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Fiction Reading Has a Small Positive Impact on Social Cognition: A Meta-Analysis

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Abstract

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 Here, we meta-analyze extant published and unpublished experimental data to address this question.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.

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... Reading is almost entirely a solitary act, and yet there is abundant evidence suggesting that reading, particularly reading fiction, has positive consequences for social cognition. For example, reading fiction improves theory of mind (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Mar et al., 2006Mar et al., , 2009 and invites pro-social behaviors (Koopman, 2015). Studies manipulating reading exposure have yielded mixed results on the effects of fiction reading immediately following exposure; some have reported a positive relationship between fiction reading and mentalizing (Kidd & Castano, 2013), while others report failure to replicate these effects (Panero et al., 2016;Samur et al., 2018). ...
... However, even studies that fail to find an immediate effect of fiction reading report that estimates of fiction reading rates over the lifetime correlate with performance on mentalizing tasks. Moreover, several meta-analyses have found small but reliable effects of fiction reading in both short term manipulations (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018) and in measurements of cumulative fiction reading (Mumper & Gerrig, 2017). ...
... As Dodell-Feder and Tamir (2018) have noted, establishing the link between fiction reading and social cognition does not identify the reason(s) why such a link exists. Understanding the route by which fiction reading affects social cognition is important both for theories of social cognition and for potential applications: if non-social activities such as fiction reading affect social behavior and cognition, then manipulations of experience may inform development of social behaviors and perceptions. ...
Article
Fiction reading experience affects emotion recognition abilities, yet the causal link remains underspecified. Current theory suggests fiction reading promotes the simulation of fictional minds, which supports emotion recognition skills. We examine the extent to which contextualized statistical experience with emotion category labels in language is associated with emotion recognition. Using corpus analyses, we demonstrate fiction texts reliably use emotion category labels in an emotive sense (e.g., cry of relief), whereas other genres often use alternative senses (e.g., hurricane relief fund). Furthermore, fiction texts were shown to be a particularly reliable source of information about complex emotions. The extent to which these patterns affect human emotion concepts was analyzed in two behavioral experiments. In experiment 1 (n = 134), experience with fiction text predicted recognition of emotions employed in an emotive sense in fiction texts. In experiment 2 (n = 387), fiction reading experience predicted emotion recognition abilities, overall. These results suggest that long-term language experience, and fiction reading, in particular, supports emotion concepts through exposure to these emotions in context.
... On the basis of these individual studies and the two meta-analyses on the topic (Mumper &Gerrig, 2016, andTamir, 2018), we think it is reasonable to state that the relationship between narrative fiction exposure and mentalising is robust, even if the effect sizes are small. Both meta-analyses argue that the research agenda in this domain should shift from attempts to replicate the presence of this relationship toward a more profound investigation of the underlying mechanisms. ...
... Various studies have provided empirical support for Kidd and Castano's (2013) main claim that literary fiction is more effective than popular fiction in terms of enhancing mentalising (e.g., Black & Barnes, 2015a;Kidd, Ongis, & Castano, 2016;Pino & Mazza, 2016;van Kuijk, Verkoeijen, Dijkstra, & Zwaan, 2018), although there are a number of studies that have not replicated their findings regarding the differential effects of exposure to literary vs. popular fiction (e.g., Camerer et al. 2018;Dijkstra et al., 2015;Panero et al., 2016;Samur, Tops & Koole, 2017). Thus, although the claim that exposure to narrative fiction enhances mentalising as compared to non-fiction reading and no reading is supported by the meta-analysis by Dodell-Feder and Tamir (2018), there is currently no empirical consensus regarding whether literary narrative fiction should be considered superior to popular narrative fiction in terms of mentalising enhancement. Furthermore, there are also theoretical issues associated with making a 'hard' distinction between what constitutes literary and popular narrative fiction. ...
... Obviously, not all eudaimonic experiences are literary (a popular television show might be experienced as revealing something about the human condition, Bálint, Hakemulder, Kuijpers, Doicaru, & Tan, 2016), just as not all literary experiences need to be eudaimonic (e.g., aesthetic appraisal of the imagery evoked by a poem). However, some studies on the nature of literary response suggest there is an important overlap, and it is in this overlap that we seek to locate one of the possible explanations for the effects found in the above mentioned meta-analyses (i.e., Mumper &Gerrig, 2016, andTamir, 2018). For instance, qualitative research suggests that foregrounding (i.e., deviating or disruptive text qualities, assumed to be characteristic of literary work), decreases fluency in processing, and simultaneously enhances reader reflectivity. ...
... Narrative fictions in various media and genres have long been regarded by humanistic scholars as educative, either through their embodiment of moral principles (Johnson, 1750) or their capacity to make us more sensitive to the needs and outlooks of others (Nussbaum, 1990;Nussbaum, 1995). Only very recently have such claims been subject to empirical test, where there has been a particular focus on the relation between narrative fiction and improvements in social cognition (overview: Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018). However, narrative fiction is a broad and heterogeneous category, raising the question of whether and why some texts might have more influence than others. ...
... In addition written narratives provide a safe environment to practice social cognition since, unlike in real life, readers can re-read passages several times in order to make sense of social situations, and misunderstandings do not result in adverse consequences for the reader or anyone else (Mar and Oatley, 2008). Tentative support for the proposal that reading stories promotes social cognition comes from two meta-analyses that have summarized effects of reading short fictional narratives on social cognition (Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018) and associations of lifetime exposure to fictional narratives with social cognition (Mumper and Gerrig, 2017). However, the aggregate effect sizes reported in both meta-analyses are small, with some experiments failing to detect any effects of reading short fictional stories at all (e.g., Panero et al., 2016;Samur et al., 2018). ...
... The pre-existing evidence for immediate effects of reading a story on social cognition has been relatively weak (Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018). However, even if such effects exist, they are unlikely to be produced by all stories (e.g. ...
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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.
... Despite strong claims in the recent literature (e.g., , experimental support has so far been rather indirect (often relying on a single measure of social cognition), weak, and controversial (many effects have failed to replicate; see e.g., Panero et al., 2016;Samur et al., 2018). In a meta-analysis, fourteen experimental studies reporting a total of 53 effect sizes were synthesized by Dodell-Feder and Tamir (2018). After reading a fiction text, participants achieved small-size advantages in social cognitive performance compared to participants exposed to non-fiction text or no-reading conditions. ...
... One characteristic of previous research is that the indicators of social cognition, though easily administered in experimental settings, have limited validity. For example, empathy has been measured exclusively using self-report measures (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018), which are compromised by social desirability biases and difficulty for individuals with relatively low empathic skills to accurately assess these skills (Ilgunaite et al., 2017). Theory of Mind (ToM) has predominantly been indexed by the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET; Baron-Cohen et al., 2001), in which respondents judge the mental state of a person from a photograph of their eye region. ...
... Social cognition, involving the ability to understand and share the mental states of others, is a vital aspect of everyday life and contributes to successful interpersonal functioning. Reading fictional stories has been proposed as a way to promote these abilities, and there is some evidence to support this view, as synthesized in two recent meta-analyses (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Mumper & Gerrig, 2017). ...
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.
... In fields such as medicine, where such programs are used regularly, they generally have positive effects (g = 0.63; Teding van Berkhout & Malouff, 2016, for metaanalysis). Moreover, less explicit interventions have been shown to also lead to modest improvements in empathy, including engaging with a variety of art (Kou et al., 2020), such as reading fiction (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Mumper & Gerrig, 2017) or practicing drama (Goldstein & Winner, 2012). However, empathic improvements following these interventions are not always universal, often being constrained to a particular type of empathy (e.g., Goldstein & Winner, 2012). ...
... In line with a dual process model, improvements in cognitive empathy appear to occur after people consciously engage in an effortful mentalizing. For example, reading fiction, which requires deciphering characters' intentions and motives, leads to improvements in cognitive empathy (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Mumper & Gerrig, 2017). In addition, acting, which presents a challenge to the actor to simulate the mind of their characters, leads to improvements in cognitive, but not emotional, empathy (Goldstein et al., 2009). ...
... In addition, this effect appears to persist over time. The effect of VR on emotional empathy is not large, d = 0.33, but is comparable to other interventions such as reading fiction (d = 0.15, Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018) or direct perspective taking instructions (ds range from 0.12 to 1.0; Myers et al., 2014). ...
Article
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Virtual Reality (VR) has been touted as an effective empathy intervention, with its most ardent supporters claiming it is "the ultimate empathy machine." We aimed to determine whether VR deserves this reputation, using a random-effects meta-analysis of all known studies that examined the effect of virtual reality experiences on users' empathy (k = 43 studies, with 5,644 participants). The results indicated that many different kinds of VR experiences can increase empathy, however, there are important boundary conditions to this effect. Subgroup analyses revealed that VR improved emotional empathy, but not cognitive empathy. In other words, VR can arouse compassionate feelings but does not appear to encourage users to imagine other peoples' perspectives. Further subgroup analyses revealed that VR was no more effective at increasing empathy than less technologically advanced empathy interventions such as reading about others and imagining their experiences. Finally, more immersive and interactive VR experiences were no more effective at arousing empathy than less expensive VR experiences such as cardboard headsets. Our results converge with existing research suggesting that different mechanisms underlie cognitive versus emotional empathy. It appears that emotional empathy can be aroused automatically when witnessing evocative stimuli in VR, but cognitive empathy may require more effortful engagement, such as using one's own imagination to construct others' experiences. Our results have important practical implications for nonprofits, policymakers, and practitioners who are considering using VR for prosocial purposes. In addition, we recommend that VR designers develop experiences that challenge people to engage in empathic effort.
... 43, 44). In addition, research on narrative persuasion⎯the ability of a narrative to influence or change the real-world attitudes and beliefs of the reader⎯has found that reading fiction improves empathy and prosocial behavior (Bal and Veltkamp, 2013;Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018;Johnson, 2012;Mumper and Gerrig, 2017). Empathy and prosocial behavior are major factors in reducing stigma (Gloor and Puhl, 2016;Green and Brock, 2002;Griffith and Kohrt, 2016). ...
