Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Becoming a vampire without being bitten: Reading expands our self-concepts, study shows

Date:
April 25, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
When we read, we psychologically become part of the community described in the narrative—be they wizards or vampires. That mechanism satisfies the deeply human, evolutionarily crucial, need for belonging, according to new research.

"We read to know we are not alone," wrote C.S. Lewis. But how do books make us feel we are not alone?

Related Articles


"Obviously, you can't hold a book's hand, and a book isn't going to dry your tears when you're sad," says University at Buffalo, SUNY psychologist Shira Gabriel. Yet we feel human connection, without real relationships, through reading. "Something else important must be happening."

In an upcoming study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Gabriel and graduate student Ariana Young show what that something is: When we read, we psychologically become part of the community described in the narrative -- be they wizards or vampires. That mechanism satisfies the deeply human, evolutionarily crucial, need for belonging.

The researchers recruited 140 undergraduates for the study. First the participants were assessed on the extent to which they meet their needs for connection by identifying with groups. Then some read a passage from the novel Twilight in which the undead Edward describes what it feels like to be a vampire to his romantic interest Bella. Others read a passage from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in which the Hogwarts students are separated into "houses" and Harry meets potions professor Severus Snape. Participants were given 30 minutes to read the passage and were instructed to simply read for their own pleasure.

Then, two measures gauged the participants' psychological affiliation with vampires or wizards. In the first, the students were instructed to categorize -- as quickly and accurately as possible -- "me" words (myself, mine) and "wizard" words (broomstick, spell, wand, potions) by pressing the same key when any of those words flashed on the screen; they pressed another key for "not-me" words (they, theirs) and "vampire" words (blood, fangs, bitten, undead). Then the pairs were reversed. Gabriel and Young expected participants to respond more quickly when "me" words were linked with a group to which "me" belonged, depending on which book they read.

Next the researchers administered what they called the Twilight/Harry Potter Narrative Collective Assimilation Scale, consisting of questions indicating identification with wizards or vampires. Examples: "Do you think you might be able to make yourself disappear and reappear somewhere else?" and "How sharp are your teeth?" Finally, short questionnaires assessed participants' life satisfaction and mood.

As predicted, on both measures, Harry Potter readers "became" wizards and the Twilight readers "became" vampires. In addition, participants who were more group-oriented in life showed the largest assimilation effects. Finally, "belonging" to these fictional communities delivered the same mood and life satisfaction people get from affiliation with real-life groups.

"The study explains how this everyday phenomenon -- reading -- works not just for escape or education, but as something that fulfills a deep psychological need," says Young. And we don't have to slay any boggarts or get bitten to feel it.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Becoming a vampire without being bitten: Reading expands our self-concepts, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110424152522.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, April 25). Becoming a vampire without being bitten: Reading expands our self-concepts, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110424152522.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Becoming a vampire without being bitten: Reading expands our self-concepts, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110424152522.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins