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Empathic Features and Absorption in Fantasy Role-Playing


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This study examined the levels of empathy and absorption of individuals who regularly play fantasy and science fiction role-playing games. A hypothesis was developed that higher levels of empathy would be found in individuals who fantasy role-play based upon previous research in hypnosis such as J. R. Hilgard's (1970) imaginative involvement hypothesis, research into the "fantasy prone" personality type (Wilson & Barber, 1981), and the empathic involvement hypothesis (Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003). The participants in the current study were 127 fantasy role-players who volunteered and completed the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index (empathy) and the Tellegen Absorption Scale (absorption). The results demonstrated that those who play fantasy role-playing games scored significantly higher than the comparison group on the IRI scale of empathy, confirming the hypothesis that fantasy role-players report experiencing higher levels of empathic involvement with others. Correlational analysis between the measures demonstrated a significant positive correlation between empathy and absorption (r = .43, p < .001). These results collectively suggest that fantasy role-players have a uniquely empathically-imaginative style. The results also confirm and extend previous findings on the relationship between empathy and absorption as predicted by the Empathic Involvement Hypothesis (Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003).
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American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis
ISSN: 0002-9157 (Print) 2160-0562 (Online) Journal homepage:
Empathic Features and Absorption in Fantasy
Anissa Rivers, Ian E. Wickramasekera II, Ronald J. Pekala & Jennifer A. Rivers
To cite this article: Anissa Rivers, Ian E. Wickramasekera II, Ronald J. Pekala & Jennifer A. Rivers
(2016) Empathic Features and Absorption in Fantasy Role-Playing, American Journal of Clinical
Hypnosis, 58:3, 286-294, DOI: 10.1080/00029157.2015.1103696
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Published online: 16 Dec 2015.
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Empathic Features and Absorption in Fantasy Role-Playing
Anissa Rivers
Regional Mental Health Center, East Chicago, Indiana, USA
Ian E. Wickramasekera II
Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Ronald J. Pekala
Coatesville VA Medical Center, Coatesville, Pennsylvania, USA
Jennifer A. Rivers
Elms College, Chicopee, Massachusetts, USA
This study examined the levels of empathy and absorption of individuals who regularly play fantasy
and science fiction role-playing games. A hypothesis was developed that higher levels of empathy
would be found in individuals who fantasy role-play based upon previous research in hypnosis such
as J. R. Hilgards (1970) imaginative involvement hypothesis, research into the fantasy prone
personality type (Wilson & Barber, 1981), and the empathic involvement hypothesis
(Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003). The participants in the current study were 127 fantasy role-
players who volunteered and completed the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index (empathy) and the
Tellegen Absorption Scale (absorption). The results demonstrated that those who play fantasy role-
playing games scored significantly higher than the comparison group on the IRI scale of empathy,
confirming the hypothesis that fantasy role-players report experiencing higher levels of empathic
involvement with others. Correlational analysis between the measures demonstrated a significant
positive correlation between empathy and absorption (r = .43, p < .001). These results collectively
suggest that fantasy role-players have a uniquely empathically-imaginative style. The results also
confirm and extend previous findings on the relationship between empathy and absorption as
predicted by the Empathic Involvement Hypothesis (Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003).
Keywords: absorption, empathy, hypnosis, role-play
Empathy can be defined as the ability to understand anothers perspective and to share in
their feelings to some extent (Davis, 1994; Wondra & Ellsworth, 2015). Empathizing with
another person can be a kind of imaginative activity in which one puts himself or herself
in someone elses shoes to understand his or her journey in life. Some have argued that the
Address correspondence to Ian E. Wickramasekera II, Psy.D. Naropa University, 3285 30th St., Boulder, CO 80301,
USA. E-mail:
American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 58: 286294, 2016
Copyright © American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
ISSN: 0002-9157 print / 2160-0562 online
DOI: 10.1080/00029157.2015.1103696
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very act of empathizing with another person can create hypnotic-like experiences
(Krippner, 2004) as one becomes interpersonally absorbed within another persons
embodied phenomenology (Wickramasekera II, 2015). Many definitions of empathy
include elements of understanding, perspective taking, and validation of anothers feel-
ings (Davis, 1994). People with high levels of trait empathy have been shown to engage in
more frequent prosocial and helping behaviors (Happ, Melzer, & Steffgen, 2013). Mark
Davis, the author of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) measure of empathy used in
this study, has identified four subtypes of empathy in his research, which are known as
perspective taking, personal distress, fantasy empathy, and empathic concern (Davis,
1980, 1983, 1994). Some forms of empathy appear to be relatively automatic while others
are more deliberate and cognitive in nature (Davis, 1994). In this study we pursue a
hypothesis that individuals who play role-playing games (RPGs) may be higher in trait
empathy similar to the population of individuals that are highly hypnotizable
(Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003; Wickramasekera II, 2015).
