Reading Just Might Change Your Behavior

Most of us agree that our children should read more, and that reading is good for them for many reasons. Now, there might just be a new reason to encourage them to pick up that book.  Researchers at Ohio State University, including co-author Lisa Libby, have found that people who get involved in their books may change their behavior to match the behavior of a favorite character. Their findings were recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

While the effects haven’t been tested in all areas as of yet, they have been tested on voting habits.  The researchers have coined the term “experience-taking” in relation to readers who take on the emotions, thoughts and beliefs of characters. In one experiment, for instance, they found that readers who strongly identified with a character who managed to vote despite many obstacles went on to vote in a real election just a few days later at a higher frequency than the regular average. 82 undergraduates were asked to read a one of four versions of a story about someone who overcame the odds to vote. They read it just a few days before the 2008 November presidential election.

The results showed that the students who read the story in first-person and about a student from their own university were more likely to have experience-taking. 65% of these participants then voted on Election Day. In contrast, only 29% of those who read the first-person story about someone from a different university went out to vote.

As co-author Libby explained,
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“Experience-taking can be a powerful way to change our behavior and thoughts in meaningful and beneficial ways.”

Graduate student Geoff Kaufman, who led the study, explained that, “Experience-taking changes us by allowing us to merge our own lives with those of the characters we read about, which can lead to good outcomes.”


Unemployment Psychologically Worse for Married Men

In a study to be published in the American Journal of Sociology, it seems that men are more likely to seek a divorce from their wives due to being unemployed and living with a working spouse, than their female counterparts. In an article that appeared in today’s Daily Mail, “even men who are relatively happy in their marriages are more likely to leave if they are out of work.” It was found that this is due to the immense pressure on the men to be breadwinners although on the flip side there is less pressure “discouraging women from working outside the home.”

Employment and Marriage

The study was conducted by scientists who took a look at the impact employment status has on male and female’s decisions to end a marriage. Ohio State University researcher Liana Sayer, who headed the study, found “a women's employment status has no effect on the likelihood that her husband will opt to leave the marriage.” On the flip side, there is a greater chance that a woman who is working will “initiate a divorce,” than one who is not working but only in cases where she is anyway unhappy with the marriage. With men, women are more likely to initiate a divorce if they are unemployed as will they. Somewhat surprisingly, it was found that even those men who were reported being “content in their personal lives,” were still likely to leave, once becoming unemployed.

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Gender Role Changes

Ultimately the research concluded that there has been an “asymmetric change in traditional gender roles in marriage.” The fact that men who aren’t working are more likely to initiate divorce (whether or not they are happy in their marriage), “suggests that a marriage in which the man does not work ‘does not look like what men think a marriage is supposed to’.” And this just isn’t the case for their female counterparts.