergangenheit war gezeigt worden, daß die Fähigkeiten der phonologischen Verarbeitung nur für einen Teil des Unterschieds in der Fähigkeit des Worterkennens zwischen Kindern und Erwachsenen zuständig waren. In zwei Experimenten, die mit Erwachsenen in den Vereinigten Staaten durchgeführt wurden, untersuchten die Verfasser, ob die Fähigkeit der orthographischen Verarbeitung für einen Teil des weiteren Unterschieds im Worterkennen und in der Rechtschreibkenntnis verantwortlich zeichnen kann. Für das Messen individueller Unterschiede bei der Wahrnehmung gedruckter Texte wurde ein neuer Maßstab aufgestellt und in zwei Experimenten bestätigt: der Test über Erkennen des Verfassers (ART). Dieser Maßstab wurde so aufgestellt, daß er relativ frei von einem Durcheinander ist, das die meisten Studien mit Erwachsenen, in denen Anzeigen über das Wahrnehmen gedruckter Texte untersucht wurden, negativ beeinflußte: die Neigung seitens der Teilnehmer, Antworten zu geben, die sie gesellschaftlich für erwünscht heilten. Es stellte sich heraus, daß der Verfassererkennungstest eine bemerkenswert beständige und unabhängige Voraussage der Wortverarbeitungsfähigkeiten leistete. Im zweiten Experiment zeigte sich, daß die Leistungen der Teilnehmer bei diesem Maßstab Unterschiede in der orthographischen Verarbeitung, die von phonologischen Faktoren unabhängig war, voraussagte. Die Resultate beider Experimente unterstützen die Vorstellung, daß beim Lesen und Buchstabieren individuelle Unterschiede bestehen, die durch Verschiedenheiten in den Fertigkeiten der orthographischen Verarbeitung hervorgerufen werden. Zusätzlich scheinen diese Fertigkeiten in der orthographischen Verarbeitung mit einer Wahrnehmung gedruckter Texte in Verbindung zu stehen und deshalb durch die Umgebung vermittelt zu sein--und nicht etwa einfach nur Nebenprodukte der Unterschiede in der Fertigkeit der phonologischen Verarbeitung zu sein. Beide Studien bewiesen die potentielle Nützlichkeit des Verfassererkennungstests als Textwahrnehmungsmaßstab in der Forschung über kognitive Auswirkungen in der Beherrschung der Schriftsprache.
Article
Full-text available
Social cognitive skills such as empathy and theory of mind are crucial for everyday interactions, cooperation, and cultural learning, and deficits in these skills have been implicated in pathologies such as autism spectrum disorder, sociopathy, and non-verbal learning disorders. Little research has examined how these skills develop after early childhood, and how they may be trained. We tested the hypothesis that experience in acting, an activity in which one must step into the shoes of others, leads to growth in both empathy and theory of mind. In two studies, we followed children (elementary school aged) and adolescents (high school freshman) receiving one year of either acting or other arts training (visual arts, music), and assessed empathy and theory of mind before and after training. In both studies, those receiving acting (but not other arts) training showed significant gains in empathy scores; in Study 2, adolescents receiving acting training also showed significant gains on a naturalistic measure of theory of mind, the Empathic Accuracy Paradigm. These findings demonstrate plasticity in empathy and theory of mind long past the watershed age of 3-4 years, and suggest that both capacities are enhanced by role playing.
Article
Scholars from diverse disciplines have proposed that reading fiction improves intersubjective capacities. Experiments have yielded mixed evidence that reading literary fiction improves performance on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, a test of Theory of Mind. Three preregistered experiments revealed mixed results. Applying the “small telescopes” method developed by Simonsohn revealed two uninformative failures to replicate and one successful replication. On a measure of the importance of intentions to moral judgments, results were more mixed, with one significant effect in the expected direction, one nonsignificant effect, and one significant effect in the unexpected direction. In addition, two experiments yielded support for the exploratory but preregistered hypothesis that characters in popular fiction are perceived as more predictable and stereotypic than those in literary fiction. These findings help clarify the sociocognitive effects of reading literary fiction and refine questions for future research.
