You Are What You Read
August 18, 2011 Leave a comment
This might explain some of the extreme Harry Potter cosplay:
We propose the narrative collective-assimilation hypothesis—that experiencing a narrative leads one to psychologically become a part of the collective described within the narrative. In a test of this hypothesis, participants read passages from either a book about wizards (from the Harry Potter series) or a book about vampires (from the Twilight series). Both implicit and explicit measures revealed that participants who read about wizards psychologically became wizards, whereas those who read about vampires psychologically became vampires.The results also suggested that narrative collective assimilation is psychologically meaningful and relates to the basic human need for connection.
The authors fittingly focus on the human need for connection, but the results also hint at what I like to call our desire to “diversify our emotional portfolios.” By “becoming” a wizard (or a Red Sox fan, or a Mitt Romney supporter) through engagement with a narrative we ground some of our emotional well-being in the fate of the group we join. This can mitigate the effects of negative life events because our emotional states are no longer strictly based on personal outcomes. It also allows us to feel extreme emotions (something we like) when our lives might otherwise be emotion-free.