Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-vh8gq Total loading time: 0.544 Render date: 2022-10-05T18:52:50.269Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": true, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

It’s the End of the World and They Know It: How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2018

Abstract

Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes. We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre. Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. Yet we find no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust and efficacy, illustrating that fiction’s effects may not be what they seem and underscoring the need for political scientists to take fiction seriously.

Type
Special Section Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

The authors are co-equal contributors to this study and are listed in alphabetical order.

A list of permanent links to Supplemental Materials provided by the authors precedes the References section.

*

Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/HM5XCO.

References

Adkins, Todd and Castle, Jeremiah J.. 2014. “Moving Pictures? Experimental Evidence of Cinematic Influence on Political Attitudes.” Social Science Quarterly 95(5): 1230–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
AbrahamAnna, D. Anna, D., von Cramon, Yves and Schubotz, Ricarda I.. 2008. “Meeting George Bush versus Meeting Cinderella: The Neural Response When Telling Apart What Is Real from What Is Fictional in the Context of Our Reality.” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 20(6): 965–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alter, Alexandra. 2017. “Uneasy about the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics.” New York Times, January 27.Google Scholar
Anderson, Craig A., et al. 2015. “Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) Research Summary on Media Violence.” Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy 15(1): 419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anderson, Craig A., et al. 2017. “Screen Violence and Youth Behavior.” Pediatrics 140: S142S147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anderson, Craig and Bushman, Brad. 1997. “External Validity of ‘Trivial’ Experiments: The Case of Laboratory Aggression.” Review of General Psychology 1(1): 1941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anderson, Craig and Bushman, Brad. 2001. “Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Affect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature.” Psychological Science 12: 353–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Appel, Markus and Richter, Tobias. 2007. “Persuasive Effects of Fictional Narratives Increase over Time.” Media Psychology 10(1): 113–34.Google Scholar
Arceneaux, Kevin and Johnson, Martin. 2013. Changing Minds or Changing Channels? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barna Group. “The Books Americans Are Reading,” 2013. Available at https://www.barna.com/research/the-books-americans-are-reading/.Google Scholar
Bartsch, Anne and Schneider, Frank M.. 2014. “Entertainment and Politics Revisited: How Non-Escapist Forms of Entertainment Can Stimulate Political Interest and Information Seeking.” Journal of Communication 64: 369–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baum, Matthew A. 2003. Soft News Goes to War. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Bennett, W. Lance and Iyengar, Shanto. 2010. “The Shifting Foundations of Political Communication: Responding to a Defense of the Media Effects Paradigm.” Journal of Communication 60(1): 3539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berinsky, Adam J. and Kinder, Donald R.. 2006. “Making Sense of Issues through Media Frames: Understanding the Kosovo Crisis.” Journal of Politics 68(3): 640–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bilandzic, Helena and Busselle, Rick. 2012. “A Narrative Perspective on Genre-Specific Cultivation.” In Living with Television Now, ed. Morgan, Michael, Shanahan, James and Signorielli, Nancy. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
Blair, Peter. 2013. “Remember Who the Real Enemy Is.” The American Interest. Available at https://www.the-american-interest.com/2013/12/14/remember-who-the-real-enemy-is/.Google Scholar
Box Office Mojo. 2016. “Young-Adult Book Adaptations.” Available at http://www.boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=yaadaptations.htm.Google Scholar
Braddock, Kurt. 2015. “The Utility of Narratives for Promoting Radicalization: The Case of the Animal Liberation Front.” Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict 81(1): 3859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Braddock, Kurt and Dillard, James Price. 2016. “Meta-Analytic Evidence for the Persuasive Effect of Narratives on Beliefs, Attitudes, Intentions, and Behaviors.” Communication Monographs 83(4): 446–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brock, Timothy C., Strange, Jeffrey J. and Green, Melanie C.. 2002. “Power beyond Reckoning.” In Narrative Impact, ed. Green, M. C., Strange, J. J., and Brock, T. C.. New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
