Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Newly minted PhD, professor, pop culture junkie, voracious reader, and author of the Raised By Wolves series, Every Other Day, Nobody, and More

thunderchikin asked: Jen--Can you post the references to the studies you mentioned? I would like to read them in comparison to the work JL Derrick has done on low self-esteem and addiction.DG

Several of the studies mentioned are in fact by JL Derrick!

References  (if you follow the links in the prior entry, they will take you to either abstracts or pdfs of the articles):

Gardner, W. L., & Knowles, M. L. (2008). Love makes you real: Favorite television characters are perceived as “real” in a social facilitation paradigm. Social Cognition26(2), 156-168.

Derrick, J. L., Gabriel, S., & Tippin, B. (2008). Parasocial relationships and self‐discrepancies: Faux relationships have benefits for low self‐esteem individuals. Personal relationships15(2), 261-280.

Derrick, J. L., Gabriel, S., & Hugenberg, K. (2009). Social surrogacy: How favored television programs provide the experience of belonging. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology45(2), 352-362.

Eyal, K., & Cohen, J. (2006). When good friends say goodbye: A parasocial breakup study. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media50(3), 502-523.

Kidd, D. C., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science342(6156), 377-380.

Fong, K., Mullin, J. B., & Mar, R. A. (2013). What you read matters: The role of fiction genre in predicting interpersonal sensitivity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts7(4), 370.

Further Reading:

Gabriel, S., & Young, A. F. (2011). Becoming a Vampire Without Being Bitten The Narrative Collective-Assimilation Hypothesis. Psychological science,22(8), 990-994.

Derrick, J. L. (2013). Energized by Television Familiar Fictional Worlds Restore Self-Control. Social Psychological and Personality Science4(3), 299-307.

Zunshine, L. (2006). Why we read fiction: Theory of mind and the novel. Ohio State University Press.

Zunshine, L. (2008). Theory of mind and fictions of embodied transparency.Narrative16(1), 65-92.

Mar, R. A., & Oatley, K. (2008). The function of fiction is the abstraction and simulation of social experience. Perspectives on psychological science3(3), 173-192.

Johnson, D. R. (2012). Transportation into a story increases empathy, prosocial behavior, and perceptual bias toward fearful expressions. Personality and Individual Differences52(2), 150-155.

Sestir, M., & Green, M. C. (2010). You are who you watch: Identification and transportation effects on temporary self-concept. Social Influence5(4), 272-288.

De Backer, C. J. (2012). Blinded by the starlight: An evolutionary framework for studying celebrity culture and fandom. Review of General Psychology16(2), 144.

Young, A. F., Gabriel, S., & Hollar, J. L. (2013). Batman to the rescue! The protective effects of parasocial relationships with muscular superheroes on men’s body image. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology49(1), 173-177.

On fandom, parasocial relationships, and what we don’t know

Sarah Rees Brennan has a new post up about her experiences (some of them heart-breaking) as a now-published author who used to write fanfiction. It’s well worth a read, especially for the way it highlights the role that gender may play in these issues.

What this post made me think about is the parallel between the way we view and understand fictional characters and the way we view and understand real people that we do not actually know. There’s a long tradition of research in media studies on what they call “parasocial relationships,” which are one-sided relationships formed with (for example) TV personalities, fictional characters, or celebrities. The basic idea is that it’s easy to fool our brains into thinking we know someone. If you see someone a lot—on television, in magazines, or even just on your twitter feed—of course you start to feel like you know that person. In the course of our evolutionary history, if you saw or heard someone that often, you almost certainly did know them.

But that’s not the case in the modern world. And that’s where you get parasocial relationships, which are, by definition, one-sided. Spend enough time reading interviews with Jennifer Lawrence or read enough celebrity gossip about Taylor Swift, and you start to feel like you really know them. It’s one-sided because they do not know you.

Interestingly, social scientists have long-argued that the parasocial relationships we have with real people we do not actually know operate very similarly to the relationships we have with fictional characters. And both of the above parallel our actual two-sided, real-world relationships in a variety of interesting ways. For example, seeing a picture of a favorite fictional character can have what they call “social facilitation effects,” which we would normally see if you were in the presence of a friend. Being primed with your favorite celebrity (and/or character) increase self esteem and can make you feel a sense of belonging. When a favorite show is cancelled, the resulting emotional distress can look a lot like a break-up.

Long story short, there is a ton of super interesting research that documents a tendency to view fictional characters and real people we don’t know (like celebrities) much like we view real people who we actually know. This can be wonderful! Oh, the fictional friends I have made! But this tendency also has the potential to come with a variety of side-effects, because while fiction is often purposefully written to make certain we know tons of stuff about the personalities, backgrounds, inner workings, flaws, strengths, moral status, and emotional cores of the characters on the page, this is not true of parasocial interactions with real people. When your brain tricks you into thinking that you really know a fictional character, there are many ways in which that is true. But when real people are involved?

It’s not true. It’s not true at all.

In my day job, I study the science of fiction and why we like stories and what the cognitive effects of engaging with fictional characters and fictional worlds might be. In this field, we’re starting to see evidence that reading fiction might improve (or otherwise be related to) the ability to get inside other people’s heads: to read their emotions, and understand what they think and believe so forth. People like Lisa Zunshine and Raymond Mar and Keith Oatley have all kinds of wonderful papers (and books!) on this relationship between spending time with fictional characters and being able to read real people.

How does this work? It’s early days, still, so we don’t really know. But what does seem to be true is that fiction often gives us a front row seat to people’s emotions and relationships and thoughts and beliefs and desires in a way that reality usually does not. In the real world, you might infer, based on the fact that someone bolts in the middle of their father’s funeral, that they are upset or overwhelmed. You might even feel like you know that. But in fiction, you often do know it—you see the before and the after and the moment when the character lets him/herself break down because there is no one there to see it.

But in reality? We don’t have this kind of access. In life, there is no author or director making sure we have the information we need to have in order to understand the “characters.” As a result, in the real world, we only perceive ourselves as knowing what other people are thinking and feeling. We make inferences based on behavioral cues, but we have no direct access to their minds. Oftentimes, we can guess and guess well, but it’s always that… a guess.

What does all of this have to do with Sarah’s post?

I think that a lot of the negative experiences that Sarah talks about female authors (specifically those who used to write fanfic) having are the result of people feeling like they know things that they could not possibly know. Like what an author was thinking when they wrote XYZ character, or what the author’s intention was when they did/said that one thing, or why Author X is friends with Author Y.

In fiction, you frequently (though not always) have the access you need to make conclusions about characters’ mental states and motivations with a high level of certainty. Most of the time in reality, you do not—especially if the people you’re attributing mental states and intentions and dispositions to are people you do not actually know, people you are watching from afar.

Reading Sarah’s post made me wonder if those of us who engage with fiction frequently and passionately and, yes, through fandom, writing stories and daydreaming about characters and diagnosing their motivations—I wonder if that level of engagement could potentially have very real cognitive effects on us, beyond what has already been studied. On the one hand, that kind of engagement might actually make us better at understanding people. But at the same time, I think it quite possibly increases our perceptions of how good we are at doing that, beyond what is actually possible. Regular engagement with fiction—particularly active engagement through fandom—might fool us into thinking, even more than people who are less engaged with fiction, that we really, truly know what other people are thinking or intending and who they are deep down.

Might we get into the habit of telling ourselves stories about real people’s motivations, the same way that fandom thinks about and expands on the inner lives of the characters in the books and television shows we love? And might this trick us, in real-world settings, into forgetting that these stories, in our minds, about these people who are REAL—are not real themselves?

The stories we tell ourselves are just that—stories. They are, at best, guesses, and often, they’re not very good ones. We do not have special access to another person’s thoughts or emotions, no matter how much we’ve read about them. We do not “really know” them better than the people they are close to in real life. It is not in any way rational to think that, based on your familiarity with someone’s writing or twitter feed or something you were peripherally involved with ten years ago, you have superior knowledge of that person’s current mental states, emotions, personality, and moral proclivities than do people who currently hang out with that person on a daily basis.

And yet, this happens. It happens all the time. We judge people not just on their actions, but on the stories we tell ourselves about those actions, not just on their work, but on the stories we tell ourselves about how we think that work came to be. And there are very real reasons to think that the people who might be most prone to this feeling—that we really know someone, that we understand their intentions and emotions and motivations and inspirations—are those of us who spend the most time in fictional worlds, with fictional characters, telling ourselves stories about them.

This is what I was thinking when I read Sarah’s blog entry. I was thinking about parasocial relationships and the way we perceive mental states and how fiction can fool you into thinking those perceptions are more than guesses. I was thinking about the way that gender almost certainly plays a role in what those guesses end up being. And I was thinking that it would probably do a world of good if we made more of an active effort to remind ourselves of all the things we don’t know.

Dear Hesitant Ones

melissamarr:

In my inboxes I see so many questions that start with a phrase meant to apologize for asking the question in the message. They start with some version of “sorry to bother you” or “This is probably a silly question” etc. I’d say that almost 100% of those are from girls & women.

In daily life I…

“Please don’t apologize for being inquisitive or for having opinions. Be proud that you’re curious and clever. It’s good to have thoughts & questions.” Yes, yes, a million times yes.

Anonymous asked: Im such a nobody. And theres nothing I can even do about it. I realky relate to Nix and Claire.

When I sign copies of NOBODY, the inscription I write on the inside always reads: “YOU ARE SEEN.”

So. You, dear reader, are seen. 

In high school, I held a secret, but very firm belief that I was somehow inherently unlikable and annoying—that no matter how hard I tried or how nice I was or what I did, I would never be someone that other people would want around. Whatever evidence I received to the contrary, from friends outside of my high school or from my family, I attributed to their awesomeness, not my own. I genuinely believed that, by and large, the most I could hope for  was to be tolerated, and that people who tolerated me were doing me a favor (and that it wasn’t their fault if they were sometimes cruel, because I just brought that out in people).

It couldn’t be everyone else, I told myself. It had to be me. 

But as it turned out… it really was not me. I went on to college and found a place where I felt like I belonged. I slowly became more comfortable in my own skin. I found more and more people I loved who loved me back, not in spite of who I was, but because of who I was.

So to all of you out there who feel like no one sees you, or like there’s something wrong with you, or like you’ll never find your place, I send you hugs and love and the promise that when my mother told me it would get better, I never believed her.

But she was right.

Overlap between YALSA's BFYA and Quick Picks list

catagator:

angelina41:

These titles appear on both the 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers lists.

Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. The Naturals. Disney, 2013; 9781423168232; $17.99.

The FBI wants Cassie to join a secret team of profilers and a serial killer wants her as his next victim.

I find these overlapping titles to be fascinating. These are the books I always want to make sure I have in my library since they’re excellent books and have strong appeal for your eager and less-than-eager readers. 

I am so ecstatic that THE NATURALS made both the Best Fiction for Young Adults list and the Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list. I’ve now put all of these other books on my To Read list! (Except, of course, for the ones I’ve already read!)

maureenjohnsonbooks:

summerscourtney:

One of the first things I did when stuff started falling into place with my writing career was talk about it with people like it was all this questionable accident.  “Yeah, I wrote a book and it’s being published,” I’d say, like it was nothing—not like it was easy, but like it was literally nothing.  It was amazing how quickly I was willing to let go of the hard work and sacrifices I’d made in hopes the thing I wanted to happen would.  When it did, I did not want anyone to be uncomfortable or, God forbid, like me less for my accomplishments.  Before I gave anyone a chance to be proud of me, to celebrate with me, I wanted them to know I was so sorry first. 
Eventually a friend emailed me and told me I could work that angle less and when she did, I realized how truly scared I was of claiming my part in what I made happen for me.  It’s so sad so many of the accomplished, hardworking women I know struggle with owning their success. How immediately they will tear themselves out of that part of the picture because it just doesn’t look as nice with them in it.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is: that’s enough of that.  Let’s stop.


So many women I know do this. I’ve done it myself. 



I caught myself, after the first day of class this semester, thinking, “I hope I didn’t come off sounding like I think too highly of myself, like I’m such an expert.” And then I realized… I am an expert. I’m THE PROFESSOR. And not only that, but I’m teaching classes in my specific area of expertise.  

I caught myself. But too often, I do not.

maureenjohnsonbooks:

summerscourtney:

One of the first things I did when stuff started falling into place with my writing career was talk about it with people like it was all this questionable accident.  “Yeah, I wrote a book and it’s being published,” I’d say, like it was nothing—not like it was easy, but like it was literally nothing.  It was amazing how quickly I was willing to let go of the hard work and sacrifices I’d made in hopes the thing I wanted to happen would.  When it did, I did not want anyone to be uncomfortable or, God forbid, like me less for my accomplishments.  Before I gave anyone a chance to be proud of me, to celebrate with me, I wanted them to know I was so sorry first. 

Eventually a friend emailed me and told me I could work that angle less and when she did, I realized how truly scared I was of claiming my part in what I made happen for me.  It’s so sad so many of the accomplished, hardworking women I know struggle with owning their success. How immediately they will tear themselves out of that part of the picture because it just doesn’t look as nice with them in it.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is: that’s enough of that.  Let’s stop.

So many women I know do this. I’ve done it myself. 

I caught myself, after the first day of class this semester, thinking, “I hope I didn’t come off sounding like I think too highly of myself, like I’m such an expert.” And then I realized… I am an expert. I’m THE PROFESSOR. And not only that, but I’m teaching classes in my specific area of expertise. I caught myself. But too often, I do not.
COVER REVEAL for the second book in the NATURALS series. What do you guys think?

About the Book:

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.

COVER REVEAL for the second book in the NATURALS series. What do you guys think?

About the Book:

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.

For me, one of the most appealing themes in all of fiction is what I would generally describe as “finding your people.” I think that, especially in our teen years, but often as adults as well, it is so easy to feel like we just do not fit anywhere, to feel deeply, fundamentally different, even though everyone else is feeling deeply, fundamentally different at the exact same time. But then one day, you meet someone, a friend or group of people or someone you fall for, and all of a sudden, you do fit. You are all misfits. You have found your people.