This study investigated the effects of text genre (expository, life narrative, literary narrative), personal factors (trait empathy, personal experience, exposure to literature), and affective responses during reading (most relevantly: sympathy/empathy with the character) on two types of empathy: empathic understanding and pro-social behavior (donating). Participants (N= 210) read two texts within the same genre, about depression and grief, with one week between sessions. A genre effect was observed for pro-social behavior in the case of depression, with more people donating in the life narrative condition. Personal experience predicted empathic understanding and prosocial behavior for depression, but not for grief. Empathic understanding was further predicted by trait empathy, exposure to literature, and sympathy/empathy with the character. These results demonstrate the relevance of looking at readers' personal characteristics and suggest a repeated exposure effect of literature on empathic understanding.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2015.02.008, hdl.handle.net/1765/86882
Poetics : Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts
Department of Media and Communication

Koopman, E. (2015). Empathic reactions after reading: The role of genre, personal factors and affective responses. Poetics : Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts, 50, 62–79. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2015.02.008