Browne, Kevin D. and Hamilton-Giachritsis, Catherine. 2005. “The Influence of Violent Media on Children and Adolescents: A Public-Health Approach.” Lancet 365(9460): 702–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bushman, Brad. 1995. “Moderating Role of Trait Aggressiveness in the Effects of Violent Media on Aggression.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69(5): 950–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Busselle, Rick and Bilandzic, Helena. 2009. “Measuring Narrative Engagement.” Media Psychology 12(4): 321–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Butler, Lisa D., Koopman, Cheryl, and Zimbardo, Philip G.. 1995. “The Psychological Impact of Viewing the Film ‘JFK’: Emotions, Beliefs, and Political Behavioral Intentions.” Political Psychology 16(2): 237–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carpenter, Charli. 2016. “Rethinking the Political Science Fiction Nexus: Global Policy Making and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.” Perspectives on Politics 14(1): 5369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Daniel, J. Furman III and Musgrave, Paul. 2017. “Synthetic Experiences: How Popular Culture Matters for Images of International Relations.” International Studies Quarterly 61(3): 503–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davis, Darren W. and Davenport, Christian. 1997. “The Political and Social Relevancy of Malcolm X: The Stability of African American Political Attitudes.” Journal of Politics 59(2): 550–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Delli, Carpini, Michael, X., and Williams, Bruce A.. 1998. “Constructing Public Opinion: The Uses of Fictional and Nonfictional Television in Conversations about the Environment.” In The Psychology of Political Communication, ed. Crigler, A. N.. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Dinas, Elias. 2014. “Why Does the Apple Fall Far from the Tree? How Early Political Socialization Prompts Parent-Child Dissimilarity.” British Journal of Political Science 44(4): 827–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dow, Bonnie J. 1996. Prime-Time Feminism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
Druckman, James N. and Kam, Cindy D.. 2011. “Students as Experimental Participants: A Defense of the Narrow Data Base.” In Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science, ed. Druckman, James N., Green, Donald P., Kuklinski, James H. and Lupia, Arthur. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Feldman, Stanley and Sigelman, Lee. 1985. “The Political Impact of Prime-Time Television: ‘The Day After.’” Journal of Politics 47(2): 556–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ferguson, Christopher. 2007. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Meta-Analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games.” Psychiatric Quarterly 78: 309–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ferguson, Christopher. 2015. “Does Media Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When.” Journal of Communication 65(1): E1E22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gerrig, Richard J. and Prentice, Deborah A.. 1991. “The Representation of Fictional Information.” Psychological Science 2(5): 336340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gierzynski, Anthony. 2013. Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Grayson, Kyle, Davies, Matt, and Philpott, Simon. 2009. “Pop Goes IR?” Politics 29(3): 155–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Green, Melanie C. and Brock, Timothy C.. 2000. “The Role of Transportation in the Persuasiveness of Public Narratives.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79(5): 701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Green, Melanie C., Garst, Jennifer, and Brock, Timothy C.. 2004. “The Power of Fiction: Determinants and Boundaries.” In The Psychology of Entertainment Media, ed. Shrum, L. J.. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Hintz, Carrie and Ostry, Elaine. 2009. “Introduction.” In Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults, ed. Hintz, Carrie and Ostry, Elaine. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Holbert, R. Lance. 2005. “A Typology for the Study of Entertainment Television and Politics.” American Behavioral Scientist 49(3): 436–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holbert, R. Lance, Pillion, Owen, Tschida, David A., Armfield, Greg G., Kinder, Kelly, Cherry, Kristin L., and Daulton, Amy R.. 2003. “The West Wing as Endorsement of the U.S. Presidency: Expanding the Bounds of Priming in Political Communication.” Journal of Communication 53(3): 427–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holbert, R. Lance, Shah, Dhavan V., and Kwak, Nojin. 