Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Department

Psychology

Reader 1

Alan Hartley

Reader 2

Jennifer Groscup

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© 2014 Julie Vaisarova

Abstract

Although fictional stories are not always an accurate source of information about the world, research has suggested that readers encode information from such stories in a manner that allows it to be freely retrieved and used in later situations. The present study compared readers’ use of novel information from realistic and fantasy fiction to examine whether this apparent lack of compartmentalization stems from readers’ assumption that fictional stories accurately portray reality. In an adaptation of Marsh, Meade, and Roediger’s (2003) paradigm, 259 adult United States residents read a realistic or fantasy story containing a series of obscure facts and then answered a purportedly unrelated set of questions that asked about these facts. Participants’ processing of novel story information differed by genre, such that participants who read a fantasy story were less likely to use information from the story on the subsequent test than participants who read a realistic story. Although this effect was not explained by participants’ trust in the source genre’s veracity, participants’ confidence in answers attributed solely to the experimental story suggested that there was a component of post-retrieval evaluation based on perceptions of the source genre. Together, these results suggest that readers’ processing of information from realistic and fantasy fiction differs, such that readers may be partly protected from using potentially inaccurate information from fantasy stories in later situations. However, the precise point in the process of encoding, retrieval, and application where these differences arise, and their implications for readers’ acquisition of misinformation, remains to be specified.

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