What happens to you when you read?
What happens to you when you read?

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

8 Transportation and empathy

So how does transportation relate to empathy (i.e. the first psychological test you did in this course)? To return to the initial questions you answered on the interpersonal reactivity index you might expect that transportation may relate strongly to the fantasy scale (which measured the degree to which you imaginatively inhabit book characters). This has been found to be the case in prior research (e.g. Hall, 2011) which has shown that scores on the fantasy scale and transportation correlated when measuring people’s absorption into films.

What you might not have expected is that there appear to be strong links between the degree to which people are transported into a text and the degree of empathy they feel after finishing reading towards other people. In such research, high levels of transportation have been found to lead to increased empathic responding to others (e.g. Bal and Veltkamp, 2013; Walkington, Ashton Wigman and Bowles, 2020) and this holds true even if the people read about are ‘baddies’. In effect, therefore, the act of reading, and being transported into the story, may actually improve our levels of empathy towards others.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371