Fantasy RPGs involve a shared fantasy environment in which players create their own
characters and the fictional worlds the game occurs within. These fictional worlds are
often based upon science fiction and fantasy novels and role-players take great care to
create social systems, economies, and backgrounds for the characters that they play. This
is particularly important in traditional tabletop or in-person RPGs such as Dungeons and
Dragons (D&D). The development of a fictional character usually includes deciding on
the background and origin of their characters. The player decides on their characters
personal style, ethical beliefs, skills and abilities, and even their religious practices. These
choices are more constricted in console games or computer games but the player is still
allowed to make many strong choices regarding important actions in the game that result
in their unique co-creation of a character that results from a significant investment of time.
The last 30 years have seen tremendous growth in the gaming industry (Global Games
Market Report, 2015). The first popular RPG is called D&D. D&D was created in 1974,
taking traditional tactical and war games into a fantasy setting for the first time and starting a
style of game that has persisted and grown tremendously with the advent of computer and
mobile gaming. Online MMORGs (massively multiplayer online RPGs) like World of
Warcraft (WOW) have millions of subscribers alone. The difference between role-playing
and creating your character may have different impacts than first person shooter games,
which usually have pre-created characters. Increasingly, consumers are interested in parti-
cipating in their media, taking a more active than passive role in their entertainment through
gaming, cosplay (the act of creating costumes, makeup and extensive props to represent
characters from games, comics, or movies) and attending live competitions and conventions
which as many as 50 to 70 thousand people attend at a single convention (Superdata
Research, 2015). Games are claiming a growing share of revenue in key entertainment
markets second only to cable and broadcast television in earnings and ahead of the music
and film industries (Superdata Research, 2015). While this study focuses on fantasy RPGs,
there is no doubt the number of people gaming regularly has grown tremendously over the
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last 30 years, and can now be considered mainstream. This creates an opportunity to study
questions about the types of people that seek out different types of games and the effects of
playing these games on their cognitive, emotional, and psychological states.
There have been relatively few studies looking for the potential positive effects and
benefits of gaming. However, some studies have demonstrated findings that indicate
that prosocial behaviors and thinking can result from playing games with prosocial
themes (Gentile et al., 2009). Greitemeyer and Osswald (2010) noted that spontaneous
helping behavior as well as low-cost and high-cost oriented helping behavior could be
seen to increase in both genders while playing games.
The current study was created to look at some personality characteristics of individuals
who regularly play fantasy RPGs. Our hypothesis was that higher self-reported levels of
empathy might exist in individuals who fantasy role-play. We hypothesize that frequently
playing a character may potentially increase a role-players perspective taking skills since
role-playing requires a person to alter their perspective to some degree in order to play the
part of his or her character accurately since most players do not play themselves in RPGs.
Perspective taking skills are some of the most highly researched aspects of the multi-
dimensional construct of empathy in social psychology (Davis, 1994).
Focusing on playing a character for long periods of time may also have an impact on the
persons ability to remain completely attuned and absorbed with their experience of playing
his or her character and his or her characters perception of the fantasy environment in
which he or she is interacting with others. Research on absorption has discovered that
people who possess high levels of it often report experiencing a special type of empathic or
interpersonal absorption with characters in books, movies, and theater (J. R. Hilgard, 1970;
Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974). Previously, Wickramasekera II and Szlyk (2003)founda
moderate correlation between measures of empathy, absorption, and hypnotic ability.
