Poking my head out briefly to say hi. Dissertation writing is taking quite a bit of time... (surprise surprise)
What was the last time a work of fiction changed your view on an issue? For me, it was Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, which made me think seriously about government intrusion on privacy. Fiction to make a point is nothing new. But what makes a story persuasive? A study from researchers Melianie Green and Timothy Brock points toward one ingredient.
These researchers were interested in what they called "transportation," the extent to which someone is absorbed and engaged in a story. They wanted to know if transportation made readers more likely to take on story-consistent beliefs.
Green and Brock had participants read a story about a college student whose little sister was stabbed to death by a psychiatric patient at the mall. After participants read the story, they answered a “Transportation questionnaire,” which included questions like "While I was reading the narrative, I could easily picture the events in it taking place," and "The narrative affected me emotionally."
The researchers found that readers with higher transportation scores had more story-consistent beliefs. They were more likely to think that stabbings were common in the United States, and that psychiatric patients should be supervised when they go out into the community.
Of course, correlation does not equal causation. It could be that transportation encourages story-consistent views, or it could be the other way around, that people who already held story-consistent beliefs were more easily transported into the story.
So the researchers did some follow-ups. In one experiment, they surveyed participants about their views 5 to 9 weeks before they read the story. It turns out that initial beliefs did not predict transportation. In another study, the researchers manipulated transportation by having participants circle difficult vocabulary words while they were reading. As expected, this task distracted the readers. They reported both lower levels of transportation and less agreement with story-consistent beliefs.
So the bottom line to persuading with your fiction? Draw people in. Make them emotionally involved. In other words, write a good story.
Have you read any fiction that changed your views?
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Also, friend of the blog Passive Guy a.k.a. David Vandagriff a.k.a Darius Acheson recently released his novel The Titanboar Touchstone. Check it out!
When Jager touches a dead titanboar in the forest, a fierce power blazes into him. From that moment, his girlfriend, Rolinda, is condemned to a lingering death at the hands of corrupt Emperor Dragene.
Jager’s titanboar magic is as changeable as his moods, working with breathtaking power one moment, but failing when he needs it most. The titanboars call him Bright One as he struggles to understand their cryptic expectations.
An old man in the village, Wazdan, has a collection of talking cats and talented vultures. Wazille appears to be a gentle grandmother who enjoys cooking, but she also delights in green explosions in the midnight sky. As Dragene seeks Jager, Wazdan and Wazille try to prepare him for the dangerous challenges ahead.
The secretive titanboars are drawn from their clandestine life in the forest by a need to protect Bright One from his expanding collection of enemies. Terrifying night creatures track Jager by a glow only they can see. Shadow Man appears in his dreams and Dragene sends flying orrocks to hunt him down.
The titanboars are a riveting new magical creature in this epic fantasy. They are vastly superior to humans, but they desperately need one human, Jager, to ensure their survival.
Green, Melanie C.;Brock, Timothy C (2000). The role of transportation in the persuasiveness of public narratives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology