Sunday 24 August 2014

My Thesis Paper: Fiction, Fast and Slow

I first started this blog as a way to express some of the ideas I was covering in my MA thesis paper. Well, now that thesis paper is done! Attached is what I've been working on all year:

I think Section 3 is the most interesting. It works pretty well as a stand alone essay on the application of effective altruist ideas to art. It's the stuff that I really wanted to write from the beginning. If you don't feel like reading through 60+ pages, I'd recommend skipping to Section 3.

The thesis of the paper is that discussions on media effects are corrupted by people taking certain common sense ideas for granted even in situations where common sense is known to be unreliable. If we apply insights from cognitive science and moral philosophy, it no longer appears as if the most relevant effects of narrative media are things like violence and empathy boosts.


Narrative media possess the power to influence audience attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour. This influence can and does manifest itself in both positive and negative ways. Identifying reliable pathways to influence and exploiting these for altruistic ends is a potentially high impact health intervention. This paper surveys the theoretical and empirical literature on models of mass communication, considers the role of narrative media in movements of positive social change, and applies ethical considerations to the production and value of narrative media. It argues that while most concerns with the impacts of narrative media are sensationalized, of much greater concern should be the possibility that this content possesses the potential to do more good than many of us imagine. This oversight is largely due to the fallibility of common sense paradigms of moral and artistic value not rooted in cognitive science or moral philosophy.

Let me know what you think.

PS - The paper is now available on and Research Gate.

1 comment:

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