... As a requirement for and proxy measure of empathy, ToM can improve during the reading process as readers learn to understand and interpret the mental processes of fictional characters (Black and Barnes, 2015a;Kidd and Castano, 2013;Oatley, 2016). Exactly how ToM improves with exposure to narratives remains uncertain, but scholars suggest that readers practice learning about peoples' minds and social interactions using narratives as the exemplar (Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018;Kidd and Castano, 2013;Oatley, 2016). Nikolajeva notes "reading fiction makes the brain simulate cognitive and affective responses to the actual world, and therefore, … can improve our understanding of the actual world" (p. ...
... 35), improved ToM has been linked to reading literary fiction (Kidd and Castano, 2013;van Kuijk et al., 2013), reading specific genres like romance and suspense/thrillers (Fong et al., 2013), and even through exposure to televised fictional narratives (Black and Barnes, 2015). Additionally, two recent metaanalyses agree that reading fiction is correlated with (Mumper and Gerrig, 2017) and causes (Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018) improvements in social cognition, such as ToM, empathy, and prosocial behavior. Children or "novice readers" as Nikolajeva calls them, "have limited theory of mind and empathetic skills. ...
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Drawing on cognitive criticism, and using Theory of Mind, transportation, and imaginative resistance as a framework, this essay analyzes the ways in which Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows Duology, can build understanding of and empathy for people with living with mental illnesses. Maria Nikolajeva’s germinal work on cognitive approaches to literature for young people is foundational to this analysis, as are psychiatric and psychological studies. We trace the ways in which these novels encourage young readers’ cognitive development, particularly how they enable the ability to interpret the actions of people coping with PTSD and encourage engagement with characters’ thoughts, emotions, and goals. Our analysis focuses on Bardugo’s accurate portrayals of PTSD, and the potential for increased Theory of Mind and transportation through well-developed characters, vivid imagery, and engaging plotlines. We also explore how Bardugo circumvents imaginative resistance to these narratives which can prevent the development of empathy and further stigmatize those living with a mental illness.
... 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. ...
... It is important to note that the term "genre," which generally means "category," has several levels. At the broadest level, genre refers to fiction (prose, poetry, drama) and nonfiction, with most published studies testing for differences between fiction and nonfiction in print (Dodell & Tamir, 2018;cf. Black & Barnes, 2015b;Jones & Paris, 2018). ...
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.
... While little is known about possible recursive effects specific to properties of writing (not just achievement), there are indications these may be possible. In reading, a small but robust association has been found between fiction reading (compared with nonfiction reading and no reading) with improvement in social-cognitive measures including those of emotional and cognitive empathy (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). In the case of writing, the development of skills includes an increasing awareness of the effect of one's writing on the reader, and more effective writing takes audience perspectives into account (Graham & Harris, 2018). ...
... The relationship is also likely to be bidirectional. There is some indirect evidence in the evidence for reading, where a small but significant association has been found between fiction reading (compared with nonfiction reading and no reading) and improvement in social-cognitive measures including those of emotional and cognitive empathy (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). There are no studies of which we are aware that replicate these results for writing, but the relationship is understandable from models of writing. ...
Article
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Students’ social and emotional development matters to their educational success. Ubiquitous digital use in schooling creates new contexts for development, raising the question of the nature of the relationships under these new conditions. Ratings of 9 to 13 year old students’ (n = 296) social skills and self-regulation and their writing achievement were examined in schools with 1:1 devices and ubiquitous access and use of digital tools in school and out of school. After controlling for demographic and school level variables two significant relationships emerged. Higher ratings of inhibitory control and cognitive empathy were associated with higher achievement in writing. The former replicates previous research and the latter provides evidence for a specific relationship between writing and social skills. Both extend what has been found in other academic areas to writing and to wide spread digital usage in schools.
... Literary narratives can offer learning experiences relevant for business ethics education since they have the capacity to stimulate empathy and moral awareness (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). Additionally, narratives can function as safe arenas for exploring moral issues (Boyd, 2009) and discussing sensitive, personal, or complex ethical issues in social settings (Canning, 2017). ...
... Central to this ability is empathy-understanding and considering other points of view (Johnson, 1994)-which has been regarded as crucial for moral development (Fesmire, 2003;De Waal, 2009). Reading novels has been shown to stimulate empathy and theory of mind in readers (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Ferrari et al., 2013) by exposing them to different characters and new ways of thinking about moral situations (Hakemulder, 2000) and by simulating perspective-taking (Hoffman, 2001). Finally, literary narratives can stimulate reflection (Hargrave et al., 2020), whereby people think ahead and imagine different possible courses of action. ...
... There is, in addition, a growing interest in the potential for various art forms to improve social capacities, including literature (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018), film (Castano, 2021), acting (McDonald et al., 2020), and music (Greenberg et al., 2015). For example, numerous studies have compared reading a passage of fiction (e.g., short stories/novel extracts) with either a nonfiction (e.g., newspaper articles) or no reading control group and have demonstrated both improvement's in social measures (Black & Barnes, 2015;Djikic et al., 2013;Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Koopman, 2015) and short-term alterations to personality (Djikic et al., 2009) in the fiction condition. ...
... There is, in addition, a growing interest in the potential for various art forms to improve social capacities, including literature (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018), film (Castano, 2021), acting (McDonald et al., 2020), and music (Greenberg et al., 2015). For example, numerous studies have compared reading a passage of fiction (e.g., short stories/novel extracts) with either a nonfiction (e.g., newspaper articles) or no reading control group and have demonstrated both improvement's in social measures (Black & Barnes, 2015;Djikic et al., 2013;Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Koopman, 2015) and short-term alterations to personality (Djikic et al., 2009) in the fiction condition. Complementary results have also been observed with the use of film (Castano, 2021). ...
Article
Music is a human universal and has the ability to evoke powerful, genuine emotions. But does music influence our capacity to understand and feel with others? A growing body of evidence indicates that empathy (sharing another's feelings) and compassion (a feeling of concern toward others) are behaviorally and neutrally distinct, both from each other and from the social-cognitive process theory of mind (ToM; i.e., inferring others' mental states). Yet little is known as to whether and how these dissociable routes to feeling with and understanding others can be independently modulated. The goal of the current study was to investigate if emotional music has the potential to enhance social affect and/or social cognition. Using a naturalistic, video-based paradigm which disentangles empathy, compassion, and ToM, we demonstrate selective enhancement of social affect through music during the videos. Specifically, we found enhanced empathy and compassion when emotional, but not when neutral music was present during videos displaying emotionally negative narrations. No such enhancement was present for ToM performance. Similarly, prosocial decision making increased after emotionally negative videos with emotional music. These findings demonstrate how emotional music can enhance empathic responding, compassion and prosocial decisions as well as contribute to the growing evidence for separable processes within the social mind. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... The theoretical and empirical findings that have emerged over the last two decades support the conclusion of the study by Wiessner, particularly with regard to the relationship between engagement with narrative fiction and the development of Theory of Mind (ToM;Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018). This article is based on this line of inquiry. ...
... Results showed that participants in the literary fiction condition scored higher on the test compared with those in the popular fiction condition. The literary fiction condition participants also scored higher than those who were either in a non-fiction reading condition or in a condition in which they did not read anything at all ; see also Black and Barnes, 2015;Kidd et al., 2016;Pino and Mazza, 2016;Kidd and Castano, 2018;van Kuijk et al., 2018; but see Panero et al., 2016;Castano, 2017, 2018; for a meta-analysis, see Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018). ...
Article
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We investigated the impact of exposure to literary and popular fiction on psychological essentialism. Exposure to fiction was measured by using the Author Recognition Test, which allows us to separate exposure to authors of literary and popular fiction. Psychological essentialism was assessed by the discreteness subscale of the psychological essentialism scale in Study 1, and by the three subscales of the same scale (such as discreteness, informativeness, and biological basis) in Study 2 that was pre-registered. Results showed that exposure to literary fiction negatively predicts the three subscales. The results emerged controlling for political ideology, a variable that is commonly associated with psychological essentialism, and level of education.
... In all cases the participants' scores in RMET were improved as opposed to those of people who read nonfiction. Although there were some unsuccessful attempts to replicate these findings (Panero et al., 2016), a recent meta-analysis has confirmed that read-ing fiction had a small positive effect on theory of mind (Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018;Mumper and Gerrig, 2017). ...
... However, the effect size of this causation was small. Previous studies showed that the link between social cognition and perception of fiction has a small effect size (Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018). ...
Article
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Theory of mind is a cognitive ability that enables us to understand mental states of others, important in real-life communications as well as in aesthetic cognition. The present research investigated whether understanding intentions and emotions is related to aesthetic appreciation. Study 1 tested whether there is a link between aesthetic appreciation of cinematic films and attempts to understand the intentions and emotions of the artists and the film characters. It showed that a self-reported understanding of emotions and intentions is positively associated with aesthetic appreciation. Studies 2 and 4 investigated a causal relationship between the attempt to understand emotions and an aesthetic appreciation of artistic photos. Study 3 investigated an actual understanding of emotions and aesthetic appreciation of movie shots. The results show that when people evaluate the emotional state of the characters, they aesthetically appreciate artistic photos more, compared to when they evaluate non-mental characteristics of these photos (age of the characters, the colour of the photos). Moreover, better understanding of another’s emotions is related to greater aesthetic appreciation.
... As per Elkins (1995) and Kemp (2005), we distinguish scientific and artistic communication by their differing expressive aims. We draw on insights from diverse, interdisciplinary fields, including environmental psychology (Zelezny and Schultz, 2000), the psychology and anthropology of art (Ives and Pond, 1980;Gell, 1998;Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018), eco-aesthetics (Demos, 2013), ecocriticism/environmental humanities (Giles, 2014;Hegglund, 2020), and cognitive literary studies (Richardson, 2010;Oatley, 2017), making particular connections between models of environmental consciousness, explanations of the cognitive benefits of art and fiction, and literature on the interaction between reality and the imaginary. Some aspects of our argument are prefigured in works about aesthetic representation in journalism (Cramerotti, 2009;Zelizer, 2010). ...
