We explored new antecedents and consequences of identification with media characters that are related to concreteness or abstractness of representations. First, we examined how the portrayal of the protagonist’s behavior affects the reader’s identification with her. Participants read one of four narratives in which we manipulated the character’s usual behavior (abstract traits) and her behavior on a specific bad day (concrete states). As expected, when the character had positive traits but behaved unkindly in the negative situation, compared to the other conditions, the readers (N = 206) identified more strongly with her through the mediation of higher situational attributions, i.e. attributing the protagonist’s behavior more to the situation than to her traits. Then we examined the effect of identification on the readers’ concrete and abstract thoughts. We hypothesized and found that stronger identification with the character was related to increasingly more concrete thinking about the protagonist’s specific plans and reactions regarding the situation than abstract thinking about the protagonist’s life in general. Additionally, stronger identification was associated with more concrete thoughts about the readers themselves through the partial mediation of concrete thoughts about the character. These findings may reconcile previous inconsistent results about identification and have implications for narrative persuasion.
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ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Applied Psychology