Reading a Book Can Change Your Mind, But Only Some Changes Last for a Year

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The goal of this study was to measure the impact of reading an engaging book with a message upon the attitudes of college students soon after their exposure to the material, compared to a year later. Students who had read the book were significantly more aligned with the author's views on several food-related issues than students who had not, although the degree of agreement declined after a year on most issues. The possible impact of multiple, widely publicized food safety scares before and during the study period was not addressed.

[Abstract excerpted from original source.]

"Attitude change is a critical component of health behavior change, but has rarely been studied longitudinally following extensive exposures to persuasive materials such as full-length movies, books, or plays. We examined changes in attitudes related to food production and consumption in college students who had read Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma as part of a University-wide reading project. Composite attitudes toward organic foods, local produce, meat, and the quality of the American food supply, as well as opposition to government subsidies, distrust in corporations, and commitment to the environmental movement were significantly and substantially impacted, in comparison to students who had not read the book. Much of the attitude change disappeared after 1 year; however, over the course of 12 months self-reported opposition to government subsidies and belief that the quality of the food supply is declining remained elevated in readers of the book, compared to non-readers. Findings have implications for our understanding of the nature of changes in attitudes to food and eating in response to extensive exposure to coherent and engaging messages targeting health behaviors."

Spot Check Number: 2536
Sponsor: State University of New York, University of Pennsylvania & Others
Researcher/Author: Julia M. Hormes et al.
Animal Type: Cows, Farm Animals, Humans, Pigs, Poultry
Record Type: Academic paper, Data and statistics, Journal article, Research study
Research Method: Online Survey
Geographic Region: United States Regional
Population Descriptors: University of Pennsylvania freshman & sophmore students
Year Conducted: 2013


This is a fascinating study. That said, even if a small number of students changed their habits, that suggests getting books into the hands of students willing to read it, would help the animal world. It would be neat to do a parallel study comparing the exposure to a DVD. It is easier to get students to watch a DVD than read a book, since it takes a lot less time and less energy. Nice that this line of research has emerged. It's a novel way of looking at human psychology.

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