The Indirect Effects Of Power On Moral Judgments During Parasocial Processing
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The present research examined the role of attribution as a mediator of the parasocial processes of moral judgment and empathic engagement within the context of a textual fictitious narrative. To address this research, the current study investigated the interactions between aspects of the parasocial phenomenon, user experience, and narrative context, and connected these relationships to the area of information processing in media psychology. Focusing on the information processing aspect of the parasocial experience the dissertation reports on an experimental study that empirically tests the degree to which power, by way of attribution, influences moral judgment of and empathic engagement with a narrative protagonist. Specifically, a protagonist perceived to be in a high-power position will bring about deontological moral judgments based on abstract notions of what is right and wrong, in addition to a low expression of empathy and high expression of counter empathy. Alternatively, a protagonist perceived to be in a lowpower position will lead to consequential moral judgments based on the relative goodness of an action's consequences and will be accompanied by a high expression of empathy and low expression of counter empathy. In both directions, attribution was hypothesized as the mechanism of the effect. This central hypothesis was supported in that power distinctions were found to be related to moral judgments and affective engagement, with attribution mediating the effect. Ultimately, the study bridges research on attribution and power with the theoretical concept of parasocial processing, while also providing practical guidance for the characterization of protagonists in narrative content.
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