... Some artists strive for emotional communication, or the direct depiction of subjective states that viewers may access through cognitive mindreading and stylistic analysis. Such is the case for works of literary fiction, which have been shown to improve readers' Theory of Mind, empathy, and social cognition over time (Oatley, 2012;Kidd and Castano, 2013;Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018), but also of plastic or performance arts that foreground a specific vantage point. Take Tim Gaudreau's Self-Portrait as Revealed by Trash 9 , wherein the artist photographed every piece of trash he created over 365 days to represent his broader life. ...
Article
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Previous studies have highlighted the communicative limitations of artistic visualizations, which are often too conceptual or interpretive to enhance public understanding of (and volition to act upon) scientific climate information. This seems to suggest a need for greater factuality/concreteness in artistic visualization projects, which may indeed be the case. However, in this paper, we synthesize insights from environmental psychology, the psychology of art, and intermediate disciplines like eco-aesthetics, to argue that artworks—defined by their counterfactual qualities—can be effective for stimulating elements of environmental consciousness. We also argue that different artworks may yield different effects depending on how they combine counter/factual strategies. In so doing, we assert that effective artistic perceptualization—here expressed as affectivization—exceeds the faithful translation of facts from one mode to another, and cannot be encapsulated in a single example of un/successful art.
... Relevant research has demonstrated that other art forms, such as narrative fiction, can lead to improvements in empathy and social cognition (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Mar & Oatley, 2008). While much of this research is correlational (Mar, Oatley, & Peterson, 2009), causal evidence also indicates that fiction has effects on empathy, attitudes (Green & Brock, 2000), out-group prejudice (Mazzocco, Green, Sasota, & Jones, 2010;Vezzali, Stathi, Giovannini, Capozza, & Trifiletti, 2015), and pro-social behavior (Koopman, 2015). ...
... While much of this research is correlational (Mar, Oatley, & Peterson, 2009), causal evidence also indicates that fiction has effects on empathy, attitudes (Green & Brock, 2000), out-group prejudice (Mazzocco, Green, Sasota, & Jones, 2010;Vezzali, Stathi, Giovannini, Capozza, & Trifiletti, 2015), and pro-social behavior (Koopman, 2015). Although there have been some notable failed replications in this area (Kidd & Castano, 2013; see Panero et al., 2016;Samur, Tops, & Koole, 2018;Van Kuijk et al., 2018), a meta-analysis of 14 experiments found that fiction has a small positive causal effect on social cognition (which entails empathy, prosociality, theory of mind, and other related constructs) (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). ...
Article
Can attending live theatre improve empathy by immersing audience members in the stories of others? We tested this question across three field studies (n = 1622), including a pre-registered replication. We randomly assigned audience members to complete surveys either before or after seeing plays, and measured the effects of the plays on empathy, attitudes, and pro-social behavior. After, as compared to before, seeing the plays, people reported greater empathy for groups depicted in the shows, held opinions that were more consistent with socio-political issues highlighted in the shows, and donated more money to charities related to the shows. Seeing theatre also led participants to donate more to charities unrelated to the shows, suggesting that theatre's effects on pro-sociality generalize to different contexts. Altogether, these findings suggest that theatre is more than mere entertainment; it can lead to tangible increases in empathy and pro-social behavior.
... Empirical evidence for the positive relationship between reading fiction and empathy is provided by several studies (e.g., Djikic et al., 2013;Kidd & Castano, 2013;Mar et al., 2009). In fact, a meta-analysis considering experimental data found that reading fiction, in comparison to nonfiction or no reading at all, significantly improves social-cognitive performance, including empathy (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). However, while the impact of reading fiction is unanimously considered to be positive, only very little research has considered other media formats, including audiovisual media. ...
... Although most research on narrative fiction and empathy has found positive direct relationships between general exposure to written fiction and empathy (e.g., Djikic et al., 2013;Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Kidd & Castano, 2013), Vossen et al. (2017) did not find a direct relationship between self-reported exposure to nonviolent television contents. Based on the outlined rationale, we also do not expect a direct relationship between exposure to serial narrative fiction and empathy, but a fully mediated relationship through vicarious interactions (H1). ...
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This study examines how exposure to serial audiovisual narratives is associated with media users’ empathy. While mounting evidence suggests enhanced empathy following exposure to written, fictional narratives, the present study expands this line of research to the context of fictional serial audiovisual narratives. Considering that social interactions are instrumental for empathic development, vicarious interactions are proposed as a key mechanism in the relationship between exposure to fictional audiovisual narratives and empathy. Furthermore, the empathy-enhancing role of exposure to eudaimonic entertainment in particular is assessed. Additionally, possible boundary conditions are explored with respect to personality traits linked to reduced empathy. The conducted analyses combine logged data from participants’ Netflix viewing histories with self-report data from an online survey (N = 262). Results suggest that exposure to fictional serial audiovisual narratives predicts empathy via vicarious interactions. Moreover, eudaimonic experiences positively predict vicarious interactions and empathy. The role of specific media content, instead of mere exposure time, is therefore discussed with respect to the facilitation of media enhanced empathy.
... However, other studies, including some direct replications of experiments, have not found evidence for a direct positive effect of reading a piece of literary fiction as opposed to either popular fiction or nonfiction (Camerer et al., 2018;De Mulder et al., 2017;Panero et al., 2016;Samur et al., 2018; see also Djikic et al., 2012), causing many to cast doubts on the original claims. Nevertheless, a recent meta-analysis (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018) that also included two of the recent failed replications (i.e., Panero et al., 2016;Samur et al., 2018), found that reading a piece of literary fiction does in fact have a small positive effect (g = .15-.16) on social-cognitive abilities (both when looking at all effect sizes and when looking exclusively at effect sizes obtained with the RMET) when compared with reading nonfiction or nothing. ...
... All in all, then, the best evidence in favor of a causal effect of reading narratives on social cognition comes from the intervention studies (Kumschick et al., 2014;Montgomery & Maunders, 2015) and a handful of experiments that have not solely relied on the RMET to measure socialcognitive abilities (i.e., Bal & Veltkamp, 2013;Djikic et al., 2013;Pino & Mazza, 2016). However, even studies that have employed other measures than the RMET have not always replicated the positive effect of a single case of exposure of narratives on social cognition (e.g., De Mulder et al., 2017; see also Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). Thus, experimental evidence for the social-cognitive potential of narratives is mixed at best and the question rises how these mixed findings should be interpreted. ...
Article
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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.
... Experimental studies, mainly conducted on young adults, have shown a positive and specific causal influence of reading on the ability to understand others' mental states, measured using the reading the mind in the eyes and the false belief tasks (Black & Barnes, 2015;Pino & Mazza, 2016). In support of this finding, a recent meta-analysis of 53 effect sizes from 14 studies on young adults demonstrated that, compared with reading nonfiction and not reading, reading fiction is associated with a small, but statistically significant advantage in social cognitive performance (g = .15-.16) (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). On the basis of this literature we expected a bidirectional developmental relationship between ToM and reading comprehension. ...
... Refining this analytic approach, Kidd and Castano (2013) distinguished between literary fiction (in which characters' behavior is often inconsistent with a social script) and popular fiction (that is primarily plot driven) to demonstrate that a single session of literary, but not popular, fiction increases ToM skills. More recent larger-scale studies on bigger samples, have, however, failed to replicate this finding, perhaps indicating a dosage effect, such that more than a single session of reading literary fiction is needed in order to enhance ToM performance (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Panero et al., 2016). ...
Article
We investigated the specificity and direction of the associations between Theory of Mind (ToM) and reading comprehension (RC) via two studies. In Study 1, measures of ToM and RC were gathered alongside measures of verbal ability (VA), working memory (WM) and family affluence in 157 children (mean age = 9;7 years). Results showed that the relationship between ToM and RC remained significant when more general effects of VA, WM and family affluence were taken into account. In Study 2, a new sample of 60 children (mean age = 9;8 years at T1) was followed over a 6-month period, with children completing tests of ToM, RC and mathematical ability at both timepoints. Individual differences in ToM were unrelated to variation in mathematical ability, but showed a bidirectional developmental association with variation in RC. These results extend the knowledge on the relation between ToM and academic achievement in older children and show the existence of a specific relationship between ToM and RC in middle childhood. Full-text available for some weeks without registration to the journal here: https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1cVBC39HO4GDrw
... Over the last decade, there has been increasing scientific interest in understanding the potential benefits of exposure to fiction (i.e., artifacts designed and perceived to concern primarily non-real events, objects, and persons; Gertken & Koeppe, 2009). In particular, research activity has focused on examining whether reading fictional narratives is an effective means of promoting readers' social cognitive abilities (overviews: Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Mar, 2018;Mumper & Gerrig, 2017). Despite this empirical focus on social cognition, philosophers have speculated on a wider range of outcomes that are likely to be enhanced by reading fiction, especially imaginative capacities. ...
... It should be noted that previous online studies have observed effects of reading short fiction texts (overview: Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018), although for different outcome variables. Thus, online studies do not seem entirely inapt for detecting fiction-based benefits. ...
Article
Although philosophers have long claimed that reading fiction has the potential to improve imaginative capacities, empirical evidence on this topic is limited. We report an experiment that aims to conceptually replicate and extend previous work by Djikic and colleagues by testing whether reading literary fiction reduces the need for closure, and by testing for the first time whether it enhances openness to experience, cognitive complexity, imaginability, and divergent thinking. We also examined whether a potential fiction-based impact depends on previous exposure to print fiction or nonfiction. In a between-subjects design, N = 111 higher education students were randomly assigned to read either two literary fiction short stories or two nonfictional essays. Outcome variables were assessed after the reading assignments using a battery of questionnaire-based and behavioral indicators. The two groups of readers did not differ on any outcome measure, and results were not influenced by lifetime exposure to written fiction or nonfiction. Taken together, the current findings do not support the assumption that reading literary fiction increases imaginative capacities or related outcomes. ARTICLE HISTORY
... In recent years, meta-analysis has garnered a great deal of attention in terms of foreign or second reading comprehension (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Jeon & Yamashita, 2014;Ke et al., 2021;Lervåg & Lervåg, 2011;Lervåg et al., 2012;Li et al., 2021;Mumper & Gerrig, 2017;Shin, 2020) and foreign language anxiety (Botes et al., 2020;Teimouri et al., 2019;Zhang, 2019), since meta-analytic results based on multiple studies and increased sample sizes are more reliable and generalizable (Boers et al., 2021;Yanagisawa et al., 2020). ...
