Does narrative perspective influence readers’ perspective-taking? An empirical study on free indirect discourse, psycho-narration and first-person narration

Abstract

It is often assumed that narrating a story from the protagonist’s perspective increases the readers’ inclination to take over this perspective. In a questionnaire study, we examined to which degree different textual modes of narration (a) increase the degree to which the reader can generally relate to the protagonist (what we will call relatedness), (b) make the reader prone to imagine the scene from the spatial point-of-view of the protagonist, and (c) enhance the psychological perspective-taking of the reader, measured as identification with the protagonist. We employed two different types of texts—one literary and one non-literary—and tested them in four different modes of narration: free indirect discourse, psycho-narration, first-person narration and external focalization. In terms of the relatedness between the reader and protagonist and spatial perspective-taking the largest differences (descriptively) occurred between external focalization and psycho-narration (p < .05 for relatedness, p < .05 for spatial perspective-taking) and between external focalization and first-person narration (p < .05 for relatedness, for spatial perspective-taking p < .1). Identification, measured with items from a questionnaire on reading experience (Appel et al. 2002), was highest for first-person narration. Here, the difference between first-person narration and external focalization turned out significant only after including dispositional empathy, thematic interest for the text and attention during reading as covariates. Results for the other two perspective-taking measures were unaffected by the inclusion of the same covariates. In conclusion, our data show that first-person and psycho-narration increased the tendency to take over the perspective of the protagonist, but FID did not.

 

This article is part of the special collection: Perspective Taking

Keywords

perspective-taking, identification, narrative point-of-view, free indirect discourse

How to Cite

Salem, S. & Weskott, T. & Holler, A., (2017) “Does narrative perspective influence readers’ perspective-taking? An empirical study on free indirect discourse, psycho-narration and first-person narration”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1): 61. doi: https://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.225

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Authors

Susanna Salem (University of Goettingen, CRC “Text Structures”)
Thomas Weskott (University of Goettingen, CRC “Text Structures”)
Anke Holler (University of Goettingen, CRC “Text Structures”)

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