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.
Article
Kidd and Castano (in press) critique our failure to replicate Kidd and Castano (2013) on 3 grounds: failure to exclude people who did not read the texts, failure of random assignment, and failure to exclude people who did not take the Author Recognition Test (ART). This response addresses each of these critiques. Most importantly, we note that even when Kidd and Castano reanalyzed our data in the way that they argue is most appropriate, they still failed to replicate the pattern of results reported in their original study. We thus reaffirm that our replication of Kidd and Castano (2013) found no evidence that literary fiction uniquely and immediately improves theory of mind. Our objective remains not to prove that reading literary fiction does not benefit social cognition, but to call for in-depth research addressing the difficulties in measuring any potential effect and to note the need to temper claims accordingly.
Article
Prior experiments indicated that reading literary fiction improves mentalizing performance relative to reading popular-fiction, non-fiction, or not reading (Kidd & Castano, 2013). However, the experiments had relatively small sample sizes and hence low statistical power. To address this limitation, the present authors conducted four high-powered replication experiments (combined N = 1006) testing the causal impact of reading literary fiction on mentalizing. Relative to the original research, the present experiments used the same literary texts in the reading manipulation; the same mentalizing task; and the same kind of participant samples. Moreover, one experiment was pre-registered as a direct replication. In none of the experiments did reading literary fiction have any effect on mentalizing relative to control conditions. The results replicate earlier findings that familiarity with fiction is positively correlated with mentalizing. Taken together, the present findings call into question whether a single session of reading fiction leads to immediate improvements in mentalizing.
Article
This meta-analysis investigates the extent to which people’s leisure reading may produce better social–cognitive abilities. Researchers have hypothesized that experiences of fiction (more so than nonfiction) will improve readers’ empathy and theory of mind. To capture the size of this effect, we aggregated correlations between measures of lifetime reading habits for both fiction and nonfiction with measures of empathy and theory of mind. Consistent with previous evidence, fiction reading had a larger correlation with the social–cognitive measures compared to nonfiction reading. However, the effects were small in magnitude. Heterogeneity analyses indicated that the effect sizes were consistent across studies. We also examined gender, publication status, and design as moderators. However, none of the moderators reached significance. We suggest that the results of this meta-analysis sanction a shift in research agenda toward understanding causal mechanisms.
Article
Contrary to Kidd and Castano (2013), Panero et al. (2016) fail to find that reading literary fiction improves performance on an advanced test of theory of mind (ToM), the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET; Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Hill, Raste, & Plumb, 2001). However, this commentary shows that the findings presented in Panero et al. (2016) are not reliable due to two striking threats to the internal validity of their studies that were not clearly disclosed or discussed in the manuscript or supplementary materials. First, no effective strategy was implemented to ensure that participants read their assigned texts, and examination of the data revealed many participants whose reading times indicate that they were not exposed to the manipulation. Second, further examination shows that two of the largest studies contributing to Panero et al. (2016) are not valid experiments due to a clear failure of random assignment to conditions. These threats to experimental internal validity make the conclusions presented in Panero et al. (2016) untenable. After removing cases in which participants were not exposed to the manipulation and the data from the two studies without random assignment, an analysis reveals that reading literary fiction improves ToM compared to reading popular genre fiction. This result is consistent with prior studies (Kidd & Castano, 2013; Kidd, Ongis, & Castano, in press; Pino & Mazza, 2016), and indicates that a failure to carefully replicate the methods of Kidd and Castano (2013) led to the failure to replicate Kidd and Castano’s (2013) results.
