Participants were 40 Canadian-born psychology undergraduates (29 females and 11 males). They were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions. In the meaning-threat condition, participants read an absurd short story called ‘‘The Country Dentist.’’ The story is a modified version of Kafka’s 1919 short story “The Country Doctor.” In the story, a rural dentist sets out during a snowstorm to help a young boy with a toothache. As the story progresses, the narrative gradually breaks down and ends abruptly after a series of non sequiturs. We also included a series of bizarre illustrations that were unrelated to the story. In the no-meaning-threat condition, participants read a different story that we wrote. This story, also titled “The Country Dentist,” is parallel to the Kafka tale, but contains no non sequiturs and follows a conventional narrative. It contains illustrations that relate to the story.
—Travis Proulx and Steven J. Heine: “Connections From Kafka: Exposure to Meaning Threats Improves Implicit Learning of an Artificial Grammar” (2009); here.