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In Chapter 5, we discuss the processing components that underlie the perspective-taking analogy that we articulated in Chapter 2. This analysis makes it clear that the retrieval of personal knowledge and experience is critical, and we review some of what is known about episodic retrieval and how it can be used in this context. In forming an analogy, one must be able to identify how elements of the story world are related to corresponding elements in one’s own experience. To understand this process, we discuss how readers must construct similarity relations. Finally, we discuss the mechanics of analogy formation per se and describe the notion of a structural mapping between the reader and the character that underlies the perspective-taking analogy. We close out Chapter 5 with a discussion of perspective-taking dynamics. This includes an illustration of how perspective taking can be driven by the events of the story world or evaluations of the character. As we make clear, perspective taking is an ongoing process that can unfold in a variety of ways over the course of reading a narrative.
In the final chapter, we review the framework for perspective taking that we have developed in the book and highlight what we feel are the most important elements. In that context, we return to the questions raised in the introductory chapter about the relationship between perspective taking in reading literature and perspective taking in real life. We conclude that although the effects of literary perspective taking on general social cognition are debatable, there is much clearer evidence for effects on specific prosocial attitudes. We also suggest future directions for further empirical research.
Although our ultimate goal is an analysis and theory of perspective taking in literature, an important insight is that perspective taking in reading literature is subject to the same factors and constraints and may depend on the same types of processes as perspective taking in real life. In Chapter 3, we review research in social and personality psychology that is applicable to literary perspective taking and that can help us advance our understanding of how readers make sense of fictional minds. Under the general umbrella term of “mind reading,” theory of mind, theory theory, and simulation theories offer competing explanations of how individuals make sense of other minds. We argue that interpreting these ideas in terms of analogy provides the basis for a more coherent analysis. We also consider the problem of empathy and how it is related to mind reading. Our analysis is that empathy should be thought of as emotional perspective taking, and we apply our analogical inference approach here as well. Finally, we consider the neural bases of perspective taking and discuss how different brain networks may be related to the components of perspective taking by analogy.
In Chapter 2, we provide a critical review of how the terms “perspective” and “perspective taking” have been understood in both literary studies and social, personality, and cognitive psychology. We explain how current definitions of the term “perspective” and the process of “perspective taking” are too broad in what they implicitly encompass and we identify the components that should be excluded in the interest of clarity and precision. In this chapter, we also provide a conceptual and theoretical analysis of what perspective taking involves. In particular, we argue that a perspective is an interpretation of evaluations and that perspective taking depends on the construction of an analogy between the evaluations of the character and those of the reader. This analysis provides the background for our critiques of perspective taking in life and in literature in subsequent chapters.
In Chapter 7, we outline new empirical evidence that perspective taking depends on the reader’s analogy to their personal knowledge and experience. In the first experiment, participants read narratives that involved either familiar or unfamiliar cultural and social schemas. As predicted, we found that it was more difficult to take a character’s perspective when the events of the story world did not make sufficient contact with the reader’s own experience. A second experiment examined the use of prior knowledge and experience as it unfolds in the course of reading. When readers were asked to focus on places in the text where they were reminded of prior experience, the number of such remindings predicted perspective taking. In the third experiment, we manipulated the availability of relevant personal knowledge more directly: Before reading a story, participants were asked to think about a prior experience that either was or was not related to the experience of the character. As predicted, priming relevant prior experience promoted perspective taking.
In this introductory chapter we begin by discussing the importance of perspective taking both in real life and in the context of reading fictional narratives. We assume that reading fiction promotes perspective taking during and beyond the completion of the narrative. We argue that until we have a solid grasp of the cognitive mechanisms of perspective taking, we cannot make strong claims about how reading fiction can change society or behavior. We end by describing our anticipated goals and contributions.