Article
Fiction simulates the social world and invites us into the minds of characters. This has led various researchers to suggest that reading fiction improves our understanding of others’ cognitive and emotional states. Kidd and Castano (2013) received a great deal of attention by providing support for this claim. Their article reported that reading segments of literary fiction (but not popular fiction or nonfiction) immediately and significantly improved performance on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), an advanced theory-of-mind test. Here we report a replication attempt by 3 independent research groups, with 792 participants randomly assigned to 1 of 4 conditions (literary fiction, popular fiction, nonfiction, and no reading). In contrast to Kidd and Castano (2013), we found no significant advantage in RMET scores for literary fiction compared to any of the other conditions. However, as in Kidd and Castano and previous research, the Author Recognition Test, a measure of lifetime exposure to fiction, consistently predicted RMET scores across conditions. We conclude that the most plausible link between reading fiction and theory of mind is either that individuals with strong theory of mind are drawn to fiction and/or that a lifetime of reading gradually strengthens theory of mind, but other variables, such as verbal ability, may also be at play.
Article
What are the determinants of altruism? While economists assume that altruism is mainly driven by fairness norms, social psychologists consider empathy to be a key motivator for altruistic behavior. To unite these two theories, we conducted an experiment in which we compared behavior in a standard economic game that assesses altruism (the so-called Dictator Game) with a Dictator Game in which participants’ behavioral choices were preceded either by an empathy induction or by a control condition without empathy induction. The results of this within-subject manipulation show that the empathy induction substantially increased altruistic behavior. Moreover, the increase in experienced empathy predicted over 40% of the increase in sharing behavior. These data extend standard economic theories that altruism is based on fairness considerations, by showing that empathic feelings can be a key motivator for altruistic behavior in economic interactions.
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.
Article
Empathy is an essential part of normal social functioning, yet there are precious few instruments for measuring individual differences in this domain. In this article we review psychological theories of empathy and its measurement. Previous instruments that purport to measure this have not always focused purely on empathy. We report a new self-report questionnaire, the Empathy Quotient (EQ), for use with adults of normal intelligence. It contains 40 empathy items and 20 filler/control items. On each empathy item a person can score 2, 1, or 0, so the EQ has a maximum score of 80 and a minimum of zero. In Study 1 we employed the EQ with n = 90 adults (65 males, 25 females) with Asperger Syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA), who are reported clinically to have difficulties in empathy. The adults with AS/HFA scored significantly lower on the EQ than n = 90 (65 males, 25 females) age-matched controls. Of the adults with AS/HFA, 81% scored equal to or fewer than 30 points out of 80, compared with only 12% of controls. In Study 2 we carried out a study of n = 197 adults from a general population, to test for previously reported sex differences (female superiority) in empathy. This confirmed that women scored significantly higher than men. The EQ reveals both a sex difference in empathy in the general population and an empathy deficit in AS/HFA.
Book
In this short and powerful book, celebrated philosopher Martha Nussbaum makes a passionate case for the importance of the liberal arts at all levels of education. Historically, the humanities have been central to education because they have rightly been seen as essential for creating competent democratic citizens. But recently, Nussbaum argues, thinking about the aims of education has gone disturbingly awry both in the United States and abroad. Anxiously focused on national economic growth, we increasingly treat education as though its primary goal were to teach students to be economically productive rather than to think critically and become knowledgeable and empathetic citizens. This shortsighted focus on profitable skills has eroded our ability to criticize authority, reduced our sympathy with the marginalized and different, and damaged our competence to deal with complex global problems. And the loss of these basic capacities jeopardizes the health of democracies and the hope of a decent world. In response to this dire situation, Nussbaum argues that we must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product. Rather, we must work to reconnect education to the humanities in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens of their countries and the world. Drawing on the stories of troubling--and hopeful--educational developments from around the world, Nussbaum offers a manifesto that should be a rallying cry for anyone who cares about the deepest purposes of education.
