As a tool for understanding, narrative is fundamental to human cognition. A wealth of theory and growing empirical evidence strongly indicate that reading a narrative activates a simulation with critical cognitive and emotional components. Importantly, these components have been linked to prosocial outcomes, such as empathy and transportation. While there is growing experimental support that reading narratives entails a simulated experience that involves transportation, the conditions under which reading leads to improvements in empathy remains understudied. This thesis applies a cognitive and narrative based approach in order to ask: What matters more? “Literary” features of a text, or the genre expectation a reader brings into a text? To answer this question, this thesis examines whether genre expectations and text genre—in combination or independently—influence participants’ empathy, transportation and comprehension. Overall, the results of two experiments bring to light the role of genre expectation in processing fiction and nonfiction texts and suggest genre expectation is an important factor that future studies should take into account when investigating the reading experience. By considering the study results in the framework of narratology, this thesis also addresses the theoretical foundations of the division between fiction and nonfiction. Specifically, this project reflects on the implications of how and why the reader’s use of disbelief has changed since the novel’s arrival due to the increasingly blurred boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, and their respective claims to truth.
University of Minnesota Final Project. Spring 2017. Degree: Master of Liberal Studies. Advisors: Jennifer Caruso, and Panayiota Kendeou. 1 computer file
Van Gilder, Jessica.
What matters more—the ‘literariness’ of a story, or what a reader thinks it is? Exploring the Influence of Genre Expectations on Transportation and Empathy.
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