Monday, May 21, 2012

Tricked into identifying

Réné Magritte, La reproduction interdite, 1937
Researchers found that people who strongly identified with a fictional character who overcame obstacles to vote were significantly more likely to vote in a real election several days later. Ohio State Research News

The readers in the Ohio State study did become more understanding of gay and black people after they were (let’s not put too fine a point on it) tricked into identifying with them. This type of sleight-of-hand is something only a non-visual medium like prose fiction can pull off. Can you identify? by Laura Miller

A common readerly assumption defaults all major characters to white unless their race is otherwise specified. (And sometimes not even then, as quite a few young fans of “The Hunger Games” demonstrated by being astonished when a supporting character, clearly described as black in the novel, was played by a black actress in the film.) Can you identify? by Laura Miller

Experience-taking doesn’t happen all the time. It only occurs when people are able to forget about themselves and their own self-concept and self-identity while reading. In one experiment, the researchers found that most college students were unable to undergo experience-taking if they were reading in a cubicle with a mirror. Ohio State Research News

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