Does a more or less sympathetic protagonist influence transportation of the reader? : Two new replication studies

C. J. M. Jansen, Anneke de Graaf, Lettica Hustinx, Joëlle Ooms, Merel Schreinemakers, Lisa Zwiers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    88 Downloads (Pure)


    Three previous studies into presenting a protagonist in a story as more or less sympathetic have not provided a clear picture of the effects that the portrayal of the protagonist may have on transportation, and via transportation on story-consistent beliefs. Results from a first study (N = 83) by De Graaf and Hustinx (2015) suggest that the way the protagonist is portrayed ‐ as sympathetic, unsympathetic or neutral ‐ influences the extent to which readers are transported into a story. No significant effects on beliefs of the readers were found, however. In a direct replication study (N = 79) and in a conceptual replication study (N = 81), Jansen, Nederhoff, and Ooms (2017) found results that supported the hypotheses from the original study to a limited extent. In view of the relatively small numbers of participants in these three studies and the resulting limited power of the statistical tests two new, larger-scaled replication studies were conducted. A direct replication study was performed (N = 238) with the same versions of the story as used in the original study, and also a conceptual replication study (N = 248) with three versions of a new story. Again, the hypotheses from the original study were supported to a limited extent. A meta-analysis of all five studies revealed a large indirect positive effect of story version on transportation via empathy, when comparing the versions with a sympathetic protagonist with the versions with an unsympathetic protagonist. When comparing the neutral story versions with the versions with an unsympathetic protagonist, the meta-analytic indirect effect was medium sized. Other than what the Affective Disposition Theory (Raney, 2004; Zillmann, 1994; 2006) claims, the story versions with a neutral protagonist did not lead to an absence of emotional responses. Furthermore, the outcomes add to the Transportation-Imagery Model (Green & Brock, 2002; Van Laer, De Ruyter, Visconti, & Wetzels, 2014). While this model does not include concrete suggestions of story characteristics that lead to transportation, our studies show that a protagonist who is portrayed as sympathetic may contribute to the level of transportation that readers experience, be it indirectly through empathy.
    Translated title of the contributionDoes a more or less sympathetic protagonist influence transportation of the reader? : Two new replication studies
    Original languageDutch
    Pages (from-to)515-546
    Number of pages32
    JournalTijdschrift voor taalbeheersing
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1-Nov-2019


    • affective disposition
    • conceptual replication
    • direct replication
    • empathy
    • meta-analysis
    • narratives
    • transportation

    Cite this