... Related primary studies were searched from several electronic online databases (e.g., web of science, ScienceDirect, Springer, ProQuest, Wiley, ERIC, Chinese CNKI) and search engines (Google Scholar and Chinese Baidu Scholar) by using a combination of the following key words: reading anxiety, reading apprehension, second language (L2), foreign language (FL), self-efficacy, strategy, (reading) score, (reading) grade, (reading) proficiency, (reading) performance and (reading) achievement. Moreover, backward and forward citation searches based on the seminal articles (Hsiao, 2002;Saito et al., 1999), along with "snowballing technique" (Biernacki & Waldorf, 1981) by scanning references in the identified articles (e.g., Hann, 2018;Zhao, 2009) or related meta-analyses on reading comprehension (e.g., Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Jeon & Yamashita, 2014;Lervåg & Lervåg, 2011;Lervåg et al., 2012;Mumper & Gerrig, 2017;Shin, 2020) were carried out. To further avoid the insufficient search of a significant portion of the relevant literature in the first-round, multiple search strategies for each correlates of reading anxiety were also conducted. ...
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Despite the growing body of research on foreign language reading anxiety, there is still a dearth of comprehensive meta-analysis regarding the effect sizes of these studies. To fill the gap, this study meta-analyzed the overall average correlation between foreign language reading anxiety and its correlates among 9785 participants: two high-evidence correlates (language anxiety and reading performance with 18 to 27 aggregated effect sizes) and two low-evidence correlates (with less than nine aggregated effect sizes: reading self-efficacy and reading strategy). In addition, moderator analyses of target language, age, foreign language proficiency, language distance and test type were also carried out for the high-evidence correlates. The results obtained a moderate correlation of language anxiety and reading performance. The two low-evidence correlates had moderate-to-large and moderate effect sizes, with reading self-efficacy being moderate-to-large and reading strategy being moderate. Foreign language proficiency and age were significant moderators for some correlations. Implications of the findings were discussed.
... Turning to the systematic reviews of RCTs included, the first two concern the social effects of reading literature for children and young people (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Montgomery & Maunders, 2015). Both, report only "small" or "small to moderate" effects on the social outcome measures considered. ...
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This paper outlines the growth of interest in the UK in the social and health impacts of the arts from the late 1990s onwards. It highlights the early critiques of claims made about such impacts by Belfiore and Mirza (Mirza, 2006a). Attention is given to two recent commissioned reviews of arts and health research, by the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe, and the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which conclude that the can arts have an important role in promoting health and reducing social and health inequalities. These reports have substantial limitations, however, and the critical concerns raised by Belfiore and Mirza remain to be addressed. The paper concludes that broad scoping reviews are ill-advised as a guide for practice and policy development, and future progress should be guided by rigorous, systematic and transparent methods that ensure that review results are trustworthy. The arts and cultural engagement may have a part to play in promoting wellbeing, but whether or not they can have a substantial role in promoting population health and reducing social and health inequalities is yet to be demonstrated.
... All analyses were done in R (version 3.5.1; R Core Team, 2018), based on a script provided by Dodell-Feder and Tamir (2018), with the help of the metafor package (Viechtbauer, 2010). ...
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We acquire a lot of information about the world through texts, which can be categorized at the broadest level into two primary genres: narratives and exposition. Stories and essays differ across a variety of dimensions, including structure and content, with numerous theories hypothesizing that stories are easier to understand and recall than essays. However, empirical work in this area has yielded mixed results. To synthesize research in this area, we conducted a meta-analysis of experiments in which memory and/or comprehension of narrative and expository texts was investigated. Based on over 75 unique samples and data from more than 33,000 participants, we found that stories were more easily understood and better recalled than essays. Moreover, this result was robust, not influenced by the inclusion of a single effect-size or single study, and not moderated by various study characteristics. This finding has implications for any domain in which acquiring and retaining information is important.
... The first report of a causal relation in a manner that reading a short fictional paragraph leads to a better theory of mind was provided by Kidd and Castano (2013). Attempts to replicate these results did not always prove successful (Djikic et al., 2013;Panero et al., 2016), but a recent meta-analysis of experiments addressing this question (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018), shows that there is indeed a small positive impact of fiction reading on social cognition (abilities related to processing, interpreting and responding to social information). ...
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Research from different disciplines points to a positive relationship between reading fiction and empathy. Some studies also focus on potential moderators of this relationship, such as individual personality differences and how the individual engages with the fictional text in terms of transportation. The aim of this paper is to investigate whether reading-induced affective empathy can be explained by personality traits, namely Agreeableness, and Emotional engagement, and Transportation. Participants were 132 undergraduate and graduate students, who read a short fictional story by J. Joyce and after that completed a set of questionnaires, containing measures of Big Five personality traits, Emotional engagement, Transportation and affective Empathy. Results show that there is a strong positive relationship between Agreeableness and story-induced Empathy and that this relationship can be partially explained by Emotional engagement. Transportation, on the other hand, did not show to be an important variable in the relationship of Agreeableness and story-induced Empathy, neither did it show to be a significant factor in this relationship when Emotional engagement was included. This study provides information for additional understanding of the relationship between reading fiction and empathy through the investigation of its mediators.
... Empathy expressed for real people has been shown to bear similarities to that for fictional characters (Nomura & Akai, 2012) across several empirical studies, which have found that frequent readers of fiction are highly sensitive social decoders (Mar, Oatley, Hirsh, Paz, & Peterson, 2006). In fact, a meta-analysis by Dodell-Feder and Tamir (2018) determined that reading fiction leads to the performance of social cognition in instances of mindreading. However, previous studies have often used questionnaires limited to capturing the levels of empathy that respondents can recognize within themselves (Bal & Veltkamp, 2013;McCreary & Marchant, 2017) or behavioral tasks of "mindreading ability" that do not account for the actual internal states of the depicted individuals (e.g., the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test; Baron-Cohen, Jolliffe, Mortimore, & Robertson, 1997). ...
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Reading literature contributes to the development of language skills and socioemotional competencies related to empathic responding. Despite implications for improving measures of empathy used by practitioners interested in reading behavior and their applications to teaching empathic skills through literature, extensions to the ability to express empathic inference of interpersonal encounters, or empathic accuracy, remains an understudied area. Comparing which traits are associated with performance on tasks that require empathic accuracy could reveal more about underlying empathic processes and their characteristics for the benefit of practitioner tools and pedagogical choices for reading. Two studies were conducted to investigate possible relationships between self-reported constructs of interpersonal reactivity and an experimental paradigm that measures empathic accuracy. Experiment 1 investigated these relationships among participants having everyday conversations, and Experiment 2 examined the same variables in a context designed to emulate a counseling setting. In both cases, scores on the Fantasy self-report scale correlated with empathic accuracy scores. The results indicate that a tendency to consume fiction and engage in narrative transportation might play a role in the ability to accurately infer the internal state of others. Implications for reader involvement as learner engagement and consequential validity for instructional scaffolds are discussed.
... Studies with adults also provide causal evidence that reading fictional literature leads to immediate gains in FBU relative to reading nonfiction (e.g., Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). Thus, there is evidence that both FBU contributes to narrative/reading comprehension and that narrative skill/exposure to narrative contributes to FBU. ...
Article
Prior work shows that theory of mind (ToM), typically assessed with false belief understanding (FBU) tasks, predicts reading comprehension in school-aged children. This paper extends this research by examining the link in preschool-aged children in an exploratory study. We examined associations among FBU and several aspects of narrative abilities (story comprehension, picture sequencing, inferences generated in a narrative task, and goal-directed narratives) in a six-month longitudinal study. We found that FBU was related to all narrative abilities within Time 1 and with inferencing within Time 2. There were also cross-lagged associations between FBU and inferencing between Time 1 and 2. However, only goal-directed narratives were significantly related to FBU after controlling for child age and language. Interestingly, a factor analysis demonstrated that FBU and all narrative abilities but picture sequencing loaded onto a single factor. This study suggests that FBU and narrative abilities may overlap during the preschool years rather than representing distinct constructs. It also suggests that during the preschool years, narrative production rather than narrative comprehension may be more strongly linked to FBU as both the inference and goal-directed narrative tasks were derived from children’s oral narratives.
... Cultural practices, especially those in literary (Mumper & Gerrig, 2017) and cinematic narratives (Balint & Tan, 2019), have been found to be closely associated with social cognition processes. Two meta-analyses have shown that reading literary fiction compared to non-fiction and non-literary fiction contributes to improving social cognition abilities (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Mumper & Gerrig, 2017). Recently, this research has also been extended to audio-visual narratives (Black & Barnes, 2015), showing that viewers of fictional filmic narratives performed better in emotion recognition, measured by the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test (Baron-Cohen & Cross, 1992), than those who watched a documentary TV series episode. ...
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Mental state attribution, an important aspect of social cognition, refers to the verbalization of mental state references observed in another person. Fictional film narratives can elicit social cognition and mental state attribution specifically, however, little is known about the cinematographic techniques underlying this effect and their link to mental state attribution. The present experiment focuses on the role of close-up shots of the character's face in viewers’ mental state attribution, as well as in their cognitive and affective processing more generally. The online experiment (N = 495) included thirteen versions of an animated film and employed a 6 (different number of close-up shots) × 2 (facial expressions) factorial between-subject design, with an additional zero close-up control condition. Participants were randomly assigned to one version of the film and subsequently asked to describe the story (with and without a prompt for mental state attribution). In these free responses, the study used a quantitative content analytic method (with independent blind-coders) to identify the proportion of spontaneous and prompted mental state attributions (i.e. explicit mental state references to the character), as well as cognitive and affective processing employed by viewers. Additionally, we tested the moderation effect of character facial expression (in the close-up) and participant gender. Confirming our main hypothesis, close-up frequency significantly influenced spontaneous, but not prompted mental state attribution. Results indicate that increasing the number of close-ups may elicit a higher proportion of spontaneous mental state attribution up to a certain point, beyond which it may decrease the proportion of spontaneous mental state attributions. Results suggest that the effect of close-up frequency is specific to mental state attribution rather than some general effect on cognitive and affective processing of narratives.
