Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Goes on in Strangers’ Minds: Effects of Reading Stories About Outgroups on Outgroup Perception

Frank J. Hakemulder
Utrecht University

Literature has often been considered as a valuable source of information about the human psyche. Palmer (1992), for instance, argues that reading literary texts acquaints us with the experience of being someone else. Rorty (1989) suggested that reading novels enriches our moral awareness, because during the reading experience we find ourselves in shoes of a wide diversity of people. Thus, we get better and better at understanding moral situations from different points of view.

In a series of experiments it was examined whether reading a story colour readers’ perception of unfamiliar outgroup members. Participants, Dutch students, either read a story describing the experiences of an Algerian woman or a control text. Afterwards they responded to statements assessing their beliefs about Algerian women in general. Results indicated that readers’ perception was indeed biased by the story. Follow-up studies suggested that such effects may be significantly stronger for stories than for a non-narrative representation of similar information.
Full paper is here.

No comments: