Psychology of Fiction (last offered Fall 2016)

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Oatley book cover The psychology of fictionPSYC690 / PSYC993 Psychology of Fiction

offered as an undergraduate-level and graduate-level course
3 hours
scheduled from 9:00 AM to 10:15 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays
Location: Fraser 547
Main textbook, supplemented with PDF readings:
Oatley, K. (2011). Such stuff as dreams: The psychology of fiction. New York, NY: Wiley.

Conceptual questions to consider:

  • What is ‘psychology of fiction’?
  • Human beings as the storytelling animal: Language as a tool to augment normal, everyday cognitive processes
  • Is fiction like real life? How does one understand others’ minds, both real and fictional (to include pathological deficits in understanding others)
  • What are the short- and long-term cognitive, social, and emotional consequences of exposure to fiction? The relation between reading fiction and the development of empathy
  • What are the neural underpinnings of reading fiction, and are there relations to autobiographical memory and mental time travel, empathy, and imagination? (Please note that this is not a neuroscience-intensive course.)
  • If seeing is believing, is reading also believing? The relation between language and thought
  • Is there a difference between metaphorical and literal language comprehension
  • Historical and modern psychological theories of the creative process, creative writing, and creative writers
  • Does a fictional character have free will? Why does one hold a fictional character responsible for his or her behavior? Comprehension of situational models in language (i.e., understanding actions and emotions in text, representation of knowledge and the imagination).