Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Harry Brown

Second Advisor

Ted Bitner

Third Advisor

Kevin Moore


This thesis all started from my reflections on being an English Literature major. I mention this not because it is rare or unique, but rather because realizing my interest in literature and considering the cognitive effect it has on humans initiated my current academic endeavor: writing a very, very long paper. Even though the skills English majors exercise seem like the mundane activities of introverted bookworms, these experiences with language are spectacular phenomenons that prove to be, in fact, universal. Many argue that literature has an adaptive function that not only demonstrates why we gravitate toward story and how we learn from them best, but also how it continues to positively benefit us as social beings by improving our ability to empathize. Therefore I strive to make the "mundane" process of thesis writing a journey in which readers will experience and become aware of how language and story affect them as they navigate a mixture of creative examples and research from the realms of evolutionary psychology, social cognition, and more. By the completion of this process, I will have demonstrated how language heightens empathetic ability so it is clear why English majors, for example, live happily ever after with an adaptive and heightened awareness that others were living happily too.


Honor Scholar thesis