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Gregory Currie on "Fiction as belief transmission"

24 Oct 2017 16:00
24 Oct 2017 19:00

Gregory Currie (York) will give a talk on "Fiction as belief transmission".

Venue: Sala Rossa, via Azzo Gardino 23, 40126, Bologna.


"Fiction as belief transmission"

There is more-than-anecdotal evidence for the idea that fiction does affect belief. Studies have found that viewers acquire from the medical drama ER enduring beliefs about medical issues, and that readers’ beliefs are influenced by statements made by characters in stories – even statements as implausible as “Chocolate aids with weight loss”. The literature on what psychologists call “Transportation” indicates that absorbed readers are influenced by the evaluative opinions fictions implicitly suggest, with pro-worker beliefs seemingly enhanced by viewing Norma Rae. Debates regularly ignite on the responsibility of historical fictions for forming beliefs about the characters and actions of agents such as Thomas Cromwell.  But not all belief transmission is learning, as the chocolate case above indicates. Here I examine different pathways of belief transmission in fictional contexts, for some are more apt to support learning than others. I give particular attention to pathways which depend on readers’ assumptions, often tacit, of the author’s reliability. Such pathways are, in favourable circumstances, epistemically benign—apt to provide beliefs which are true, justified to varying degrees, and sometimes deserving the title “knowledge”. They are pathways to belief particularly appealing to the philosophers and critics who have made a case for literature’s cognitive value. I suggest that favourable circumstances are not very frequently actualised. [draws on heuristics and biases, Gilbert's theory of belief acquisition]


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