The literary genre effect
A one-word science fiction (vs. realism) manipulation reveals intrinsic text properties outweigh extrinsic expectations of literary quality
We test the literariness of genre fiction with an empirical study that directly manipulates both intrinsic text properties and extrinsic reader expectations of literary merit for science-fiction and narrative-realism stories. Participants were told they were going to read a story of either low or high literary merit and then read one of two stories that were identical except for one genre-determining word. There were no differences between the science-fiction and narrative-realism versions of the story in literary merit perception, text comprehension, or inference effort for theory of mind and plot. Participants did, however, exert more theory-of-world effort (i.e., world-building) for the science-fiction version. The more inference effort science-fiction readers dedicated to theory of world, the more cognitively and emotionally engaged they were. These results contradict the assumption that science fiction cannot achieve literariness and instead demonstrate a “literary genre effect.”
Keywords: literariness, genre, realism, theory of mind, theory of world, science fiction, literary fiction, inference
- Current study
- Source and text manipulation
- Inference effort
- Literary quality perception
- Differential relationship between inference effort and transportation
- General discussion
Published online: 04 February 2020
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