Empathy and Replication

* David Kidd and Emanuele Castano, ‘Different Stories: How Levels of Familiarity With Literary and Genre Fiction Relate to Mentalizing. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts’ (2016): http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/aca0000069.
* David Kidd and Emanuele Castano, ‘Reading Literary Fiction and Theory of Mind: Three Preregistered Replications and Extensions of Kidd and Castano (2013)’, Social and Personality Science (2018): http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1948550618775410.
* David Kidd and Emanuele Castano, ‘Panero et al. (2016): Failure to Replicate Methods Caused the Failure to Replicate Results’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112.3 (2017), e1-e4.
* David Kidd and Emanuele Castano, ‘On Literary fiction and its Effects on Theory of Mind’, Scientific Study of Literature, 6 (2016), 42-58.
* Colin F. Camerer, Anna Dreber, Felix Holzmeister, Teck-Hua Ho, J├╝rgen Huber, Magnus Johannesson, Michael Kirchler, Gideon Nave, Brian A. Nosek, Thomas Pfeiffer, Adam Altmejd, Nick Buttrick, Taizan Chan, Yiling Chen, Eskil Forsell, Anup Gampa, Emma Heikensten, Lily Hummer, Taisuke Imai, Siri Isaksson, Dylan Manfredi, Julia Rose, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers and Hang Wu, ‘Evaluating the Replicability of Social Science Experiments in Nature and Science between 2010 and 2015′, Nature Human Behaviour (2018): http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0399-z.

The question of empathy has been a thread throughout the five years of this blog. Indeed the blog is pretty much the same age as the 2013 article by David Kidd and Emanuele Castano which is so often cited in discussions of the topic. How could a person in my line of work not take an interest in an argument that reading fiction makes you better at empathy (reading others’ feelings, rather than feeling them too) in the real world? — Even more specifically, that reading literary fiction, the good stuff prized in university courses, has the most beneficial effects on performance in something as concrete as the famous ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ test? The last time I touched on this was in my very last post.
      Overall, though, my reaction has been a bit skittish. The headline claim — though often not the nuances — seems a bit overwhelming, in the scope of its terms and the apparent simplicity of causation. Although I recognise it as a very important concept in literary study, and that it’s often implicit when it’s not explicit, I haven’t really tangled very much with the idea of empathy in my work, so I haven’t felt I have to take a proper view on these conclusions. And so, I have observed the attempts to develop and refine, but also to replicate, and sometimes then to deny or refute, at arm’s length. Since I find the ‘replication crisis’ in psychology interesting (but sometimes alarming, and depressing) I’ve noted in the blog some moments where sharp eyes have been turned on Kidd and Castano 2013 and other key essays.
      Have I done the topic justice? Probably not — there isn’t time for everything. Have I made do with a few eyebrows-raised but wishful glances? Maybe so. So, without claiming to rectify either of these things, but keen to share such a key topic, I am passing on some references I was sent by Emanuele Castano, who noted my interest and wanted to point out that he and David Kidd had responded to the replicators in the first four of the essays cited above. (The fifth is a replicationarama, full of interest, especially if you also read the responses from those whose work is being reconsidered.) There’s a lot at stake in the debate, key terms to consider, and bridges to be built, between the people who are saying ‘this is why literature’ and the people who profess it all day long.

E-mail me at rtrl100[at]cam.ac.uk

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