Sensing the Media Character: The Experience of Parasocial Interaction, But Not Identification, as a Real Physical Occurrence

Irene Razpurker-Apfeld, Nurit Tal-Or

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both parasocial interaction and identification involve engagement with media characters. However, in parasocial interaction the character is perceived as a person with whom the viewer interacts, while in identification the viewer merges with the character. Our study aimed to differentiate these concepts empirically by implementing an improved manipulation and using innovatively adapted measures. Participants (N = 116) were randomly assigned to watch one of three clips in which the protagonist’s style of address was manipulated. Subsequently, they were asked to report their perceptions regarding some physical aspects of their immediate environment, and their parasocial interaction and identification with the media character. As expected, directly gazing at the audience increased parasocial interactions but not identification, and directly gazing at a partner increased identification but not parasocial interactions. Moreover, directly gazing at the audience also increased the experience of social presence in the viewer’s room which was perceived to be noisier, warmer, and more crowded. This effect was mediated by stronger parasocial interactions and not by identification. Thus, people experiencing parasocial interactions, but not identification, feel as though there is another person in their room, interacting with them.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Popular Media
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association. All Rights Reserved.


  • direct address
  • eye gaze
  • identification
  • parasocial interaction
  • social presence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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