What You Read and What You Believe: Genre Exposure and Beliefs about Relationships
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Research has shown that exposure to specific fiction genres is associated with theory of mind and attitudes toward gender roles and sexual behavior (e.g. Fong, Mullin, & Mar, 2013, 2015); however, relatively little research has investigated the relationship between exposure to written fiction and beliefs about real-world relationships. Here, participants were asked to complete both the Genre Familiarity Test (Black, Capps, & Barnes, 2017), an author recognition test that assesses prior exposure to seven different written fiction genres, and the Relationship Belief Inventory (Epstein & Eidelson, 1982), a measure that assesses the degree to which participants hold five unrealistic and destructive beliefs about the way that romantic relationships should work. After controlling for personality, gender, and exposure to other genres, three genres were found to be significantly correlated with different relationship beliefs. Exposure to Classics and Fantasy predicted less support for unrealistic relationship beliefs, while exposure to Romance predicted more support for the belief that the sexes are inherently different. A second study was conducted to examine whether exposure to different subgenres of romantic media exerted a causal effect on relationship beliefs. Participants viewed movie trailers from romantic comedies, romantic tragedies, or nature documentaries. After controlling for gender and lifetime exposure to written romance fiction, participants in the nature documentary control condition were more likely to support the belief that sexual perfectionism is necessary for a satisfying relationship.
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