Article
This book presents an account of the relationships among novel reading, empathy, and altruism. Though readers' and authors' empathy certainly contribute to the emotional resonance of fiction and its success in the marketplace, this book finds the case for altruistic consequences of novel reading inconclusive. It offers instead a detailed theory of narrative empathy, with proposals about its deployment by novelists and its results in readers. The book engages with neuroscience and contemporary psychological research on empathy, bringing affect to the center of cognitive literary studies' scrutiny of narrative fiction. Drawing on narrative theory, literary history, philosophy, and contemporary scholarship in discourse processing, the book brings together resources and challenges for the literary study of empathy and the psychological study of fiction reading. Empathy robustly enters into affective responses to fiction, but its proper role in shaping the behavior of emotional readers has been debated for three centuries. The book surveys these debates and offers a series of hypotheses about literary empathy, including narrative techniques inviting empathetic response. It argues that above all readers' perception of a text's fictiveness increases the likelihood of readers' empathy, by releasing readers from their guarded responses to the demands of real others. The book confirms the centrality of narrative empathy as a strategy, as well as a subject, of contemporary novelists. Despite the disrepute of putative human universals, novelists from around the world endorse the notion of shared human emotions when they overtly call upon their readers' empathy. Consequently, the book suggests, if narrative empathy is to be better understood, women's reading and popular fiction must be accorded the respect of experimental inquiry.
Article
Abstract This Critical Synthesis Package contains: (1) a Critical Analysis of the psychometric properties and the application to health science education of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), and (2) a copy of the IRI and the scoring instructions developed by Mark Davis, PhD. The IRI is a 28-item self-report questionnaire that was measures four different dimensions of dispositional empathy: Empathic Empathy (emotional empathy), Perspective Taking (cognitive empathy), Fantasy (empathy for fictional characters), and Personal Distress (self-focused responses to other's suffering). It uses a 5-item Likert scale with two anchors (A = Does not describe me well; E= Describes me very well). Responses can be averaged (using 0 to 4 or 1 to 5 endpoints) or summed (using 0 to 28 or 7 to 35 ranges). These subscales should be used separately since the instrument is not intended to measure global empathy. The IRI is a continuous measure of empathy in normal populations and not a categorical measure (“high empathy” versus “low empathy”). It was validated with college student samples but is widely used with a variety of populations, including medical students, physicians, and nurses. It has also been translated to a number of languages. It correlates with other measures of empathy, including the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy, and the Perspective Taking subscale is associated with increased well-being in both college students and physicians. Observer ratings of empathy are correlated with self-ratings, demonstrating the validity of this self-report scale. However, potential users should note that the instrument measures empathy in specific ways: (1) as a trait rather than in response to specific situations, and (2) as directed toward other's suffering, rather than their general emotional experiences (including positive ones).
Article
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of reading material on both social and non-social cognition. Prior research supports the hypothesis that reading fiction improves theory of mind (Kidd and Castano, 2013, Mar et al., 2006 and Mar et al., 2009a); however, little has been done to test its effects on other cognitive abilities. In this study, we tested the effect of reading literary fiction vs. non-fiction on both theory of mind and intuitive physics understanding. In line with previous research, results indicate a small but significant within-subject effect of reading material on theory of mind once other variables are controlled. Although the experimental manipulation (literary fiction vs. nonfiction) had no effect on intuitive physics understanding, we found that familiarity with fiction predicted intuitive physics ability. These results are discussed in terms of theories of fiction.
Article
Past research on video game effects was often limited to explaining effects of game content and mode, leaving structural and contextual game elements scarcely investigated. The present research examined the yet unclear role of narration in video games, by adapting concepts and methodology from video game research based on self-determination theory as well as past research on the effects of literary fiction. Results provided evidence for the facilitation of immersion and an immersion-mediated enhancement of autonomy and relatedness need satisfaction through in-game storytelling, suggesting a mutual enhancement of immersion and need satisfaction. Moreover, in-game storytelling enhanced affective theory of mind. Perspectives on future research, connecting in-game storytelling and game content to complement current knowledge of video game effects on various real-world outcomes, are discussed.
Article
Lifestyle is defined as a way of living: the things that a particular person or group of people usually do. Lifestyles are based on individual choices, characteristics, personal preferences and circumstances. In their free leisure time many choose to engage in the arts and culture, read a book, visit the cinema, go on holiday and participate in sporting activities. Social participation includes looking after the family or home and care giving; interpersonal roles of friend and family member; life roles such as student, worker and volunteer; and community roles such as participant in religious, activity based, or voluntary help organisations.
