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Therefore, we relied on how people assess how empathic they are.

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Although for future research it is recommended to obtain multiple perspectives on the outcomes under study e. As previous research has shown, common method bias is less likely to affect moderated hypotheses [61]. The current study investigated how fictional narrative experience relates to empathic skills over time. Through two experiments, it was shown that transportation into fictional narratives influence empathy over time; a lack of transportation is related to lower empathy, while a high level of transportation might be related to higher empathy.

Thanks to Richard Gerrig for his comments on a previous draft of the paper. No current external funding sources for this study. The study was completely covered by the Erasmus University Rotterdam, where the study was conducted. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. PLoS One.

Published online Jan Matthijs Bal.

Liane Young, Editor. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.


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There are no patents, products in development or marketed products to declare. This does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials, as detailed online in the guide for authors. Received Sep 4; Accepted Dec This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are properly credited. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract The current study investigated whether fiction experiences change empathy of the reader.

Introduction Reading books and watching movies, plays, and operas are activities that people carry out on a day-to-day basis in their lives. Fiction, Non-fiction and Narrative Structures It has been argued that fiction may elicit stronger emotional and behavioral effects than nonfiction reading e. Effects of Fiction Experience on Empathy Even though little research has been conducted on the effects of fiction reading on empathy, there are several researchers who have explained why fiction reading influences empathy.

Why does Fiction have an Impact on our Lives? The Role of Transportation in the Effects of Fictional Narratives According to Gerrig [12] , when people read a fictional narrative, they may become fully immersed into the story, which presents an alternative narrative world that is distant from the real world.

Sleeper Effects of Fiction on Outcomes Finally, in line with Appel and Richter [33] , we expect that the effects of fiction experience on empathy are guided by an absolute sleeper effect [46] , [47].

The Present Research All in all, we expect that fiction will affect empathy over time only when a reader is emotionally transported into a story. The formal hypothesis of the study is: Hypothesis 1: Fiction reading is positively related to empathy across time, but only when the reader is emotionally transported into the story. Study 1 Materials and Methods Participants Participants were 66 Dutch students who received course credits for participating in the study. Procedure Participants worked from home where they filled out the questionnaires and read the stories online via computer.

Science of Story Building: Narrative Transportation

Results and Discussion Hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the hypotheses. Table 1 Study 1: Means, standard deviations, reliabilities and correlations of the study variables. Open in a separate window. Reliabilities are reported along the diagonal. Figure 1. The interaction pattern between emotional transportation and condition in relation to changes in empathy from T1 to T3 Study 1. Table 2 Study 1: Hierarchical regression analyses predicting empathy T3.

Standardized regression coefficients are reported. Study 2 Materials and Methods Participants Participants were 97 undergraduate Dutch students who received course credits for participating in the study. Procedure Participants worked again from home where they filled out the questionnaires and read the stories online via the computer.

Analysis Hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the hypothesis.

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Table 3 Study 2: Means, standard deviations, reliabilities and correlations of the study variables. Results and Discussion Hierarchical regression analyses are shown in Table 4. Figure 2. The interaction pattern between emotional transportation and condition in relation to changes in empathy from T1 to T3 Study 2. Table 4 Study 2: Hierarchical regression analyses predicting empathy T3.

General Discussion The current study investigated the influence of fictional narrative experience on empathy over time. Research Implications The current study has a number of implications for future research on the role of fictional narrative experiences. Limitations and Suggestions for Further Research One of the limitations of the current study was that the participants in the fiction condition only read the first part of a Sherlock Holmes story and the first chapter of the novel by Saramago.

Conclusion The current study investigated how fictional narrative experience relates to empathic skills over time. Funding Statement No current external funding sources for this study.

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References 1. Narrative Impact. Social and Cognitive Foundations. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum. Oatley K Why fiction may be twice as true as fact: fiction as cognitive and emotional simulation.

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Rev Gen Psychol 3 : — Oatley K Emotions and the story world of fiction. Research on Emotions in Organizations, 1, — Coplan A Empathic engagement with narrative fictions. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 : — J Res Pers 40 : — Communications 34 : — Journal of Consumer Research 34 : — J Mem Lang 60 : — J Mem Lang 49 : — Busselle R, Bilandzic H Measuring narrative engagement.

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Media Psychol 12 : — On the Psychological Activities of Reading. New Haven: Yale University Press. Green MC Transportation into narrative worlds: the role of prior knowledge and perceived realism. Discourse Processes 38 : — J Pers Soc Psychol 79 : — Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 3 : — Bruner J Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Rev Gen Psychol 15 : — Gerrig RJ Narrative thought?


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  4. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 20 : — Poetics 30 : — Zwaan RA The immersed experiencer: Toward an embodied theory of language comprehension. In Ross BH, editor. The Psychology of Learning and Motivation. New York: Academic Press. Cogn Emot 25 : — Davis MH A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology 10 : 85— Davis MH Measuring individual differences in empathy: evidence for a multidimensional approach.