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Reading strategy and personal relevance: a study of young adults
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Literature and History of Ideas.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9309-2343
2016 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The current decrease in young adult literacy is commonly discussed among cognitive scientists in light of two assumptions: that fiction reading fosters empathy and that it fosters critical thought. I ran a study with a sample of young adults (age 17-18, N = 111), probing both assumptions. Subjects read an actual news story on the topic of social mobility, filling out quantitative and qualitative questionnaires, some of which targeted the subjects’ reading behavior and attitude to fiction. The rhetoric of the story was skewed to the point of distorting basic facts.

The data shows an association between self-reported relative frequency of fiction reading and empathy with socially disadvantaged job seekers mentioned in the story. However, there was an independent effect of personal relevance; subjects from disadvantaged social backgrounds were more likely to empathize than others. As for critical reading strategies, resistance to the rhetoric of the story was high, but subjects who reported reading fiction more frequently, as well as those who reported reading more distinctly literary fiction, were more perceptive towards possible interpretations.

The findings are presented with a particular view to discussing the variable of personal relevance, which is rarely controlled in experimental designs but emerges as a key determinant in natural reading selections and strategies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
empathy, ciritcal reading, fiction, reading habits, non-fiction, literacy
National Category
Humanities Social Sciences Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology) General Literature Studies
Research subject
Psychology; Literature; Aesthetics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-135581OAI: diva2:1046515
Style and Response: Minds, Media, Methods
Available from: 2016-11-14 Created: 2016-11-14 Last updated: 2016-11-14

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Kuzmičová, Anežka
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