When the physical coldness in the viewer's environment leads to identification with a suffering protagonist

Nurit Tal‐Or, Irene Razpurker‐Apfeld
Published Online:
21 Oct 2020

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Based on theories of narrative engagement and embodied cognition, we hypothesised that a fit between the psychological state of a protagonist and the physical sensation of the viewer would enhance the subsequent identification with the protagonist, but not para‐social relationship with him (seeing the protagonist as a friend). We also hypothesised that identification and a para‐social relationship would lead to distinct effects on attitudes related to the narrative. Participants (N = 60) were randomly assigned to either a warmed or cooled room where they watched a movie clip alone in which a suffering protagonist wanted to undergo euthanasia while his close others wanted him to stay alive. Then, the participants answered a questionnaire measuring their identification and para‐social relationship with the protagonist and their attitudes toward euthanasia. In accordance with the hypotheses, the results demonstrated that feeling cold enhanced identification with the suffering protagonist. However, the environmental temperature did not affect the development of para‐social relationships. Moreover, identification with the suffering protagonist contributed to acceptance of his attitudes, reflected in more positive views of euthanasia. In contrast, having a para‐social relationship with the protagonist resulted in negative attitudes toward euthanasia.

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