In Chapter 4, we examine how perspective taking has been conceptualized in literary studies and elements of writing style affect perspective taking by the reader. We begin with an analysis of concepts commonly associated with perspective taking, including identification and transportation. In our analysis of the effect of the text on perspective taking, we distinguish two classes of features: First-order features are those that have often been assumed to produce perspective taking, such as the use of personal pronouns, providing mental access to a character, and the use of free-indirect speech. We conclude that there is little clear evidence for a simple causal relation between such features and perspective taking by the reader. Second-order features are those that, we argue, lead to elaborative processing by the reader and thus lay the foundation for perspective-taking analogies. Such features include showing versus telling styles, textual gaps, embodied descriptions, and foregrounding. We conclude the chapter with a discussion of the role of the narrator and the relation between the reader and the character.
In Chapter 6, we elaborate on the difficulties that may arise in perspective taking. These depend on individual, contextual, and textual variables. Among the individual factors are motivation, cognitive skills and capacities, and empathic dispositions. Variations in the situation and context, such as available information and feedback, can affect perspective taking. Specific difficulties include: the failure to identify relevant personal knowledge and experience, inconsistent and conflicting perspectives, problems reconciling a character’s perspective with the reader’s own evaluations, and/or the relationship of the reader’s cultural background to that of the character. Subtleties in the text, such as multiple perspectives, unreliable perspectives, and multiple perspective-taking targets, pose their own challenges.
Perspective taking is a critical component of approaches to literature and narrative, but there is no coherent, broadly applicable, and process-based account of what it is and how it occurs. This book provides a multidisciplinary coverage of the topic, weaving together key insights from different disciplines into a comprehensive theory of perspective taking in literature and in life. The essential insight is that taking a perspective requires constructing an analogy between one's own personal knowledge and experience and that of the perspective taking target. This analysis is used to reassess a broad swath of research in mind reading and literary studies. It develops the dynamics of how analogy is used in perspective taking and the challenges that must be overcome under some circumstances. New empirical evidence is provided in support of the theory, and numerous examples from popular and literary fiction are used to illustrate the concepts. This title is part of the Flip it Open programme and may also be available Open Access. Check our website Cambridge Core for details.
In this appendix, we outline some aspects of how the results of an experiment are evaluated. Although this clearly cannot be a comprehensive treatment of data analysis techniques, even as it applies to the results presented in this book, it at least may acquaint the reader with some of the relevant concepts. For readers with some background in statistical methods, the appendix also documents some procedures for calculating the likelihood ratios we use to compare models.
In the vocabulary of experimental design, a manipulated independent variable is referred to as a factor, and each possible value of that variable is a factor level. For example, if one presents readers with two different versions of a story, one would say that the factor of story version has two levels. Often experiments have more than one factor. In a factorial experiment, each possible level of one factor is combined with each possible level of the other factors, and each combination of factor levels determines a particular experimental condition. For example, suppose the factor of story version was factorially combined with the factor of reading goal with two levels: reading to identify the narrator's point or reading to identify the plot events. In such a design, there would be four conditions: version 1 read for narratorial point; version 1 read for plot events; version 2 read for narratorial point; and version 2 read for plot events. Two types of results can be examined in a factorial experiment.
In this chapter, we discuss the role of perceptual information in narrative and its role in identifying the narrator and his or her knowledge of the narrative world. In the traditional narratological scholarship, the role of perceptual information is only one small part of the broader problem of focalization. First, we illustrate several specific problems that have arisen in the theory of focalization as a result of the unresolved tension between a formal description of the text and a subjective description of what readers may do with that text. Second, we discuss some of the psychological evidence on perspective and spatial representations. Third, based on some of these ideas, we propose a psychonarratological solution to the problems we identify in the theory of focalization. This approach enables us to step out of the circular logic relating the text to ideal readers and vice versa. Fourth, we present some new ideas concerning the nature of the representations pertaining to focalization that readers construct. Finally, we describe some empirical evidence consistent with our framework and hypotheses.
Narratological Approaches to Focalization
Among scholars who have engaged in the narratological dialogue on focalization, there seems to be a relatively clear understanding about the theoretical goals: A theory of focalization should provide an account of the source of knowledge and perception within the text based on the relationship between the narrator and the characters.