Myth, preference, and processing
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The objective of this investigation was to explore the cognitive representation, aesthetic appreciation, and on-line processing of the hero motif in short stories. The overall goals were to determine if participants had a schema for the hero motif, and to examine the effects of variations in episode content and sequence on preference ratings, recall of story ideas, and reading rate for specific sentences. These goals were pursued in one pilot study, and two experiments. Results from the pilot study indicated that undergraduate students had a schema for the hero motif, and that they were able to predict events in typical hero stories with high levels of accuracy and confidence. Results from Experiments 1 and 2 indicated that variations in episode content and sequence had virtually no effect on preference ratings. However, these variations did influence recall of story information. The most memorable hero stories contained (1)episodes that were presented in a logical, temporal sequence, (2) typical beginning episodes, and (3) typical middle episodes. In contrast, story endings were best remembered if they contained atypical information. In both Experiments 1 and 2, a positive correlation emerged between ratings of story preference and ratings of empathy with the main character. Implications for the field of empirical aesthetics were discussed.