Pop Culture Characters as Avatars and Extensions of the Self: On Dynamic Audience Involvement and Dual Empathy

Monday, November 2, 2020 (3:45 PM – 5:00 PM)

Karen Dill-Shackleford

Faculty, School of Psychology, Media Psychology Doctoral Program
Fielding Graduate University

What happens when we make a deep connection with a character in a favorite story? In this talk, we consider the dynamic process of engaging with our favorite fictional characters and the actors who play them. These ubiquitous experiences with social simulations touch upon a number of core ideas in social psychology including the self and social identity, social influence, person perception and the role of emotions like empathy in persuasion. Over the years, scholars in this field have focused on parasocial phenomena and identification, but have often called for clarification of terms that has yet to be fully realized. In this presentation, we also consider how a theory currently under development by Shackleford, Oatley and Green could address some of the issues of imprecision of terms while proposing a self-other continuum as an organizing structure to understand the nature of these complex and consequential social experiences.

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