Home Society & Culture Moral Heroes and Underdogs Win Our Hearts in Fiction, Finds New Study

Moral Heroes and Underdogs Win Our Hearts in Fiction, Finds New Study

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A new study suggests that readers tend to identify more strongly with fictional characters that are morally “good” and those who face failure in their stories. The study, published Psychreg Journal of Psychology, offers new insights into the psychological mechanisms behind our connection with fictional narratives, especially in the realm of hypertext fiction story-games.

The research, which engaged around 130 participants, predominantly male and with a university-level education, revealed a significant inclination towards characters portrayed as morally upright or “good”. This insight aligns with a common societal norm where virtues and good morals are held in high regard. The study posits that this could be a reflection of our own moral aspirations and our desire to see goodness prevail in fiction as it does in our ideal version of reality.

The study also found that characters who fail or face adversity resonate more with readers than their successful counterparts. This preference challenges the traditional narrative of triumphant heroes, highlighting our deeper emotional connections with characters that reflect the realities of struggle and failure – elements that are undeniably part of the human experience.

An interesting aspect of the study was the exploration of the perceived gender of the protagonist. Despite the gender-neutral portrayal of the main character, a majority of participants presumed the protagonist to be male. This outcome points to an underlying bias in gender perception in fictional narratives, an area that warrants further exploration and discussion.

The study also explored how participants’ personal engagement styles in role-playing games affected their connection with the characters. Those who prioritised a strong narrative or dramatic storytelling reported a deeper identification with the characters, underscoring the importance of engaging storytelling in the creation of immersive and relatable fictional worlds.

These findings hold significant implications for content creators, particularly in the realms of digital media and mental health platforms. Understanding how character traits and narrative arcs influence reader engagement can guide the development of more compelling and emotionally resonant content. This is particularly pertinent in the creation of digital therapeutic tools and narratives, where a deeper emotional connection can enhance efficacy.

The study’s online methodology, which allowed for a broad and diverse range of participants, adds to the validity of these findings. The research methodology and findings pave the way for further studies in this field, particularly in exploring the nuances of character morality and narrative outcomes in fictional identification.

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