2003. “Political Implications of Prime-Time Drama and Sitcom Use: Genres of Representation and Opinions Concerning Women’s Rights.” Journal of Communication 53(1): 4560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holbrook, R. Andrew and Hill, Timothy G.. 2005. “Agenda-Setting and Priming in Prime Time Television: Crime Dramas as Political Cues.” Political Communication 22(3): 277–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holub, Christian. 2017. “Thanks to President Trump, Dystopian Novels Are Popular Again.” Entertainment Weekly, August 22.Google Scholar
Hopf, Ted. 2002. Social Construction of International Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Huesmann, L. Rowell and Taylor, Laramie D.. 2006. “The Role of Media Violence in Violent Behavior.” Annual Review of Public Health 27: 393415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jackson, Sally and Jacobs, Scott. 1983. “Generalizing About Messages: Suggestions for Design and Analysis of Experiments.” Human Communications Research 9(2): 169–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jackson, Sally, O’Keefe, Daniel J. and Jacobs, Scott. 1988. “The Search for Reliable Generalizations about Messages: A Comparison of Research Strategies.” Human Communications Research 15(1): 127–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, Michael D. and McBeth, Mark K.. 2010. “A Narrative Policy Framework: Clear Enough to Be Wrong?” Policy Studies Journal 38(2): 329–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kalmoe, Nathan P. 2014. “Fueling the Fire: Violent Metaphors, Trait Aggression, and Support for Political Violence.” Political Communication 31(4): 545–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kiersey, Ben and Neumann, Iver, eds. 2013. Battlestar Galactica and International Relations. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Knobloch-Westerwick, Silvia, Gong, Yuan, Hagner, Holly and Kerbeykian, Laura. 2013. “Tragedy Viewers Count Their Blessings: Feeling Low on Fiction Leads to Feeling High on Life.” Communication Research 40(6): 747–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krupnikov, Yanna and Levine, Adam Seth. 2014. “Cross-Sample Comparisons and External Validity.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 1(1): 5980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lacey, Nick. 2000. Narrative and Genre. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
Lefevre, Amy Sawitta. 2013 “Thai Capital Hit by Biggest Protests since Deadly 2010 Unrest.” Reuters, November 24. Available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-protest-idUSBRE9AN09Q20131124.Google Scholar
Lenart, Silvo and McGraw, Kathleen M.. 1989. “America Watches ‘Amerika:’ Television Docudrama and Political Attitudes.” Journal of Politics 51(3): 697712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levendusky, Matthew S. 2013. How Partisan Media Polarize America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacDonald, Brady. 2017. “Experience ‘The Hunger Games’ for Yourself at This Theme Park Land.” The LA Times, October 17.Google Scholar
Marsh, Elizabeth J., Meade, Michelle L. and Roediger, Henry L. III. 2003. “Learning Facts from Fiction.” Journal of Memory and Language 49(4): 519–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayer, Frederick W. 2014. Narrative Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCombs, Maxwell. 2005. “A Look at Agenda-Setting: Past, Present and Future.” Journalism Studies 6(4): 543–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, Greg and Mekhennet, Souad. 2015. “Inside the Surreal World of the Islamic State’s Propaganda Machine.” The Washington Post, November 20.Google Scholar
Mindich, David T. Z. 2004. Tuned Out. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Morgan, Michael, Shanahan, James and Signorielli, Nancy, eds. 2012. Living with Television Now. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
Moskalenko, Sophia and McCauley, Clark. 2009. “Measuring Political Mobilization: The Distinction between Activism and Radicalism.” Terrorism and Political Violence 21(2): 239–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moy, Patricia and Pfau, Michael. 2000. With Malice Toward All? Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
Mulligan, Kenneth and Habel, Philip. 2011. “An Experimental Test of the Effects of Fictional Framing on Attitudes.” Social Science Quarterly 92(1): 7999.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mulligan, Kenneth and Habel, Philip. 2013. “The Implications of Fictional Media for Political Beliefs.” American Politics Research 41(1): 122–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mutz, Diana C. 2016. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Donald.” PS: Political Science and Politics 49(4): 722–29.Google Scholar
