by the University of Buffalo
- Kurt Vonnegut
"Becoming a Vampire Without Being Bitten: The Narrative Collective Assimilation Hypothesis," published in the current issue journal Psychological Science, presents research supporting the authors' hypothesis that by absorbing narratives, we can psychologically become a member of the group of characters described therein, a process that makes us feel connected to those characters and their social world.
Authors Shira Gabriel, PhD, associate professor of psychology at UB, and Ariana Young, a UB graduate student working in the field of social psychology, also found that the sense of belonging that results from assimilating narratives provokes the same feelings of satisfaction and happiness we would have if we actually were part of the world described.
"Social connection is a strong, human need," Gabriel says, "and anytime we feel connected to others, we feel good in general, and feel good about our lives. Our study results demonstrate that the assimilation of a narrative allows us to feel close to others in the comfort of our own space and at our own convenience. In our subjects, this led to a reported increase in life satisfaction and positive mood, which are two primary outcomes of belonging," she says.
To test their hypothesis Gabriel and Young asked 140 UB undergraduate students to read for 30 minutes from one of two popular books, “Twilight” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.” Participants then completed a series of questionnaires that tested their conscious and unconscious responses to the narratives.
As predicted, on both conscious and unconscious measures, participants who read Harry Potter identified with the wizards and their world and those who read Twilight identified with the vampires and the realm they inhabited. Their subjects not only connected with the characters or groups they read about, however. They adopted the behaviors, attitudes and traits that they could realistically approximate, leaving aside the bloodsucking and broomstick flying.
"This study suggests that books give us more than an opportunity to tune out and submerge ourselves in a fantasy world," Gabriel says. "They give us a chance to feel like we belong to something bigger than us and to reap the benefits that result from being a part of that larger realm without having a 'real' social encounter."
She says, "When we enter the narrative (whether through a book, movie, radio or television show), we don't 'become' Harry or Edward, of course, but we do become a member of their world. That feels really good and it changes us." "Research has found that when we are with a group of our 'real' friends, we shift our behavior to be more like them. We now know that this occurs when we read a book, as well," Young adds.
Author Comment: Since identification with the narrative (whether through a book, movie, radio or television show) has such a powerful effect on human psyche, it would be advisable and beneficial to look for impressions that act as "food for the soul", and be wary of influences that promote pathological thinking or further immersion in the illusion. Consider the following from Superluminal Communication transcript dated 9th of April, 2011:
A: Being careful about what you allow into your "field".
Q: (L) In what sense?
A: All senses.
Q: (L) What do you mean "all senses"?
A: Seeing, hearing, speaking, and so on...
A: We have more in mind. Take care with interacting with negative energies.
Q: (L) Well that's kinda like creating your own reality, isn't it?
A: Not what we mean... Keep your guard up and do not allow negative energies to slip by... such as believing lies... listening to negative music while thinking it is positive...watching negative movies and thinking it is negligible. It is extremely important to not lie to the self. One can listen or watch many things as long as the truth of the orientation is known, acknowledged, and understood. Clear?
Q: (L) So, in other words: awareness. Calling a spade a spade and not allowing something negative to enter you and believing it is positive. You can see it, perceive it and acknowledge it but not allow it to influence you. Because obviously, you cannot shut off your perceptions of the world, but you can control how it affects you. So, don't let it inside, thinking it's something that it's not.
(Belibaste) So, see it as it is. If it is negative, see it as negative. (L) Yeah, and they're saying to focus on truth in order for changes to manifest in you that are positive. That is, "positive" can mean acknowledging that something is negative because it is truth.
Q: (Galatea) Choose the seeds you wish to water. (L) Is that basically what we're talking about here?