This type of empathic absorption may be so strong that the highly empathically absorbed
person finds that he or she can lose himself or herself in the experiences of the character that
he or she is identifying with while feeling as if he or she were a part of the story. This type of
interpersonal absorption would seem to require a high degree of openness to the experiences
suggested to the player of the RPG by the gamemaster in the in-person versions of fantasy
RPGs. It may be that the gamemaster functions in a way similar to the role of the hypnotist
in hypnosis. The gamemaster in fantasy role-playing serves a number of purposes including
describing the consequences of the players choices and actions in the game and enforcing
various rules and pre-arranged plots that may enfold during gameplay. The gamemaster
must therefore describe many visual scenes to the player while also describing the players
physical experiences in the game as he or she make choices. For example, a gamemaster
might describe what a player can see when he or she opens a door and what physically
happens to him or her when he or she step through the door and accidentally stumble into a
trap. We hypothesize that the way in which the gamemaster describes the visual imagery
and physical experiences of a player in an RPG may be quite analogous to how a hypnotist
uses imagery, experiential language, and suggestions in hypnosis.
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The participants were 128 volunteers (90 male, 27 female) from large groups of fantasy
gamers who were notified of the experiment through several methods including
announcements on electronic bulletin boards whose topics included gaming, mailing
lists for groups of gamers in several geographic areas, and flyers at locations that focus
on RPGs and supplies. Several groups that play tabletop RPGs based near large
Midwestern universities agreed to participate and complete the survey. One participant
did not fully complete all the items, and those data were removed from all analyses.
The Davis IRI (1983, 1994) was used to measure the empathic capacity of the respondents.
The IRI is a survey composed of 28 items and is divided into four subscales. The four
subscales are derived from seven items each measuring fantasy empathy, empathic concern,
perspective taking, and personal distress (Davis, 1994). Fantasy empathy was designed to
measure an individuals capacity to identify with fictional characters and settings in various
mediums such as books, plays, and films. The empathic concern scale was designed to
measure an individuals propensity to respond with compassionate feelings of concern to
another persons difficulty and distress. The personal distress scale examines anxiety and
other negative affect resulting from experiences with other persons suffering in difficult or
crisis situations. The perspective taking scale was designed to measure an individuals
tendency to see things from anothers point of view when relating with him or her. The
questions were designed in a self-report format that asked for participants to rate how well
each statement describes them on a scale of 04. The instrument has been utilized with a
variety of populations and has been found to possess good internal reliability, test-retest
reliability, and validity (Davis, 1980, 1983, 1994).
The Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS) was utilized to assess absorption levels in role-
playing gamers. The TAS was designed as a brief measure that has 34 true or false
items. The internal (r = .88) and testretest reliability (r = .91) was reported to be good
(Tellegen, 1982). Previous research has found absorption to be a reliable correlate of
hypnotic ability although some controversy exists about the degree to which context
effects influence the magnitude of the correlations observed in these studies (Council,
Kirsch, & Hafner, 1986).
The surveys were completed online through a secure Web site designed by Psychdata.
com staff, Ed. (20012005) to assist psychological researchers to safely collect data
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from participants ( The instruments were typed into a PsychData
template and the participants answered questions by clicking on a small box next to the
appropriate answer. In order to move forward in the test, the participants each read and
signed an informed consent form and completed a demographic data form. The site
provided a location to safely and securely host online research.
Respondents were requeste d to categoriz e their game pla ying medium (pl atform) by
whether they played online/by computer only (n =19),mostlyonline(n =16),
mostly tabletop/in-person gaming (n = 44), or both online gaming and tabletop
(n = 48). Most individuals who completed the exams were between the ages of 27
and 46 (n = 99). F or education al level, 60 individual s had either an undergraduate or
graduate level o f education, with another 41 stating that they had some college or
technical training. Table 1 presents the means and standard deviations for all
measures and the demogra phic surveys that were given to respondent s. The means
for the demographic data are for the category label numbers (12 for gender, 16for
education level, e tc.).
