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The Moral Importance of Narrative: A Philosophical Analysis of Narrative Transport

  • Author(s): McVey, Chris
  • Advisor(s): Schwitzgebel, Eric
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-ND' version 4.0 license

From novels to films to tall tales told around the campfire, stories are as important as they are powerful. Well-told narratives have the ability to whisk us away to far away lands, showing us interesting people and ways of life that we may not have been able to ever imagine on our own. But the experience of being mentally transported by an engrossing narrative is more than just a vehicle for escapism and entertainment, it can bring about very real and important psychological changes.

In Chapter 1, I begin by delving into Martha Nussbaum’s views on the importance of narrative, particularly novels, for the cultivation of what she calls the literary imagination, something she believes aids in the cultivation of ethical and political theories that allow us to thrive in democratic societies. In Chapter 2, I connect Nussbaum’s theoretical views with the empirical research on a phenomenon called

narrative transport and argue that it is the mechanism responsible for narrative impact theorized by Nussbaum. Chapter 3 lays out a series of three empirical studies meant to add to the literature in Chapter 2 and expand it to include the impact of narrative on specifically moral beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behavior. Finally, Chapter 4 investigates the potential ethical issues surrounding the use of narrative transport to intentionally sway the mental states and behavior of others.

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