The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 181–190 | Cite as

The Secrets of Scheherazade: Toward a Functional Analysis of Imaginative Literature

Article

Abstract

A functional analysis of selected aspects of imaginative literature is presented. Reading imaginative literature is described as a process in which the reader makes indirect contact with the contingencies operating on the behavior of story characters. A functional story grammar is proposed in which the reader’s experience with a story is interpreted in terms of escape contingencies in which the author initially introduces an establishing operation consisting of a source of tension, which is resolved in some way by the outcome of the story. Although escape contingencies represent the functional basis for the structure of stories, they are to be understood in a context of many other reinforcers for reading fiction. Other contingencies that maintain reading are discussed. Functional analyses of imaginative literature have much to offer, both in improving literary education and in understanding the behavioral processes that occur on the part of the reader.

Key words

fiction literature story story grammar establishing operation identification escape conditioning 

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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for PsychologyAthabasca UniversityAthabascaCanada

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