Table 2 presents the inter-correlations for the TAS and the IRI. The TAS is sig-
nificantly correlated with the IRI and its subscales with the exception of the Personal
Distress subscale. There was a positive correlation (r = .43, p < .001) between the total
TAS score (absorption) and the total IRI score (empathy).
A series of t tests were conducted on the subscales of the empathy scale to compare
the results of this study to the normative sample from the original study (Davis, 1980).
Table 3 presents the results of these analyses. All t tests were significantly supporting
the hypothesis that the participants of this study scored higher than the general
Descriptive Statistics
Measure MSD
Age 02.523 00.913
Gender 01.289 00.455
Education level 03.063 01.462
Gaming 02.969 01.064
TAS 20.195 07.270
IRI 83.305 12.743
IRI subscalefantasy empathy (FE) 23.445 05.421
IRI subscaleperspective taking (PT) 22.766 04.735
IRI subscaleempathic concern (EC) 21.945 05.176
IRI subscalepersonal distress (PD) 15.148 05.434
Note. N = 127.
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population on all empathy subscales. Essentially, there were no statistical differences
between the men and women gamers in this study.
The current study has replicated and extended earlier research on the empathic involve-
ment hypothesis of hypnosis (Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003; Wickramasekera II,
2015) while also demonstrating the empathic nature of fantasy RPGs. Empathy and
absorption are correlated in our findings (r = .43, p < .001) and the observed correlation
is very similar to the results found in previous studies with very different populations
(Wickramasekera II, 2015). Empathy thus appears to be a trait that can be found in those
who are high in absorption in accordance with the empathic involvement theory (EIT)
of hypnosis (Wickramasekera II, 2015). It may be then be that high-hypnotizables may
use their empathic talents to adopt the attitudes, body language, expectations, social
roles, and suggestions presented to them in hypnosis.
Inter-Correlations for TAS, IRI, and IRI Subscales
12345 6
1. TAS 1.000
2. IRI 0.427*** 1.000
3. FE 0.522*** 0.655*** 1.000
4. PT 0.235** 0.466*** 0.011 1.000
5. EC 0.255** 0.772*** 0.304*** 0.398*** 1.000
6. PD 0.033 0.551*** 0.240** 0.168 0.209* 1.000
*p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001.
IRI Means Comparison Between Daviss(1980) Study and the Current Study
Males Davis (N = 579) Current Study (N = 90)
IRI FE 15.73 5.60 23.08 5.67 11.57***
IRI PT 16.78 4.72 22.20 4.94 09.72***
IRI EC 19.04 4.21 21.01 5.22 03.41***
IRI PD 09.46 4.55 15.43 5.55 09.72***
Females Davis (N = 582) Current Study (N = 37)
IRI FE 18.75 5.17 24.41 4.78 06.96***
IRI PT 17.96 4.85 24.14 4.01 08.97***
IRI EC 21.67 3.83 24.14 4.46 03.29***
IRI PD 12.28 5.01 14.41 5.23 02.41*
*p < .05, ***p < .001.
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When comparing the participants results from the original study to this study, gamers
scored significantly higher than the original population in the fantasy empathy, empathic
concern, and perspective taking subscales (Davis, 1980). It is poss ible that the higher
educational level of our participants may account for these diffe rences since previous research
has demonstrated that empathy is correlated with higher educational levels in general (Davis,
1994). However , we are not able to assess this statistically in our study . It is also possible that
other factors, such as the overall length of time in gaming, and type of gaming may have also
had an impact on what skills or personality characteristics are reinforced through the gaming
experience. We recommend that future studies of the empathic characteristics of fantasy role-
players may wish to follow up on these important alternative hypotheses.
Players of fantasy RPGs have been perceived for many years as a potentially
unhealthy and disaffected group of people who are lost in their own imaginary world
(Gentile et al., 2009). However, this view is not supported by the results of the current
study. Fantasy role-players are actually higher in empathy than the general population
although the reasons for this may not necessarily have to do with playing fantasy RPGs.
