The impact of narratives and transportation on empathic responding

Walkington, Zoe; Ashton Wigman, Stefanie and Bowles, David (2019). The impact of narratives and transportation on empathic responding. Poetics (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2019.101425

Abstract

Research suggests that experiencing narratives may be a way to change empathic responding to others (e.g. Paluck, 2009) but less is known about the impact of narratives on empathic responding towards people who are traditionally disliked (i.e. non-positive role models such as offenders). It is known that the ability to express empathy is an important factor in working effectively with a variety of disadvantaged groups (Serran & Marshall, 2010). The current research investigated the mechanisms predicting empathic responding to an offender. Participants read either a narrative or non-narrative text before completing questionnaires measuring: perceived similarity to, and identification with, the protagonist; transportation; and self-reported empathy. A final measure recorded the extent to which empathic questions were selected for use in an interview with a different offender. Regression analysis showed that transportation mediated the effect of narrative intervention on the degree to which empathic questions were selected. Narrative transportation may facilitate empathic responding to traditionally disliked or blamed groups.

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