Mutz, Diana C. and Nir, Lilach. 2010. “Not Necessarily the News: Does Fictional Television Influence Real-World Policy Preferences?” Mass Communication & Society 13(2): 196217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mydans, Seth. 2014. “Thai Protesters Are Detained After Using ‘Hunger Games’ Salute.” The New York Times, November 20.Google Scholar
Nexon, Daniel H. and Neumann, Iver B., eds. 2006. Harry Potter and International Relations. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
Nielsen Media Research, Inc. 2014. An Era of Growth: The Cross-Platform Report. Q4 2013. Available at http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports.html.Google Scholar
Paris, Celia and Jones, Calvert W.. 2017. “When, How, and Why Do Portrayals of Dark Times Deactivate the Public?” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), San Francisco, CA, August 31.Google Scholar
Patterson, Molly and Monroe, Kristen Renwick. 1998. “Narrative in Political Science.” Annual Review of Political Science 1(1): 315–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pennington, Nancy and Hastie, Reid. 1992. “Explaining the Evidence: Tests of the Story Model for Juror Decision Making.” Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 62(2): 189206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Penny, Laurie. 2014. “No Wonder ‘Generation K’ Loves The Hunger Games—They Can’t Rely on Grown-Ups Either.” New Statesman, April 3.Google Scholar
Pfau, Michael, Moy, Patricia and Szabo, Erin Alison. 2001. “Influence of Prime-Time Television Programming on Perceptions of the Federal Government.” Mass Communication & Society 4(4): 437–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prior, Markus. 2007. Post-Broadcast Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Raynor, Madeline. 2017. “Classic Dystopian Novels’ Popularity Surges in Trump’s America.” EW.com, January 31. Available at http://ew.com/books/2017/01/31/classic-dystopian-novels-trump/.Google Scholar
Roback, Diane. 2014. “Facts & Figures 2013: For Children’s Books, Divergent Led the Pack.” PublishersWeekly.com, March 14. Available at http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/61447-for-children-s-books-in-2013-divergent-led-the-pack-facts-figures-2013.html.Google Scholar
Savage, Joanne and Yancey, Christina. 2008. “The Effects of Media Violence Exposure on Criminal Aggression: A Meta-Analysis.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 35(6): 772–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schutte, Annie. 2012. “The Hunger Games by the Numbers.” The Hub, March 19. Available at http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2012/03/19/the-hunger-games-by-the-numbers/.Google Scholar
Slater, Michael D., Rouner, Donna and Long, Marilee. 2006. “Television Dramas and Support for Controversial Public Policies: Effects and Mechanisms.” Journal of Communication 56(2): 235–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Strange, Jeffrey J. and Leung, Cynthia C.. 1999. “How Anecdotal Accounts in News and in Fiction Can Influence Judgments of a Social Problem’s Urgency, Causes, and Cures.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 25(4): 436–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Svriuga, Susan. 2016. “A Historic Number of College Freshmen Expect to Protest This Year.” Washington Post. February 11. Available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/02/11/a-historic-number-of-college-freshmen-expect-to-protest-this-year/.Google Scholar
Wedeen, Lisa. 1999. Ambiguities of Domination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Weldes, Jutta, ed. 2003. To Seek out New Worlds: Science Fiction and World Politics. London: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilkinson, Amy. 2012. “Why Is ‘Hunger Games’ on Banned Book List?” MTV News, October 4.Google Scholar
Zeitchik, Stephen. 2015. “The Katniss Factor: What the ‘Hunger Games’ Movies Say about Feminism, and War.” The LA Times, November 20.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: Link

Jones and Paris Dataset

Link
Supplementary material: PDF

Jones and Paris supplementary material

Online Appendix

Download Jones and Paris supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 1 MB
6
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

It’s the End of the World and They Know It: How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

It’s the End of the World and They Know It: How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

It’s the End of the World and They Know It: How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *