Genre or artistic merit?
The effect of literature on personality
We tested whether the genre of a literary text (essay as compared with short story) or its artistic merit would be primarily responsible for the variability in the self-perceived personality traits that individuals experience when they read. One hundred participants were randomly assigned to read either one of eight essays or one of eight short stories, matched for length, reading difficulty, and interest. The Big-Five personality traits were measured before and after reading. Genre did not affect variability in personality. Rather, participants who judged the text they read to be more artistic reported a greater variability in their personality trait profile after reading, independently of whether the text was an essay or a short story. Artistic merit appears to be associated with literature’s transformative effects through the instability in the self-perceived experience of the reader’s personality.
Keywords: literature, art, personality, personality change, fiction
Published online: 13 August 2012
Cited by 21 other publications
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