Research from Loris Vezzali, social psychologist, points to the power of storytelling, to fiction, in shaping attitudes. This NPR program features a recent study that Vezzali, et al, conducted to determine whether children who read Harry Potter novels change how they relate to stygmitized groups of people (disabled, immigrants, or “other”).
Recentresearchshowsthatextendedcontactviastoryreadingisapowerfulstrategytoimproveout-groupattitudes.Weconductedthreestudiestotestwhether extendedcontactthroughreadingthepopularbest-sellingbooksofHarryPotter improvesattitudestowardstigmatizedgroups(immigrants,homosexuals,refu-gees).Results from one experimental intervention with elementary school children andfromtwocross-sectionalstudieswithhighschoolanduniversitystudents(in ItalyandUnitedKingdom)supportedourmainhypothesis.Identiﬁcationwith themaincharacter(i.e.,HarryPotter)anddisidentiﬁcationfromthenegative character (i.e.,Voldemort) moderatedthe effect.Perspective taking emerged as the processallowingattitudeimprovement.Theoreticalandpracticalimplicationsof theﬁndingsarediscussedinthe contextofextendedintergroup contact andsocial cognitivetheory
When confusion reigns, I turn to voices of clarity to reset my “compass”. Wendell Berry is a wise Kentucky farmer, prolific author and poet, and activist for conservation of nature. Find a quiet time to enjoy this lively discussion full of nuggets of knowledge from a man whose vision provides direction for millions.
In the previous post I described my joy in visiting the Central High School National Historic Site which preserves and tells the story of desegregation in Little Rock, AK. There I bought two memoirs, one by Daisy Bates (The Long Shadow of Little Rock), the other by Carlotta Walls LaNier with Lisa Frazier Page (A Mighty Long Way). [*This link includes an interview with Mrs. LaNier and an excerpt from the first chapter, and links to purchase a copy of the memoir.]
Both memoirs brought me renewed appreciation for the personal struggles of individual Americans striving for their civil rights, and the importance of parents being involved in their children’s education. Reading both books rendered a deeper understanding of historical events through the lived experiences of my fellow Americans. The NPS Interpreter was also a powerful communicator who brought history to life–another important function of our National Parks.
On my current sojourn in Kentucky, I drove to Mammoth Park –another National Park site–preserving and interpreting one of the world’s great natural wonders. In 2016 it celebrated its 200th anniversary!
In their gift store, I headed for the books section. There I found a historical novel by Roger Brucker, about Stephen Bishop, a famous and early explorer/guide at Mammoth Park (Grand, Gloomy, and Peculiar). Stephen was a slave at the time his owners assigned him the duty to serve as a guide at the privately owned wonder. It was already a favorite travel destination for wealthy and local people. The associated hotel inn for guests owned slaves who cooked and cleaned for guests. Charlotte Brown was a slave working at the inn. It was there that she fell in love with Stephen Bishop. They would eventually marry.
The novel’s story is told through the voice of Charlotte Bishop. The narration is based in part on Charlotte’s real story. Historical documents and testimonies from people who met and knew Stephen and Charlotte guided the author in writing this delightful book. (I am about half way through.)
My point is this: if we do not know history, how can we navigate the future? Each of these National Parks sites, and the books I found there, provide citizens with living history. Our National Parks are repositories for learning and recalling great moments and individuals in history.