In any event, gamers may therefore not be that lost or isolated from reality as was
previously thought. Instead, players of these RPGs may be stepping in and out of other
peoples view of the world (be it fictional or not) in what can best be described as an
empathically absorbed act. It would be interesting to study in future research the real-
life relationships of participants to examine for differences with their in-game playing
style. Furthermore, players of face to face RPGs may even be having hypnotic-like
experiences of interpersonal absorption with their gamemaster. This would be very
much in line with role-taking, expectancy, and social cognitive theories of hypnosis
(Kirsch & Council, 1992; Sarbin, 1950, 1997; Silva & Kirsch, 1992).
Further research could be enacted to determine if fantasy role-players are more
cognitively flexible than the general population and how that correlates with levels
of empathy. Their experience of creating an online or imaginary self may mean that
they have less rigidity in their views of self and other based identities. Like many traits,
high levels of empathy and frequent perspective taking may be used in prosocial ways
or perhaps more aggressive behaviors in practice. Some games can encourage aggres-
sive cognitions and behaviors, but the context of the violence matters (Anderson, 2010).
If that violence is perceived as unjustified, gamers may feel guilt and dissatisfaction
with the game (Hartmann, Toz, & Brandon, 2010). Meanwhile, if the violence is
perceived as justified then the game is reported as more satisfying, particularly in
those with high levels of empathy (Hartmann et al., 2010). Players can greatly increase
prosocial and helpful behaviors in games where the game has prosocial goals (Gentile et
al., 2009, Happ et al., 2013). RPGs and simulations could be an effective way to
encourage cooperation, teach improved skills for diplomacy and communication,
build teamwork, and prepare individuals to manage complex and crisis situations.
The utility of role-playing for both learning and for creative expression could also be
potentially useful for clinical purposes (Blackmon, 1994). If the characteristics of
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individuals who participate in role-playing on a regular basis includes empathy and
absorption then they might benefit a great deal from hypnosis and biofeedback
(Wickramasekera II, 2005). This has been demonstrated by other groups with fantasy
prone personalities such as those that were involved with acting and drama at a young age
(J. R. Hilgard, 1970). De Freitas (2006) further hypothesized that role-playing may be
particularly effective with underserved learners, learners with skills needs and informal
learners, as well as supporting collaborative learning practices (De Freitas, 2006).
This study focused on self-report data but an important area for further research
would be to look at empathic behaviors. A future study could identify fantasy role-
playing gamers who score higher on the IRIs perspective taking scale and evaluate their
prosocial behaviors on a more long term basis. There may also be a relationship to the
measures of emotional desensitization to the personal distress scale on the IRI.
It may be that the relatively high levels of empathy observed in the players of RPGs
in this study are not just an inherent trait of those that play these games. It could be that
fantasy RPGs encourage, train, and develop empathic skills in perspective taking and
other empathy related processes. It may be that the satisfying hypnotic-like (Krippner,
2004) quality of this kind of role-playing experience encourages the development of
empathic abilities acquired while playing RPGs. Similarly, it may even be that training
in hypnosis may increase a persons empathic capacity as well as being correlated with
hypnotic ability (Wickramasekera II, 2015).
The content of this presentation does not represent the views of the Department of
Veterans Affairs nor the U.S. Government.
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... This was mainly in the domains of originality and uniqueness of the responses, as opposed to flexibility and fluency of thinking. Rivers et al. (2016) also explored thinking styles, namely empathy (i.e., understanding others and relating to their feelings on an emotional level). As a result, the authors compared RPG players, including D&D players, to norms using the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1994). ...
... Beyond this empathy measurement, the Tellegen Absorption Scale (Tellegen, 1982) was utilized to assess the extent to which participants can immerse themselves in an activity. Rivers et al. (2016) hypothesized that high levels of absorption could facilitate greater levels of empathy not just with other people, but also with fictional characters. Results indicated higher levels of both variables in the RPG player sample compared to norms, with a significant correlation between empathy and absorption. ...
... This links to the second theme, potential benefits of D&D, which summarizes tentative evidence on how the game can support clients. It appears that D&D facilitates higher levels of creativity (e.g., Chung, 2013) and empathy (e.g., Rivers et al., 2016). This was linked to a variety of other factors, for example, maintaining friendships and general feelings of connectedness, exploring varying lifestyle models (e.g., Wilson, 2007), as well as a heightened ability to consider group's needs and more balanced differential moral reasoning (Wright et al., 2020). ...
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... Henrich and Worthington (2021) conducted a rapid evidence assessment of the therapeutic utility of D&D, and they found a tentative link between D&D and psychological benefits such as creativity (Chung, 2013) and empathy (Rivers et al., 2016). This is supported by the broader literature on RPG, where evidence exists for a wider range of skills positively impacted by RPG. ...
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... For example, teachers could provide students with more group-based tasks, such as working together on creative writing and cultural presentations, as a way to promote interactive communication and cooperation, to cultivate their awareness of listening to, understanding, and assimilating the perspectives of others, and to enhance their interest in foreign cultures, thereby enhancing their creativity in FLs. Moreover, given that the conception of persona (i.e., using a persona during ideation) can raise empathy levels (Miaskiewicz and Kozar, 2011), teachers should give students more opportunities to role-play in FL classes because doing so helps to promote the development of empathy skills (Rivers et al., 2016). ...
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Creative self-efficacy (CSE) is a core influencer of creative behavior and has a positive impact on well-being and development. However, the positive psychological processes that help to promote CSE in foreign-language learning (FLL) remain under-studied. Focusing specifically on FLL students, the present study examined the associations among optimism, hope, empathy, and CSE and investigated the possible mediating roles of hope and empathy in the relationship between optimism and CSE. A sample of 330 FLL students from two Chinese universities participated in this study. The results showed that (i) optimism, hope, and empathy were all positively related to CSE and that (ii) optimism did not directly predict CSE but indirectly and positively predicted CSE through hope and empathy. These findings suggest that optimism, empathy, and hope potentially play positive roles in facilitating CSE in FLL students. Based on the present results, some practical approaches are discussed that could help improve the CSE of FLL students, paying particular attention to the effects that potentially motivate their positivity.
... With the popularization of RPGs and their growing cultural and behavioral influence, researchers have investigated their possible applications in various areas of knowledge, highlighting their potential positive and negative effects (Deterding and Zagal, 2018;Fine, 1981Fine, , 1983Scott and Porter-Armstrong, 2013). Some studies have shown an association between the practice of RPG with greater motivation and selfefficacy (Bowman, 2014;White, 2008), creativity (Daniau, 2016;Dyson et al., 2016;Meriläinen, 2012), empathy (Rivers et al., 2016), well-being (Scott and Porter-Armstrong, 2013) and increased social connections, engagement and a sense of belonging (Adams, 2013;Daniau, 2016;Fein, 2015;Sargent, 2014). Thus, the literature highlights its potential benefits in educational (Bowman, 2014;Jabbar and Felicia, 2015) and psychological (Bowman and Liberoth, 2018;Lieberoth and Trier-Knudsen, 2016) contexts. ...
Background. Role-playing game (RPG) is a term that covers a series of forms and styles of games that involve, in some way, the creation, representation and progression of characters who interact in a fictional world under a system of structured rules. Its applications and effects on human behavior and mental health are, however, still an underexplored area. Methods. A scoping review was performed on the literature about RPGs as a therapeutic tool or prevention strategy in psychotherapies and mental health, highlighting studies’ populations, forms of RPG and interventions used. To that, a systematic search in the PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, BVS/LILACS databases and grey literature was performed. Results. Of the 4,069 studies reviewed, 50 sources of evidence were included. The majority was published as of 2011 (78%) in journals (62%) and targeted therapeutic uses of RPGs (84%). Most interventions used computer (50%) or tabletop RPGs (44%), mostly with cognitive and/or behavioral (52%) therapeutical approaches and targeting adolescents (70%). Conclusion. The findings suggest a potential use of RPGs as a complementary tool in psychotherapies. However, only 16% of the studies included were experimental. We identified considerable heterogeneity in RPGs definitions, outcomes and interventions used, preventing a systematic review. Thus, more empirical and well-designed studies on the application of RPGs in mental health are needed.