Article
The dark triad represents the most prominent, socially aversive personalities (viz., Psychopathy, Narcissism, and Machiavellianism) characterised by a common underlying deficit in empathy. Although, evidence shows that empathy can be further divided into cognitive and affective systems, this two-dimensional conceptualisation had not been considered when examining the empathic impairments of the complete dark triad. The present study aimed to determine whether the dark triad is associated with deficits in cognitive or affective empathy as measured through self-reports and facial expressions tasks. The sample comprised 139 university students. All dark triad personalities were associated with deficits in affective empathy, but showed little evidence of impairment in cognitive empathy. The facial expression tasks provided further support for the affective nature of the dark triad’s empathic deficits. Finally, the results emphasised the importance of primary psychopathy, as the main predictor of empathic deficits within the dark triad.
Article
This paper is divided into two parts. In the first, the rank order stability of individual differences in altruism across situations is examined and it is found that substantial consistency occurs when due regard is given to the principle of aggregation. In the second, a self-report altruism scale, on which respondents rate the frequency with which they have engaged in some 20 specific behaviors, is found to predict such criteria as peer-ratings of altruism, completing an organ-donor card, and paper-and-pencil measures of prosocial orientation. These data suggest there is a broad-based trait of altruism.
Article
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.
Article
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.
Article
Spontaneous pleasure reading (ludic reading) deserves attention for at least two reasons: It is an important goal of reading instruction, and it offers rewards that are powerful enough both to sustain reading for long periods and to support a large publishing industry. Because the needs it satisfies and the gratifications it offers have received little attention, the author undertook a series of five studies over a 6-year period in order to investigate the antecedents of ludic reading and its consequences. The five studies consider (1) reading ability and reading habits, (2) reader speed variability during natural reading, (3) reader rankings of books for preference, merit, and difficulty, (4) the physiology of ludic reading, and (5) the sovereignty of the reading experience. Among the findings were that there is substantial rate variability during natural reading, with most-liked pages being read significantly slower; that the Fog Index of readability predicts readers' preference and difficulty rankings, but that a cloze measure does neither; that, in keeping with the Protestant ethic, readers perceive literary merit to be inversely related to reading pleasure; that reading is physiologically more aroused than other waking activities, and is succeeded by marked physiological deactivation; that readers greatly prize the control they exercise over their reading; and that many reading rewards are mediated by consciousness-change mechanisms that may have an analog in hypnotic trance. /// [French] Le fait de lire spontanément pour le plaisir (lecture ludique) mérite notre attention pour au moins deux raisons: C'est un objectif important de l'apprentissage de la lecture et cela récompense suffisamment pour stimuler la lecture pendant de longues périodes et pour soutenir la grande industrie de la publication. Puisque on n'a accordé qu'une faible attention aux besoins qu'elle satisfait et aux gratifications qu'elle procure, l'auteur a entrepris une série de cinq recherches sur une période de 6 ans afin de découvrir les antécédents de la lecture ludique de même que ses conséquences. Les cinq recherches examinent (1) l'aptitude à la lecture et les habitudes de lecture, (2) la variation de vitesse de lecture pendant la lecture normale, (3) la classification des livres par les lecteurs selon la préférence, la valeur et la difficulté, (4) la physiologie de la lecture ludique, et (5) la suprématie de l'expérience de la lecture. Parmi les observations, on retrouve une variation substantielle de la vitesse pendant la lecture normale avec les pages les plus appréciées lues beaucoup plus lentement; tout en respectant l'éthique protestante, les lecteurs accordent aux livres une valeur inversement proportionnelle au plaisir de lire; on observe que la lecture