Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2210-4372
  • E-ISSN: 2210-4380
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We test the literariness of genre fiction with an empirical study that directly manipulates both intrinsic text properties and extrinsic reader expectations of literary merit for science-fiction and narrative-realism stories. Participants were told they were going to read a story of either low or high literary merit and then read one of two stories that were identical except for one genre-determining word. There were no differences between the science-fiction and narrative-realism versions of the story in literary merit perception, text comprehension, or inference effort for theory of mind and plot. Participants did, however, exert more theory-of-world effort (i.e., world-building) for the science-fiction version. The more inference effort science-fiction readers dedicated to theory of world, the more cognitively and emotionally engaged they were. These results contradict the assumption that science fiction cannot achieve literariness and instead demonstrate a “literary genre effect.”


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