... We are all familiar with the experience of being absorbed in a good book, a television program or movie, a sporting event, and so forth -at first there is you reading the book or watching the movie and then 'you' disappears and all that is happening in your consciousness is the story. Absorption may also occur while having an orgasm (Safron, 2016), daydreaming or fantasying (Rivers et al., 2016), listening to poetry or music (Gucksohn & Goodblatt, 1991), hallucinating (Glicksohn & Barrett, 2003), being hypnotised (Glisky et al., 1991), practicing such methods as Jungian 'active imagination' or Husserlian 'eidetic variation' or 'eidetic insight' (Ramonth, 1985), and focusing upon imagery while involved in biofeedback practices (Qualls & Sheehan, 1981). Absorption states are also fundamental to spiritually salient ASC (Mohr, 2018;Pecala et al., 1985;2010). ...
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Although phenomenologist Edmund Husserl's project was not directed at transpersonal experiences, his methods are nevertheless applicable in a profound and effective way. We explore Husserl's project and its methods for their relevance to transpersonal studies. Husserl laid out the proposition that science, including psychology, must be grounded in the study of perception, which after all is the source of all data of interest to the sciences. He held that until the essential structures of experience are laid bare, scientists have no idea of which elements of experience come from the environing world (Umwelt) and which are projected by the cognizing mind upon the world. His methods of reduction and epoché are explored and rudimentary steps toward realizing the 'phenomenological attitude' are defined. Once we are clear about how Husserlian phenomenology is actually accomplished, we turn to its relevance to transpersonal studies, offering examples first by applying them to the Taylor-Hartelius debate in transpersonal psychology, and then to the issue of absorption states in transpersonal anthropology and the study of the roots of religion cross-culturally.
... One of the most well-known approaches for assessing dispositional empathy (however, see Eisenberg & Strayer, 1990, for a discussion of potential weaknesses of this approach) is to use a self-reported questionnaire, such as Davis's Interpersonal Reactivity Index (also known as the IRI questionnaire), which is the most frequently used (Davis, 1983;Garcia-Barrera et al., 2017;Hojat, 2016;Otterbacher, et al., 2016;Rivers et al., 2016). Measurement of dispositional empathy may be affected by self-representation concerns, but the IRI questionnaire has an acceptable validity and reliability confirmed in studies with Dutch (De Corte et al., 2007), Chinese (Siu & Shek, 2005), and French population (Gilet, 2013). ...
Background. Empathic interactions with animated game characters can help improve user experience, increase immersion, and achieve better affective outcomes related to the use of the game. Method. We used a 2x2 between-participant design and a control condition to analyze the impact of the visual appearance of a virtual game character on empathy and immersion. The four experimental conditions of the game character appearance were: Natural (virtual animal) with expressiveness (emotional facial expressions), natural (virtual animal) with non-expressiveness (without emotional facial expressions), artificial (virtual robotic animal) with expressiveness (emotional facial expressions), and artificial (virtual robotic animal) with non-expressiveness (without emotional facial expressions). The control condition contained a baseline amorphous game character. 100 participants between 18 to 29 years old (M=22.47) were randomly assigned to one of five experimental groups. Participants originated from several countries: Aruba (1), China (1), Colombia (3), Finland (1), France (1), Germany (1), Greece (2), Iceland (1), India (1), Iran (1), Ireland (1), Italy (3), Jamaica (1), Latvia (1), Morocco (3), Netherlands (70), Poland (1), Romania (2), Spain (1), Thailand (1), Turkey (1), United States (1), and Vietnam (1). Results. We found that congruence in appearance and facial expressions of virtual animals (artificial + non-expressive and natural + expressive) leads to higher levels of self-reported situational empathy and immersion of players in a simulated environment compared to incongruent appearance and facial expressions. Conclusions. The results of this investigation showed an interaction effect between artificial/natural body appearance and facial expressiveness of a virtual character’s appearance. The evidence from this study suggests that the appearance of the virtual animal has an important influence on user experience.