est physiologiquement plus stimulante que d'autres activités d'éveil et qu'il s'ensuit une désactivation physiologique marquée; les lecteurs accordent une grande importance au contrôle qu'ils exercent sur leur lecture; plusieurs satisfactions que procure la lecture sont médiatisées par des méchanismes de changement de conscience pouvant présenter une analogie avec l'état de transe hypnotique. /// [Spanish] La lectura espontánea por gusto (lectura lúdica) merece atención por lo menos por dos razones: Es una meta importante de la instrucción de la lectura, y ofrece recompensas lo suficientemente grandes para sostener la lectura por períodos prolongados y también mantener a una gran industria editorial. Debido a la poca atención que ha recibido tanto en las necesidades que satisface y las gratificaciones que ofrece, el autor llevó a cabo una serie de cinco estudios por espacio de 6 años para investigar los antecedentes de la lectura lúdica y sus consecuencias. Los cinco estudios consideran (1) habilidad de lectura y hábitos de lectura, (2) variabilidad de la velocidad de lectura durante la lectura natural, (3) la clasificación de libros por lectores en términos de preferencia, mérito, y dificultad, (4) la fisiología de la lectura lúdica, y (5) la soberanía de la experiencia de la lectura. Entre los hallazgos se encontró que hay un rango substancial de variación durante la lectura natural, donde las páginas más gustadas son leídas significativamente más despacio; que conforme a la teoría de la ética protestante, el mérito se percibe en relación inversa con el gusto por leer; que la lectura es fisiológicamente más incitante que otras actividades de vigilia, y es seguida por una deactivación fisiológica marcada; que los lectores valoran en gran medida el control que ejercen en su lectura; y que muchas recompensas en la lectura están mediadas por mecanismos de cambios de conciencia un tanto análogos al trance hipnótico. /// [German] Spontanes lesen zum Vergnügen (ludic reading) verdient Aufmerksamkeit aus mindestens zwei Gründen: Es ist ein wichtiges Ziel für den Lese-unterricht und es bietet Belohnungen, welche wirksam genug sind, Lesen über lange Zeiträume zu unterstützen und außerdem eine riesige Verlagsindustrie zu erhalten. Da die befriedigten Bedürfnisse und die Belohnungen so wenig Aufmerksamkeit erregt haben, hat der Autor eine Serie von fünf Studien, über einen 6-Jahre-Zeitraum verteilt, unternommen, um die Antezedens des Lesens aus Spaß und dessen Konsequenzen zu untersuchen. Die fünf Studien befassen sich mit (1) Lesefähigkeit und Lesegewohnheiten, (2) Leseschnelligkeits-Schwankungen während des normalen Lesens, (3) Leser-Buchbeurteilung bezüglich Vorliebe, Verdienst, und Schwierigheit, (4) der Psychologie des Lesens zum Spaß und (5) der Unumschränktheit des Leseerlebnisses. Unter anderem fand man heraus, daß ein wesentlicher Schnelligkeitsunterschied besteht während des normalen Lesens, nämlich indem besonders beliebte Seiten viel langsamer gelesen werden; daß in Einklang mit protestantischer Moral, Leser literarisches Verdienst invers mit Lesevergnügen als verbunden ansehen; daß Lesen physiologisch mehr erregt ist als andere Wach-Aktivitäten und daß danach eine deutliche physiologische De-Aktivierung erfolgt; daß Leser ihre Kontrolle über den Lesevorgang sehr schätzen; und daß viele Lese-Belohnungen einen Bewußtseinsveränderungs-Mechanismus vermitteln, der einer hypnotischen Trance ähnlich ist.
Article
Research indicates that the extent to which one becomes engaged, transported, or immersed in a narrative influences the narrative's potential to affect subsequent story-related attitudes and beliefs. Explaining narrative effects and understanding the mechanisms responsible depends on our ability to measure narrative engagement in a theoretically meaningful way. This article develops a scale for measuring narrative engagement that is based on a mental models approach to narrative processing. It distinguishes among four dimensions of experiential engagement in narratives: narrative understanding, attentional focus, emotional engagement, and narrative presence. The scale is developed and validated through exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses with data from viewers of feature film and television, in different viewing situations, and from two different countries. The scale's ability to predict enjoyment and story-consistent attitudes across different programs is presented. Implications for conceptualizing engagement with narratives as well as narrative persuasion and media effects are discussed.