... Across outcome variables, the majority of experimental studies have investigated the effects of reading short fictional narratives. A meta-analysis concluded that such experiments on average yield small-sized benefits for social cognition (Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). ...
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We report a study testing the validity of the three most commonly used indicators of lifetime exposure to print fiction, namely a self-report scale, an author recognition test (ART), and book counting, in a sample of older adults (N=306; M age = 59.29 years, SD age = 7.01). Convergent validity of the self-report scale and book counting was assessed through correlations with the fiction sub-score of the ART; divergent validity of these two indicators was examined via correlations with the non-fiction sub-score of that ART. We also assessed criterion-related validity by testing the degree to which each of the three indicators predicted participants' performance in a vocabulary test. The self-report scale and book counting were significantly more positively associated with the ART fiction sub-score than the ART non-fiction sub-score. Regression analyses, controlling for gender and non-fiction exposure, revealed that the ART fiction sub-score had the highest explanatory power among all indicators under investigation for predicting vocabulary test performance. The present results suggest that only ARTs may have satisfactory levels of both construct and criterion-related validity. Recommendations for the assessment of fiction exposure and future directions are discussed.
... Enhanced reading activitiesthat is, reading beyond decoding simple texts for practical purposeshave been associated with wellbeing, educational achievements, socio-economic status, social integration, reduced crime (OECD, 2021a), mental health (Billington, 2019; Boyes et al., 2016), and, indeed, longevity (Bavishi et al., 2016). Furthermore, higher-level reading activities have been shown to improve and reinforce the development of linguistic competence, empathy, social cognition and perspective-taking (Castano et al., 2020;Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Keen, 2007;Kidd & Castano, 2013;Leverage et al., 2010;Mumper & Gerrig, 2017;Wolf, 2018;Zunshine, 2006), focus and attention, cognitive patience (Baron, 2021;Wolf, 2016Wolf, , 2018, our grasp of the complexity of humans and situations (Mar & Oatley, 2008), the ability to detect analogies and patterns and drawing inferences (Wolf, 2018), evaluating different points of view, knowledge beyond the immediate purpose, and, finally, creativity, imagination and mental imagery (Brosch, 2018). Higher-level reading is a central mechanism for personal development, and it is central for critical thinking. ...
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Discussions of digital technologies in education should take into consideration the role of analogue technologies – such as print books – especially when it comes to reading. Empirical research (Delgado et al., 2018; Kong et al., 2018; Clinton, 2019; Singer & Alexander, 2017) shows that paper supports comprehension better than screens, especially when reading longer and more complex texts. PISA 2019 shows that reading performance has declined in many countries, and teenagers report a significant drop in leisure reading. This article reviews and discusses these findings, in light of how reading and literacy have been redefined on the premises and affordances of digital technologies, and calls for a heightened attention to important aspects of reading that are now being marginalized – namely, those that are least compatible with digital technologies.
... Immersive theatre may also develop other faculties. For example, engaging with narratives has been shown to develop empathic abilities (e.g.,Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018) and improvisation may support divergent thinking and creative problem-solving (e.g.,Lovatt, 2018). The positive impact of narrative-engagement has led to its employment across a range of social enterprises and projects aimed at developing social relationships and skills (e.g., Clean Break, n.d.; EmpathyMuseum, n.d., Ladder to the Moon, 2015). ...
... Relatedly, narratives enhance transportation (Green et al., 2004;Gerrig, 2018) and increase empathy (Keen, 2006). Fiction could probably not exist without theory of mind (Zunshine, 2003), and regular fiction reading is positively associated with social abilities (Mumper & Gerrig, 2017;Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). ...
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This paper proposes a conceptual framework of multiversional narrative processing, or multiversionality. Multiversionality is the consideration of multiple possible event sequences for an incomplete narrative during reception, from reading a novel to listening to the story of a friend’s day. It occurs naturally and is experienced in a wide range of cases, such as suspense, surprise, counterfactuals, and detective stories. Receiving a narrative, we propose, is characterized by the spontaneous creation of competing interpretive models of the narrative that are then used to create predictions and projections for the narrative’s future. These predictions serve as a mechanism for integrating incoming information and updating the narrative model through prediction error, without completely eliminating past versions. We define this process as having three aspects: (1) constrained expectations, (2) preference projection, and (3) causal extrapolation. Constrained expectations and preference projections respectively create the bounds and subjective desires for a narrative’s progress, while causal extrapolation builds, reworks, and maintains the potential models for understanding the narrative. We offer multiversionality as a novel framework for thinking about narrative, social cognition, and decision making that presents adaptive benefits and future directions for empirical study.
... As a matter of fact, it is interesting to note that pornography or romance are seldom view as adaptive, despite the fact that they share the same fictional nature as other more legitimate fictions (Salmon, 2012). Besides, in the empirical literature, the effects of narrative fictions on the consumers' beliefs or behavior are overall small (Gentile et al., 2009;Mulligan and Habel, 2013;Vezzali et al., 2015;Borum Chattoo and Feldman, 2017;Mumper and Gerrig, 2017;Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018;Rathje et al., 2021). Importantly, they are also elicited by factual narratives (Barnes and Black, 2021). ...
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Narrative fictions have surely become the single most widespread source of entertainment in the world. In their free time, humans read novels and comics, watch movies and TV series, and play video games: they consume stories that they know to be false. Such behaviors are expanding at lightning speed in modern societies. Yet, the question of the origin of fictions has been an evolutionary puzzle for decades: Are fictions biological adaptations, or the by-products of cognitive mechanisms that evolved for another purpose? The absence of any consensus in cognitive science has made it difficult to explain how narrative fictions evolve culturally. We argue that current conflicting hypotheses are partly wrong, and partly right: narrative fictions are by-products of the human mind, because they obviously co-opt some pre-existing cognitive preferences and mechanisms, such as our interest for social information, and our abilities to do mindreading and to imagine counterfactuals. But humans reap some fitness benefits from producing and consuming such appealing cultural items, making fictions adaptive . To reconcile these two views, we put forward the hypothesis that narrative fictions are best seen as entertainment technologies that is, as items crafted by some people for the proximate goal to grab the attention of other people, and with the ultimate goal to fulfill other evolutionary-relevant functions that become easier once other people’s attention is caught. This hypothesis explains why fictions are filled with exaggerated and entertaining stimuli, why they fit so well the changing preferences of the audience they target, and why producers constantly make their fictions more attractive as time goes by, in a cumulative manner.
... Experimental studies further studied the effect of short-time exposure to narrative fiction (e.g., Kidd & Castano, 2019;Panero et al., 2017). Even though these studies produced less consistent findings, a recent meta-analysis has shown that short-time exposure might improve social-cognitive performance as well (for a meta-analysis, see Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018). ...
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Educators read narrative fiction with children not only to promote their literacy skills, but also to support their sociomoral development. However, different approaches strongly diverge in their explanations and recommended instructional activities. Informed by theoretical understandings of reader-text transactions, this integrative review presents three different conceptions about how children learn socially from narrative fiction. The first approach explains sociomoral learning through narrative fiction by children’s extraction and internalization of the text’s moral message. The second approach refers to children’s training of mindreading and empathy as they become immersed in a fictional social world and imaginatively engage with the fictional characters’ perspectives. The third approach focuses on children’s social reasoning development through engagement in argumentative dialogues with peers about the complex sociomoral issues raised in narrative fiction. The article aims to theoretically position a wide range of literary programs to clarify their psychological foundations as well as critically discuss their strengths and limitations.
... resilient societies. In education, they are often associated with literary reading (e.g., Nussbaum, 1995;Schrijvers et al., 2019) allowing for the creation of fanciful universes, bold thinking, and exploration of various scenarios by engaging in affectiveemotional as well as cognitive processes (Mar and Oatley, 2008;Kukkonen, 2016;Wolf, 2016;Mumper and Gerrig, 2017;Dodell-Feder and Tamir, 2018;Trasmundi and Cowley, 2020;Baron, 2021). Importantly, such processes go beyond a simple notion of conjuring (primarily visual) mental images (e.g., Kuzmičová, 2014). ...
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This paper applies an embodied perspective to the study of reading and has a twofold aim: (i) to discuss how reading is best understood in terms of cultural-cognitive performance that involves living bodies who actively engage with reading materials, and (ii) to spark a dialogue with neighboring disciplines, such as multimodality studies and movement studies, which likewise pivot on how practices and performances involve moving bodies: life is something we do. An embodied cognitive perspective considers how performance is constrained by and draws on expertise such as lived experience as well as the material affordances available in the situation. Such a perspective is crucial for reading research as this domain has been, and largely still is, dominated by the view that reading is a silent, disembodied activity that takes place in the reader's brain by means of neural mechanisms. However, recent studies of reading practices are starting to develop new explanations emphasizing the multimodal engagement in reading as crucial for managing the activity. While this perspective is still empirically underexplored, we seek to highlight how reading is managed by readers' dynamic, embodied engagement with the material. We call this engagement cognitive pacemaking, an action-perception phenomenon we argue should be considered as the key mechanism for controlling attention. We present here a framework to understand reading in terms of pacemaking by emphasizing attentional shifts constituted by embodied modulations of lived temporality. Methodologically, we combine a close reading of a classic literary text, with the focus on attentional modulation with a qualitative study of university students reading different short texts. We highlight how meaning emerges not primarily from linguistic decoding and comprehension, but also from cognitive-cultural, multimodal engagement with the text. Finally, we conclude that empirical reading research should focus on how embodied reading differs across contexts, genres, media and personalities to better scaffold and design reading settings in accordance with those aspects.
... This is because the between-subjects design reduced/eliminated the impact of fatigue, attrition and test-retest biases that are common during longer, repetitive testing sessions in a within-subjects design. The superiority of a between-subjects design for this kind of study is further reflected in the many studies that have used this design when comparing effects of text reading (e.g., Dodell-Feder & Tamir, 2018;Małecki, Pawłowski, Sorokowski, & Oleszkiewicz, 2019;Samur et al., 2018;Wimmer et al., 2022, Experiment 1). ...
