Exposure to Literature and Ethical Reasoning

Students: Avy Nguyen*, Brianna Chiaraluce* and Kelly Brown
Mentor: Stephen Briner
Major: Psychology

How does reading fiction influence how we interact with others? Previous research has suggested that reading literature may increase empathy, but reading "pop fiction" does not. In this study, we are exploring how literature and pop fiction impact ethical decision making. Participants read an excerpt of either literature or pop fiction, and then responded to a series of moral dilemmas in which they had to decide whether to sacrifice one person in order to save others. Preliminary results suggest that participants who read fiction were less likely to sacrifice an individual's life. This suggests that the kind of fiction a person reads may influence their ethical decision making, and we are collecting more data to better understand these findings.

*Honors Senior