Małecki, W., Pawłowski, B., Sorokowski, P. 2016. Literary fiction influences attitudes toward animal welfare. PLoS ONE 11(12), e0168695.
Literary fiction has been credited with considerable power to improve attitudes toward outgroups. It was even argued that it has been an important factor behind the global decline of violence against various minorities in the last centuries. Could it also help to reduce the human-inflicted suffering of animals? To test this, we studied the attitude toward animal welfare of n = 921 (experimental group) people of both sexes who read a short fragment of an unpublished novel with a motif of the physical abuse of an animal. The control group (n = 912) read a fragment of a similar length but not related to animals. After reading the text all subjects filled out an on-line questionnaire with seven items (camouflaged among many others items) measuring attitudes toward animal welfare. The questionnaire included also demographical questions, such as whether the subject keeps pets. We found that in comparison with the control group, the experimental group was significantly more concerned about animal welfare. This result indicates that literary fiction can influence attitudes toward other species. It is also worth noting that our study is characterized by a high level of ecological validity, i.e. a relatively high extent to which its results can be generalized (or extended) to real-world settings. Due to its specific design, which involved the cooperation of a bestselling author and his publisher, the study approximated the typical conditions in which people read fiction in a remarkably accurate way. Finally, our research has potential practical implications for promoting animal welfare.