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Journal Article

The influence of reader’s stereotypes on the assessment of fictional characters.


Auracher,  Jan       
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Auracher, J., & Hirose, A. (2017). The influence of reader’s stereotypes on the assessment of fictional characters. Comparative Literature Studies, 54(4), 795-823. doi:10.5325/complitstudies.54.4.0795.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-7343-3
This article explores the issue of how cultural backgrounds influence the way readers construct mental images of fictional characters. In an experiment conducted in 2008 in Germany, we found evidence suggesting that readers of fictional narratives draw on their stereotypes when evaluating the personality of a fictional character. Moreover, results of this experiment also suggest that this tendency to focus on (stereo-)typical attributes in the evaluation of characters increases rather than decreases with knowledge about the respective culture. Here, we discuss what cognitive processes presumably underlie these findings and what conclusions can be drawn for the reading process from these theoretical considerations on the influence of readers' cultural beliefs, values, norms, and so on. We further report the results of a second experiment conducted in Japan, which corroborates our previous findings. Finally, we outline suggestions for future endeavors that could make use of our research to address further questions.