Article
We report two pre-registered experiments investigating some of the conditions under which readers focus on aesthetically relevant object properties in text processing. Experiment 1 (N = 159) tested the role of narrativity, psychological information about textual characters, and readers' identification with them. Participants' focus on aesthetically relevant object properties was stronger after reading a narrative than an expository text. This relationship between participants' focus and narrativity was not affected by information about textual characters, or readers' identification with them. Experiment 2 (N = 159) tested the role of narrativity, literariness, and readers' perception of literary features. Again, reading a narrative led to a stronger focus on aesthetically relevant object properties than reading an expository text. The effect of literary narratives was meditated by readers' perception of literary features. In sum, narrativity and literariness, but not information about characters or identification with them affect the degree to which readers focus on aesthetically relevant object properties.
Article
What are the effects of reading fiction? We propose that literary fiction alters views of the world through its presentation of difference—different minds, different contexts, and different situations—grounding a belief that the social world is complex. Across four studies, two nationally representative and one preregistered (total n = 5,176), we find that the reading of literary fiction in early life is associated with a more complex worldview in Americans: increased attributional complexity, increased psychological richness, decreased belief that contemporary inequalities are legitimate, and decreased belief that people are essentially only one way. By contrast, early-life reading of narrative fiction that presents more standardized plots and characters, such as romance novels, predict holding a less complex worldview.
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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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Empathy and perspective taking play important roles in interpersonal functioning. As prior research has linked metaphor use to emotional understanding, it is likely that metaphor use is also involved in empathy and perspective taking. In two daily diary studies ( N = 225; Obs. = 1,849), we predicted that on days in which empathy and perspective taking were high, participants would also report higher metaphor use. In Study 1, we found support for our hypotheses, such that daily metaphor use was positively associated with daily empathy and perspective taking. In Study 2, we replicated these results. We place this work within the current literature and discuss the promise of an interpersonal function of metaphor use.
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It is well known that people who read fiction have many reasons for doing so. But perhaps one of the most understudied reasons people have for reading fiction is their belief that reading will result in their acquisition of certain forms of knowledge or skill. Such expectations have long been fostered by literary theorists, critics, authors, and readers who have asserted that reading may indeed be among the best ways to learn particular forms of knowledge. Modern psychological research has borne out many of these claims. For example, readers of fiction learn cognitive skills such as mentalizing or theory of mind. Reading fiction is also associated with greater empathic skills, especially among avid or lifelong readers. For readers who are emotionally transported into the fictional world they are reading about, powerful emotional truths are often discovered that may subsequently help readers build, or change, their identities. Fiction readers acquire factual information about places or people they may not have any other access to. But reading fiction also presents opportunities to acquire inaccurate factual information that may diminish access to previously learned accurate information. If readers are provided with inaccurate information that is encoded, they have opportunities to make faulty inferences, whose invalidity the reader is often incapable of detecting. Readers of fiction use schematic world knowledge to navigate fictional texts. But if the border between fiction and reality becomes blurred, as might be the case of avid readers of fiction, there is a risk that they may export schematic knowledge from the world of fiction to the everyday world, where it may not be applicable. These and other findings suggest that the varieties of learning from fiction form a complex, nuanced pattern deserving of greater attention by researchers.
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Reading fiction is argued to have benefits for our understanding of others’ thoughts, feelings and desires, referred to as ‘theory of mind’(ToM). We aimed to test this assumption by examining whether children’s reading experience is longitudinally associated with later ToM. We examined reading experience and ToM in 236 children between the ages of 11–13 years. Participants were asked to report on their time spent reading both fiction and non-fiction at ages 11 and 13, ToM was measured at age 13. Verbal ability, reading comprehension, and reading motivation were included as control variables in all analyses. Results showed that children’s self-reported fiction, but not their non-fiction reading was associated with ToM. Further, the association was concurrent but not longitudinal: fiction reading and ToM at age 13 were associated but fiction reading at age 11 did not predict ToM at age 13. Our findings motivate further research on what types of reading materials might be beneficial, and the level of exposure to fiction that is needed for measurable benefits for later ToM.
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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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An innovative account that brings together cognitive science, ethnography, and literary history to examine patterns of “mindreading” in a wide range of literary works. (This full text has been made available by the MIT Open Access program; for a hard copy go to: https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Literature-Lisa-Zunshine/dp/0262046334)
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Many studies have claimed to find that reading fiction leads to improvements in social cognition. But this work has left open the critical question of whether any type of narrative, fictional or nonfictional, might have similar effects. To address this question, as well as to test whether framing a narrative as fiction matters, the current studies presented participants ( N = 268 in Study 1; N = 362 in Study 2) with literary fiction texts, narrative nonfiction texts, expository nonfiction texts, or no texts. We tested their theory-of-mind abilities using the picture-based Reading the Mind in the Eyes task and a text-based test of higher-order social cognition. Reading anything was associated with higher scores compared to reading nothing, but the effects of framing and text type were inconsistent. These results suggest that prior claims regarding positive effects of reading fiction on mentalizing should be seen as tenuous; other mechanisms may be driving previously published effects.
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What is it about a good story that causes it to have life-changing effects on one person and not another? I wonder if future technologies will enable us to develop the type of truly deep and fine-grained understanding of stories as social, cognitive, and emotional technologies that might allow us to answer this question with a high-level of precision.
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Cultural diversity, as one of the most important characteristics of European community in the framework of the DIALLS project (see Chapter 10.1007/978-3-030-71778-0_1 for overview), is integral to notions of cultural identity and cultural literacy. The acknowledgement of identity formation as an ongoing, dynamic process through interaction rather than a pre‐conceived characteristic arises as an imperative need, in order to encourage democracy to thrive through constructive confrontation and integration (Rapanta et al. in The Curriculum Journal, 2020). According to Bland, picturebooks that authentically reflect cultural diversity can move even young readers towards “flexibility of perspective” (CLELE Journal, 4(2):45, 2016). Bishop (Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, 6(3):ix–xi, 1990) highlights the need for young readers to recognise themselves in books they read, learn about the lives of other people, and be able to cross between groups and worlds. However, reading wordless picturebooks can be a challenging task, because of the ambiguity and open nature of their visually rendered narratives. The affordances of wordless picturebooks and the challenges embedded in their reading are discussed by the authors in Chapter 10.1007/978-3-030-71778-0_5 of this volume. This chapter presents several creative ways to analyze and approach the theme of cultural diversity in class, through various disciplinary lenses and methodological approaches.
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In the 2000s, European societies have transformed quickly due to the networked global economy, deepening a European integration process, forced and voluntary movement of people to and within Europe, and influence of social media on culture, communication, and society. Europe has become an increasingly diverse and pluricultural continent where many people simultaneously identify with multiple different cultural and social groups. In such “super-diversified” (Vertovec in New complexities of cohesion in Britain: Super-diversity, transnationalism and civil-integration, Communities and Local Government Publications, Wetherby, 2007) European societies diversity itself is broad, multidimensional, and fluid (Vertovec in New complexities of cohesion in Britain: Super-diversity, transnationalism and civil-integration, Communities and Local Government Publications, Wetherby, 2007; Blommaert and Rampton in Language and Superdiversity. Diversities 13(2):1–21, 2011). Different social locations and identities intersect within them—whether cultural, ethnic, national, social, religious, or linguistic. At the same time, however, European societies have faced the rise of diverse populist and radical right-wing movements promoting profoundly monoculturalist views and cultural purism. What are the means to confront this polarization of views and attitudes in Europe?
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Philosophers and psychologists have argued that fiction can ethically educate us: fiction supposedly can make us better people. This view has been contested. It is, however, rarely argued that fiction can morally “corrupt” us. In this article, we focus on the alleged power of fiction to decrease one's prejudices and biases. We argue that if fiction has the power to change prejudices and biases for the better, then it can also have the opposite effect. We further argue that fictions are more likely to be a bad influence than a good one.
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Mental capacities, philosophers of mind and cognition have recently argued, are not exclusively realised in brain, but depend upon the rest of the body and the local environment. In this context, the concept of ‘scaffolding’ has been employed to specify the relationship between embodied organisms and their local environment. The core idea is that at least some cognitive and affective capacities are causally dependent upon environmental resources. However, in-depth examinations of specific examples of scaffolding as test cases for current theorising about scaffolding have remained scarce. The aim of the current paper is to help close this gap. To this end, I will offer a characterisation of key aspects of ‘scaffolding’ that can help specify scaffolding relations. In a second step, I will analyse fictional textual narrative as a test case for accounts of cognitive and affective scaffolding. The key claim of this paper will be that fictional textual narrative can be considered as a scaffold that transforms our capacities in social understanding and empathising in the course of ontogeny.
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This essay considers a researcher’s anxiety at submitting a trauma memoir to critical scrutiny. By studying the uneven distribution of grievability in a white expatriate’s memoir of Zimbabwe, it explores how this anxiety can open up for a reading strategy that is sensitive to the political power of selective empathy.
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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.
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Purpose Identifying and understanding causal risk factors for crime over the life-course is a key area of inquiry in developmental criminology. Prospective longitudinal studies provide valuable information about the relationships between risk factors and later criminal offending. Meta-analyses that synthesize findings from these studies can summarize the predictive strength of different risk factors for crime, and offer unique opportunities for examining the developmental variability of risk factors. Complex data structures are common in such meta-analyses, whereby primary studies provide multiple (dependent) effect sizes. Methods This paper describes a recent innovative method for handling complex meta-analytic data structures arising due to dependent effect sizes: robust variance estimation (RVE). We first present a brief overview of the RVE method, describing the underlying models and estimation procedures and their applicability to meta-analyses of research in developmental criminology. We then present a tutorial on implementing these methods in the R statistical environment, using an example meta-analysis on risk factors for adolescent delinquency. Results The tutorial demonstrates how to estimate mean effect sizes and meta-regression models using the RVE method in R, with particular emphasis on exploring developmental variation in risk factors for crime and delinquency. The tutorial also illustrates hypothesis testing for meta-regression coefficients, including tests for overall model fit and incremental hypothesis tests. Conclusions The paper concludes by summarizing the benefits of using the RVE method with complex meta-analytic data structures, highlighting how this method can advance research syntheses in the field of developmental criminology.
