An incredible study of the shortcomings of previous studies to accurately determine the influence of Fiction Reading on empathy, And, an interesting case for the role of "emotional transport" in achieving that result.
|Scooped by GoogleLitTrips Reading List|
How does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy?
My first experience with a gold mine website that would not allow me to scoop it.
I'll just give some info that hopefully will stimulate a serious interest in goting to the site to read the entire study.
Should I succeed in peeking your interest, you'll want to go to this URL:
I was able to save the entire article as a PDF. And, it's GREAT!!!
So, just a couple of quotes...
"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."
New concepts to me... "Transportation Theory" the power of being emotionally transported. Seeems like a no-brainer in retrospect, but an excellent concept that distinguished "literary reading" from "informational reading" by clearly distinguishing the "experience" itself as being a virtual simulation of real experiences, leading to a very similar emotional experience as if we were there.
Another quote that really dug deep... Though speaking of the limitations of previous studies of fiction's affect on empathy, the following might well be the elephant in the room regarding the quality or even the ability to accurately assess literary reading "skills or benefits" received.
" there have been no studies where effects of fiction reading on empathy are investigated using real existing stories. Until now, research designs have been based on either proxies of experience of fiction (e.g., knowledge of fiction authors) – or on very short texts that participants in experiments have to read , , limiting the ecological validity of studies on the effects of fiction on empathy. Therefore, it is imperative that the effects of fiction reading on empathy are investigated under realistic conditions in an experimental design,"
I've long been concerned about the margin of error in assessing literary reading in classroom conditions that go far to create secure testing environments, but at the same time those environments are completely incompatible with actual ideal literary reading conditions.
That is... first of course, testing conditions bring all sorts of distance incompatible with literary reading. The pressure, generally terrible selections, assumptions that the appreciation for the literature sinks in immediately in a cold, high pressure, excerpt read not long enough to actually let the "emotional transport" become active. Even the "test taking tricks" we teach so that the ability to present oneself as knowing more than one really does know through clever skimming tricks, prioritizing questions answered to maximize odds of knowing or guessing right answers, though a fairly useful skill set for informational reading, it is simply not the way the value of literary reading can be acheived. The quote above is well-known in research, why would it be plausible that literary reading assessment would not be compromised by the, "proxies of experience of fiction (e.g., knowledge of fiction authors) – or on very short texts that participants in experiments have to read , , limiting the ecological validity of studies on the effects of fiction on empathy"?
So rather than actually assess levels of benefit achieved, we tend to assess their knowledge of literary devices or at least their ability to make good guesses about "advanced literacy" skills.
I'm going to leave this point alone and hope that as you read the study, you consider the arguments the research team present on past attempts to measure the impact of literary reading, the arguments they present regarding the very different experience when one is emotionally transported AND when one is not. I mention this because, it might give rise to revisiting how we teach literary reading and what practices encourage the emotional transport effect and what practices discourage it.
Lastly, I am NOT OPPOSED to assessment. I've always felt a strong personal and professional need to "somehow" assess student learning as well as teacher effectiveness. But, it is not a black and white situation.
I'm reminded of the old saying regarding data and data evaluation; "Garbage in: Garbage out."
I don't think the assessment data collected is garbage, but it may be too polluted to not be concerned about the margin of error in measuring the "true value achieved" by students taking literary reading assessment tests.
The other old saying regarding assessment that comes to mind has to do with the assessment tool.
If you want to know how fast someone can run you might do well to use a stop watch. If you want to know how high a person's temperature is, you might do well to use a thermometer. But, if you want to find out how fast someone can run, a thermometer is the wrong assessment tool. And, the realization that this is "true, but it's the best tool we have" really doesn't make it a good measure.
Let us not give up on measurement. but now that we've at least come to understand that literary reading is different than informational reading, perhaps we are at an opportune moment to explore refining the literary reading assessment structures to assure a better " ecological validity" to the testing environment and to the data analysis and conclusions drawn from such assessments.