The Influence of Fictional Narratives on Beliefs about the World
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The purpose of this experiment was to study how information read in fictional narratives influences beliefs about the world across ages and length of delay. It was predicted that the opinions of all participants in the experimental group would be influenced by the story. Furthermore, if inadequate source memory accounts for heightened acceptance of story assertions, older adults would be more susceptible to this influence, especially with a longer delay between reading the story and responding. However, if this influence is not a result of source memory confusion, there would be no differences for age or delay. Seventy-four older adults and eighty-one younger adults read a fictional story and then completed an opinion questionnaire. Participants in the experimental groups read stories in which characters discussed 16 topics, eight of which were presented to be consistent with the real world and eight inconsistent. Participants in the control group read a fictional story that contained no information relevant to the opinion questionnaire. All participants completed an opinion questionnaire and rated the level of agreement or disagreement with 32 topics (16 of which were discussed in the experimental stories). Participants also completed a memory questionnaire to test for source memory of the information presented in the fictional texts. Although significant evidence of persuasion by the story was found, no effects for age or delay were found. In addition, the memory questionnaire revealed no significant differences between younger and older participants, confirming that persuasion by fictional information is not a result of source confusion.