A Tale of Two Systems: 19th Century Behavioral Insights From Poe, Austen, and Dickens
In our first article, about behavioral science and literature, we suggested three reasons why behavioral scientists should be interested in literature. First, both authors and social scientists pursue similar questions about how and why humans think and act as they do. Second, fiction has shaped the concepts that people and societies use to understand their own behavior. Third, literature can open up a wider range of examples that illustrate core behavioral science principles.
In this article, we focus mainly on the third point. We want to show how works of fiction precisely depict behaviors that we would now describe using concepts from behavioral science. In particular, we explore how some famous nineteenth-century authors in England and the United States illuminate what we now call confirmation bias, mental accounting, and the mere-exposure effect. If you’ve yet to read these works, be advised—the following contains a few spoilers.
Read more from Part 2 of this 2 part series at Behavioral Scientist.