Testing correlates of lifetime exposure to print fiction following a multi-method approach: evidence from young and older readers

Lena Wimmer, Gregory Paul Currie, Stacie Friend, Heather Ferguson

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Two pre-registered studies investigated associations of lifetime exposure to fiction, applying a battery of self-report, explicit and implicit indicators. Study 1 (N=150 university students) tested the relationships between exposure to fiction and social and moral cognitive abilities in a lab setting, using a correlational design. Results failed to reveal evidence for enhanced social or moral cognition with increasing lifetime exposure to narrative fiction. Study 2 followed a cross-sectional design and compared 50-80 year-old fiction experts (N=66), non-fiction experts (N=53), and infrequent readers (N=77) regarding social cognition, general knowledge, imaginability, and creativity in an online setting. Fiction experts outperformed the remaining groups regarding creativity, but not regarding social cognition or imaginability. In addition, both fiction and non-fiction experts demonstrated higher general knowledge than infrequent readers. Taken together, the present results do not support theories postulating benefits of narrative fiction for social cognition, but suggest that reading fiction may be associated with a specific gain in creativity, and that print (fiction or non-fiction) exposure has a general enhancement effect on world knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-86
JournalImagination, Cognition and Personality
Issue number1
Early online date20 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

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