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Two decades of research indicate causal associations between social relationships and mortality, but important questions remain as to how social relationships affect health, when effects emerge, and how long they last. Drawing on data from four nationally representative longitudinal samples of the US population, we implemented an innovative life course design to assess the prospective association of both structural and functional dimensions of social relationships (social integration, social support, and social strain) with objectively measured biomarkers of physical health (C-reactive protein, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, waist circumference, and body mass index) within each life stage, including adolescence and young, middle, and late adulthood, and compare such associations across life stages. We found that a higher degree of social integration was associated with lower risk of physiological dysregulation in a dose-response manner in both early and later life. Conversely, lack of social connections was associated with vastly elevated risk in specific life stages. For example, social isolation increased the risk of inflammation by the same magnitude as physical inactivity in adolescence, and the effect of social isolation on hypertension exceeded that of clinical risk factors such as diabetes in old age. Analyses of multiple dimensions of social relationships within multiple samples across the life course produced consistent and robust associations with health. Physiological impacts of structural and functional dimensions of social relationships emerge uniquely in adolescence and midlife and persist into old age.
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The impacts of introduced or overabundant large herbivores are a concern for the conservation of forest plant communities and the sustainability of ecosystem function. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are considered ecologically overabundant in much of North America. Previous work suggests that impacts of deer overabundance are broadly negative and are consequently degrading forests at multiple ecological and taxonomic levels. However, no quantitative synthesis currently exists to verify the generality or magnitude of these impacts. Here, we report the results of a meta-analysis quantifying the effects of deer exclusion on the diversity, cover and abundance of woody, herbaceous, and whole community components of forest understories in North America. In addition, we explore the relationships of environmental and experimental factors on the direction and magnitude of plant community outcomes using meta-regression. Using 119 calculated effect sizes sourced from 25 peer-reviewed articles, we constructed 10 community-specific datasets and found strongly positive diversity, cover and abundance responses of the woody community to deer exclusion, but no significant effects for the herbaceous or whole community components of forest understories. Local deer density and time since exclusion were significant moderators of both whole community and woody community richness. Local deer density also moderated the effects of deer exclusion on whole community cover. Plot area, in contrast, showed no relationship to any of the community response outcomes. We suggest that the use of inadequate diversity indices, non-native species replacement, or legacy effects of chronic deer overabundance might explain why the herbaceous and whole community components of forest understories showed no diversity or cover responses to deer exclusion. We also suggest some strategies to increase opportunities for future quantitative syntheses of deer impacts on forests, including providing better access to existing and future data. Ultimately, we show that white-tailed deer have strongly negative impacts on forest understory plant communities in North America, but these impacts are not ubiquitous for all components of the plant community.
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Research in psychology has suggested that reading fiction can improve individuals' social-cognitive abilities. Findings from neuroscience show that reading and social cognition both recruit the default network, a network which is known to support our capacity to simulate hypothetical scenes, spaces, and mental states. The current research tests the hypothesis that fiction reading enhances social cognition because it serves to exercise the default subnetwork involved in theory of mind. While undergoing functional neuroimaging, participants read literary passages that differed along two dimensions: (i) vivid vs. abstract, and (ii) social vs. nonsocial. Analyses revealed distinct subnetworks of the default network respond to the two dimensions of interest: the medial temporal lobe subnetwork responded preferentially to vivid passages, with or without social content; the dorsomedial prefrontal (dmPFC) subnetwork responded preferentially to passages with social and abstract content. Analyses also demonstrated that participants who read fiction most often also showed the strongest social cognition performance. Finally, mediation analysis showed that activity in the dmPFC subnetwork in response to the social content mediated this relation, suggesting that the simulation of social content in fiction plays a role in fiction's ability to enhance readers' social cognition. © The Author (2015). Published by Oxford University Press. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com.
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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.
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It has been argued that children who possess an advanced theory of mind (ToM) are viewed positively by their peers, but the empirical findings are mixed. This meta-analysis of 20 studies including 2,096 children (aged from 2 years, 8 months to 10 years) revealed a significant overall association (r = .19) indicating that children with higher ToM scores were also more popular in their peer group. The effect did not vary with age. The effect was weaker for boys (r = .12) compared to girls (r = .30). ToM was more strongly associated with popularity (r = .23) than with rejection (r = .13). These findings confirm that ToM development has significant implications for children's peer relationships. © 2015 The Authors. Child Development © 2015 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
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In meta-analysis, dependent effect sizes are very common. An example is where in one or more studies the effect of an intervention is evaluated on multiple outcome variables for the same sample of participants. In this paper, we evaluate a three-level meta-analytic model to account for this kind of dependence, extending the simulation results of Van den Noortgate, López-López, Marín-Martínez, and Sánchez-Meca Behavior Research Methods, 45, 576-594 (2013) by allowing for a variation in the number of effect sizes per study, in the between-study variance, in the correlations between pairs of outcomes, and in the sample size of the studies. At the same time, we explore the performance of the approach if the outcomes used in a study can be regarded as a random sample from a population of outcomes. We conclude that although this approach is relatively simple and does not require prior estimates of the sampling covariances between effect sizes, it gives appropriate mean effect size estimates, standard error estimates, and confidence interval coverage proportions in a variety of realistic situations.
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Three experiments were conducted on how properties of the text control one aspect of the process of identifying with the central character in a story. In particular, we were concerned with textual determinants of character transparency, that is, the extent to which the character’s actions and attitudes are clear and understandable. In Experiment 1, we hypothesized that the narrator in first-person narratives is transparent because narratorial implicatures (analogous to Grice’s (1975) notion of conversational implicatures) lead readers to attribute their own knowledge and experience to the narrator. Consistent with our predictions, the results indicated that stating the inferred information explicitly leads readers to rate the narrator’s thoughts and actions as more difficult to understand. In Experiment 2, we assessed whether this effect could be explained by differences in style between the original and modified versions of the text. The results demonstrated that there was no effect of adding text when the material was unrelated to narratorial implicatures. In Experiment 3, we hypothesized that transparency of the central character in a third-person narrative can be produced when the consistent use of free-indirect speech produces a close association between the narrator and the character; in this case, readers may attribute knowledge and experience to the character as well as the narrator. As predicted, the central character’s thoughts and actions were rated as more difficult to understand when the markers for free-indirect speech were removed. We argue that transparency may be produced through the use of what are essential conversational processes invoked in service of understanding the narrator as a conversational participant.
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A great deal of psychological research has investigated the influence of perspective taking on individuals, indicating that perspective taking increases the extent to which people like, feel a sense of self-other overlap with, and help those whose perspective they take. However, previous investigations of the topic have been limited to the study of the perspective taker, rather than the individual whose perspective has been taken. The purpose of the current work is to begin to fill this large gap in the literature by examining the consequences of believing that another individual is taking one's perspective, a phenomenon we refer to as perceived perspective taking. Over a series of 6 experiments, we demonstrate that perceiving that one's perspective has been taken confers many of the same interpersonal benefits as taking another's perspective. Specifically, our data suggest that believing that another person has successfully taken one's perspective results in an increased liking for, a greater sense of self-other overlap with, and more help provided to that person. Consistent with predictions, we find that one's self-other overlap with the perspective taker and the amount of empathy one perceives the perspective taker to feel operate in tandem to mediate the link between perceived perspective taking and liking for the perspective taker. Further, a mediational path from perceived perspective taking to helping behavior through liking is supported. Future directions are discussed, along with implications for theory and application in domains such as intergroup relations, conflict resolution, and political campaigning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
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There are both theoretical and empirical reasons to believe that design and execution factors are associated with bias in controlled trials. Statistically significant moderator effects, such as the effect of trial quality on treatment effect sizes, are rarely detected in individual meta-analyses, and evidence from meta-epidemiological datasets is inconsistent. The reasons for the disconnect between theory and empirical observation are unclear. The study objective was to explore the power to detect study level moderator effects in meta-analyses. We generated meta-analyses using Monte-Carlo simulations and investigated the effect of number of trials, trial sample size, moderator effect size, heterogeneity, and moderator distribution on power to detect moderator effects. The simulations provide a reference guide for investigators to estimate power when planning meta-regressions. The power to detect moderator effects in meta-analyses, for example, effects of study quality on effect sizes, is largely determined by the degree of residual heterogeneity present in the dataset (noise not explained by the moderator). Larger trial sample sizes increase power only when residual heterogeneity is low. A large number of trials or low residual heterogeneity are necessary to detect effects. When the proportion of the moderator is not equal (for example, 25% 'high quality', 75% 'low quality' trials), power of 80% was rarely achieved in investigated scenarios. Application to an empirical meta-epidemiological dataset with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 92%, tau2 = 0.285) estimated >200 trials are needed for a power of 80% to show a statistically significant result, even for a substantial moderator effect (0.2), and the number of trials with the less common feature (for example, few 'high quality' studies) affects power extensively. Although study characteristics, such as trial quality, may explain some proportion of heterogeneity across study results in meta-analyses, residual heterogeneity is a crucial factor in determining when associations between moderator variables and effect sizes can be statistically detected. Detecting moderator effects requires more powerful analyses than are employed in most published investigations; hence negative findings should not be considered evidence of a lack of effect, and investigations are not hypothesis-proving unless power calculations show sufficient ability to detect effects.
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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.
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To test the hypothesized cumulative advantages of educative factors, the science-achievement scores on a 69-item test of science knowledge of 1,284 young adults, ages 26 to 35, surveyed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 1977, were regressed on three composite independent variables: motivation and prior and current educative experiences. The test scores were related significantly to prior experience-embodied variables, such as parental socioeconomic status, respondent education, and specific scientific training, as well as to motivation to learn and current amount and intensity of information acquisition, such as news media exposure and reading. Early educative experience predicts current educative activities and motivation; and all three factors contribute significantly and independently to the prediction of achievement.
