This study investigated the effects of text genre (expository, life narrative, literary narrative) on reflection (direct thoughts on various subjects and thinking back after one week), using both quantitative and qualitative measures. In addition, the interactive effect of personal factors (personal experience, trait empathy, exposure to literature) and affective responses during reading (narrative feelings, aesthetic feelings, empathic distress) on direct thoughts when reading stories was explored using AMOS. Respondents (N = 210) read two texts within the same genre, one about grief and one about depression, with one week between texts. Each week, they completed a questionnaire. In the short run, the expository texts evoked most "personal" thoughts, but after a week, respondents had thought back to the narrative texts more frequently than to the expository. A small percentage of participants showed a tendency to deeper reflection, predominantly in the literary condition. Direct thoughts were predicted by personal experience with the subject matter, empathic distress, sympathy/empathy with the character, and perceived foregrounding. These results suggest a confirmation of earlier evidence: for narrative texts, emotional reading experiences may be more likely to lead to reflection.

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Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Department of Media and Communication

Koopman, E. (2015). How texts about suffering trigger reflection: Genre, personal factors, and affective responses. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(4), 430–441. doi:10.1037/aca0000006