Hey guys, welcome to my first official research post!
The main topic I’ve been looking into these past few weeks on how counter stereotypes have an impact on people. So first, of course, it’s important to know what a counter stereotype is. As the name suggests, it’s any kind of representation that goes against the stereotype. For example, if a book were to have a character who was a very successful female scientist, this would be a counter stereotype because most representations of successful scientists are male.
Counter stereotypes have been researched in soooo many contexts, but as this project is about books, I chose to focus most of my studying specifically on the effects of reading about counter stereotypical book characters. And let me tell you, I was actually surprised at just how much research I found! The best part though is that almost all of the studies I read seem to point to the same finding: reading counter stereotypical characters in fiction can reduce prejudice.
There are a few reasons that this may be the case. Some researchers believe that because fiction involves the simulation of the social world, it can allow for understanding of people who are different from us. And because fiction is able to span many other cultures that may not be otherwise be possible, it can be a powerful tool. Others think that fiction may allow people to confront members of different groups in a way that does not provoke anxiety (since there is no direct confrontation).
One study I found especially interesting involved having people read a counter stereotypical fictional story about an Arab/Muslim person. Participants were assigned to either read a full narrative story (an excerpt from the novel Saffron Dreams), a condensed version of the story (a one page summary), or a non-narrative story. They were then given several questionnaires including: a six question survey to measure their levels of empathy toward Arab/Muslims, an implicit bias test, a survey measuring explicit bias, and a survey asking questions pertaining to how vivid they found the story (imagery, characters, and events). People who read the full narrative story had lower levels of prejudice, and benefitted from taking the perspective of the characters even without explicit instructions to do so.
Although this is just one example, several other people have found similar results with regards to narrative fiction, as well as some other forms of media. Already it’s clear how important diverse books are. They offer us the opportunity to engage with so many other experiences different from our own, and they may even make us better people in the process. Next week I’m going to further delve in to the power of book by looking specifically at how they impact children, so keep a lookout for my next post!
If you enjoyed this, learned something new, or have any questions/comments please leave a comment below. And as always, happy reading!
The Function of Fiction is the Abstraction and Simulation of Social Experience
Reading Narrative Fiction Reduces Arab-Muslim Prejudice and Offers a Safe Haven From Intergroup Anxiety
This Story Is Not for Everyone: Transportability and Narrative Persuasion