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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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Meta-analysis is an indispensable tool used to synthesize research findings in the social, educational, medical, management, and behavioral sciences. Most meta-analytic models assume independence among effect sizes. However, effect sizes can be dependent for various reasons. For example, studies might report multiple effect sizes on the same construct, and effect sizes reported by participants from the same cultural group are likely to be more similar than those reported by other cultural groups. This article reviews the problems and common methods to handle dependent effect sizes. The objective of this article is to demonstrate how 3-level meta-analyses can be used to model dependent effect sizes. The advantages of the structural equation modeling approach over the multilevel approach with regard to conducting a 3-level meta-analysis are discussed. This article also seeks to extend the key concepts of Q statistics, I2, and R2 from 2-level meta-analyses to 3-level meta-analyses. The proposed procedures are implemented using the open source metaSEM package for the R statistical environment. Two real data sets are used to illustrate these procedures. New research directions related to 3-level meta-analyses are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
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The potential of literature to increase empathy was investigated in an experi-ment. Participants (N = 100, 69 women) completed a package of questionnaires that measured lifelong exposure to fiction and nonfiction, personality traits, and affective and cognitive empathy. They read either an essay or a short story that were equivalent in length and complexity, were tested again for cognitive and affective empathy, and were finally given a non-self-report measure of empathy. Participants who read a short story who were also low in Openness experienced significant increases in self-reported cognitive empathy (p < .05). No increases in affective empathy were found. Participants who were frequent fiction-readers had higher scores on the non-self-report measure of empathy. Our results sug-gest a role for fictional literature in facilitating development of empathy.
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The current study investigated whether fiction experiences change empathy of the reader. Based on transportation theory, it was predicted that when people read fiction, and they are emotionally transported into the story, they become more empathic. Two experiments showed that empathy was influenced over a period of one week for people who read a fictional story, but only when they were emotionally transported into the story. No transportation led to lower empathy in both studies, while study 1 showed that high transportation led to higher empathy among fiction readers. These effects were not found for people in the control condition where people read non-fiction. The study showed that fiction influences empathy of the reader, but only under the condition of low or high emotional transportation into the story.
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Previous work suggests that a range of mental states can be read from facial expressions, beyond the “basic emotions”. Experiment 1 tested this in more detail, by using a standardized method, and by testing the role of face parts (eyes vs. mouth vs. the whole face). Adult subjects were shown photographs of an actress posing 10 basic emotions (happy, sad, angry, afraid, etc.) and 10 complex mental states (scheme, admire, interest, thoughtfulness, etc.). For each mental state, each subject was shown the whole face, the eyes alone, or the mouth alone, and were given a forced choice of two mental state terms. Results indicated that: (1) Subjects show remarkable agreement in ascribing a wide range of mental states to facial expressions, (2) for the basic emotions, the whole face is more informative than either the eyes or the mouth, (3) for the complex mental states, seeing the eyes alone produced significantly better performance than seeing the mouth alone, and was as informative as the whole face. In Experiment 2, the eye-region effect was re-tested, this time using an actor's face, in order to test if this effect generalized across faces of different sex. Results were broadly similar to those found in Experiment 1. In Experiment 3, adults with autism or Asperger Syndrome were testedusing the same procedure as Experiment1. Results showed a significant impairment relative to normal adults on the complex mental states, and this was most marked on the eyes-alone condition. The results from all three experiments are discussed in relation to the role or perception in the use of our everyday “theory of mind”, and the role of eye-contact in this.
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A FRAMEWORK for conceptualizing the development of individual differences in reading ability is presented that synthesizes a great deal of the research literature. The framework places special emphasis on the effects of reading on cognitive development and on "bootstrapping" relationships involving reading. Of key importance are the concepts of reciprocal relationships-situations where the causal connection between reading ability and the efficiency of a cognitive process is bidirectional-and organism-environment correlation-the fact that differentially advantaged organisms are exposed to nonrandom distributions of environmental quality. Hypotheses are advanced to explain how these mechanisms operate to create rich-getricher and poor-get-poorer patterns of reading achievement. The framework is used to explicate some persisting problems in the literature on reading disability and to conceptualize remediation efforts in reading.
Article
A framework for conceptualizing the development of individual differences in reading ability is presented that synthesizes a great deal of the research literature. The framework places special emphasis on the effects of reading on cognitive development and on “bootstrapping” relationships involving reading. Of key importance are the concepts of reciprocal relationships—situations where the causal connection between reading ability and the efficiency of a cognitive process is bidirectional-and organism-environment correlation—the fact that differentially advantaged organisms are exposed to nonrandom distributions of environmental quality. Hypotheses are advanced to explain how these mechanisms operate to create rich-get-richer and poor-get-poorer patterns of reading achievement. The framework is used to explicate some persisting problems in the literature on reading disability and to conceptualize remediation efforts in reading.
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
Storytelling is a hallmark human activity. We use stories to make sense of the world, to explain it to our children, to create communities, and to learn about others. This article focuses on fictional stories and their impact on complex sociocognitive abilities. Correlational and experimental evidence shows that exposure to fiction recruits and hones our ability to represent others’ mental states, or theory of mind (ToM). Experimental studies suggest this effect is specific to literary fiction. Using a unique set of texts, we replicate the finding that literary fiction improves ToM performance. Consistent with the expectation of greater focus on characters in literary fiction, linguistic analysis of the texts revealed that the literary texts contain more markers of reflective function, a sophisticated manifestation of ToM. Further analysis showed the prevalence of markers of reflective function partially mediated the effect of literary fiction on ToM performance.
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
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
Although books can expose people to new people and places, whether books also have health benefits beyond other types of reading materials is not known. This study examined whether those who read books have a survival advantage over those who do not read books and over those who read other types of materials, and if so, whether cognition mediates this book reading effect. The cohort consisted of 3635 participants in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study who provided information about their reading patterns at baseline. Cox proportional hazards models were based on survival information up to 12 years after baseline. A dose-response survival advantage was found for book reading by tertile (HRT2 = 0.83, p < 0.001, HRT3 = 0.77, p < 0.001), after adjusting for relevant covariates including age, sex, race, education, comorbidities, self-rated health, wealth, marital status, and depression. Book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines (tT2 = 90.6, p < 0.001; tT3 = 67.9, p < 0.001). Compared to non-book readers, book readers had a 23-month survival advantage at the point of 80% survival in the unadjusted model. A survival advantage persisted after adjustment for all covariates (HR = .80, p < .01), indicating book readers experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers. Cognition mediated the book reading-survival advantage (p = 0.04). These findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.
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.
Chapter
Readers' narrative experiences are anything but passive. Consider a moment from the suspense novel A Wanted Man (Child, 2012). The hero, Jack Reacher, has been systematically working his way through a fortresslike structure, eliminating his enemies. He finally arrives at a room that contains the person he is trying to rescue, Don McQueen. He finds McQueen tied to a chair (p. 385). There was a man behind the chair. The man behind the chair had a gun to McQueen's head. The man behind the chair was Alan King. Living and breathing. Alive again. It seems very likely that readers would become cognitively and emotionally engaged as these sentences unfold. McQueen has a gun to his head. “Oh no!” Alan King is alive. “How could that be?” The words of the text create an opportunity for readers to have a vivid and intense narrative experience. The goal of this chapter is to explore the foundational role that inferences play to provide readers with experiences of this sort. We will focus on two phenomena. The first is exemplified by readers' impulse to encode mental contents such as “Oh no!” when they learn that McQueen has a gun to his head. We call such mental contents participatory responses: They represent the types of responses people would encode if the events were unfolding before them in real life (Gerrig, 1993; Gerrig and Jacovina, 2009). We will describe how the products of inferential processes lay the groundwork for a variety of participatory responses. Our second phenomenon is the mystery, exemplified by the puzzle provided at the end of this excerpt from A Wanted Man. Given strong evidence provided previously in the novel, how is it possible that Alan King is alive? This moment scratches the surface of the types of mystery with which texts are rife (Gerrig, Love, and McKoon, 2009; Love, McKoon, and Gerrig, 2010).
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We consider statistical inference for regression when data are grouped into clusters, with regression model errors independent across clusters but correlated within clusters. Examples include data on individuals with clustering on village or region or other category such as industry, and state- year differences- in- differences studies with clustering on state. In such settings, default standard errors can greatly overstate estimator precision. Instead, if the number of clusters is large, statistical inference after OLS should be based on cluster- robust standard errors. We outline the basic method as well as many complications that can arise in practice. These include cluster- specifi c fi xed effects, few clusters, multiway clustering, and estimators other than OLS. © 2015 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.
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
Measurement of social cognition in treatment trials remains problematic due to poor and limited psychometric data for many tasks. As part of the Social Cognition Psychometric Evaluation (SCOPE) study, the psychometric properties of 8 tasks were assessed. One hundred and seventy-nine stable outpatients with schizophrenia and 104 healthy controls completed the battery at baseline and a 2-4-week retest period at 2 sites. Tasks included the Ambiguous Intentions Hostility Questionnaire (AIHQ), Bell Lysaker Emotion Recognition Task (BLERT), Penn Emotion Recognition Task (ER-40), Relationships Across Domains (RAD), Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task (Eyes), The Awareness of Social Inferences Test (TASIT), Hinting Task, and Trustworthiness Task. Tasks were evaluated on: (i) test-retest reliability, (ii) utility as a repeated measure, (iii) relationship to functional outcome, (iv) practicality and tolerability, (v) sensitivity to group differences, and (vi) internal consistency. The BLERT and Hinting task showed the strongest psychometric properties across all evaluation criteria and are recommended for use in clinical trials. The ER-40, Eyes Task, and TASIT showed somewhat weaker psychometric properties and require further study. The AIHQ, RAD, and Trustworthiness Task showed poorer psychometric properties that suggest caution for their use in clinical trials. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com.
Article
Inquiry into the written narrative's effect on social cognition is normally left to literary scholars and philosophers. Two experiments demonstrated narrative fiction's power to elicit empathy and reduce implicit and explicit prejudice against Arab-Muslims. Participants were randomly assigned to read a full narrative, condensed narrative, or a non-narrative. Critically, the full and condensed narratives were matched on counterstereotypical exemplars and exposure to Arab-Muslim culture so that the additional reduction in prejudice in the full narrative condition represented the unique power of the narrative. The narrative was particularly effective at reducing implicit prejudice in low dispositional perspective-takers. Partially explaining this effect, the narrative appeared to provide a safe haven from intergroup anxiety so that they could use perspective-taking to reduce prejudice. These findings demonstrate the narrative's power to induce spontaneous empathy and perspective-taking and consequently reduce implicit and explicit prejudice.