... Instead, subsequent research has supported the notion that playing RPGs is associated with creativity (Chung, 2013;Meriläinen, 2012), and qualitative research has suggested that RPGs may be suitable for fostering knowledge acquisition, strengthening team building, and supporting personal development (Daniau, 2016). One study found that RPGs were positively associated with self-reported empathy (Rivers, Wickramasekera, Pekala, & Rivers, 2016). Thus, in contrast to the image portrayed in the media, cross-sectional research has suggested that people who play tabletop RPGs are not characterized by negative traits. ...
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The popularity of miniature wargames (MWGs) has recently been on the rise. We aimed to identify the personality characteristics of people who play MWGs. Whereas the popular media have suspected that fantasy role-playing and war-related games cause antisocial behavior, past research on tabletop role-playing has shown that gamers are creative and empathetic individuals. Previous studies have investigated pen-and-paper tabletop games, which require imagination and cooperation between players. Tabletop MWGs are somewhat different because players compete against each other, and there is a strong focus on war-related actions. Thus, people have voiced the suspicion that players of this type of game may be rather aggressive. In the present study, 250 male MWG players completed questionnaires on the Big Five, authoritarianism, risk-orientation, and motives as well as an intelligence test. The same measures were administered to non-gamers, tabletop role-playing gamers, and first-person shooter gamers. Results indicated that according to self-reports, MWG players are more open, more extraverted, and have a higher need for affiliation than non-gamers. Further, high scores on reasoning and low scores on authoritarianism were typical of MWG players, and MWG players were similar to other gamers on these characteristics. All in all, our findings show that despite their penchant for (re)-enacting war scenes, MWG players seem to be open, nonauthoritarian individuals. Future research may add to these findings by using observer reports and longitudinal research to better understand whether intelligent and nontraditional people are attracted to MWGs or whether the setting of MWGs supports the development of such traits.
Previous research has indicated that high Thought Impact Scale (TIS) scores are associated with greater therapeutic response to hypnosis treatment and greater tendency to seek such treatment. This study aimed to confirm those findings in a new population-based subject sample and also evaluate hypothesized associations of TIS scores with several hypnotic phenomena. An internet survey of 1,500 U.S. adults identified 80 individuals who had undergone hypnosis treatment. As previously found, high TIS scorers were much more likely than low scorers (median-split) to have undergone hypnosis treatment (7.2% vs. 3.2%, p < .0001), but, in contrast with prior findings, high TIS scorers did not report a significantly higher rate of moderate or greater improvement from hypnosis treatment (58.6% vs. 40.9%, p = .12). TIS scores were positively correlated with greater imagery vividness, sense of automaticity, and altered body perception during hypnosis.
Research shows that social connectedness is decreasing and loneliness increasing in the United States, subsequently resulting in a health crisis due to the anxiety and depression these attributes can cause. There is evidence that clinicians have difficulty treating individuals experiencing social anxiety and there is need for intervention strategies that lower treatment barriers. There has been scant research recognizing the use of table-top role-playing games to incorporate when treating social anxiety. The current manuscript describes a year-long group using Dungeons and Dragons in a therapeutic setting and explores perceptions from participants who experienced this group. Core concepts of the model and lessons learned from the developers are described for clinicians who hope to incorporate such a model. Participants described increased confidence in social situations, particularly with boundaries or making mistakes. Secondly, the skills practiced in the game were transferred into real-world experiences. Implications for future research and limitations were described.
The Thought Impact Scale (TIS) is a new questionnaire designed to measure the theorized psychological characteristic of subconscious connectedness, defined as the degree to which nonconscious mental functions spontaneously interact with, and are accessible to, conscious awareness in everyday life. A principal reason for developing the TIS was the expectation that subconscious connectedness influences hypnosis treatment responses and seeking of hypnosis treatment. Two studies involving 1,216 subjects were carried out to validate the questionnaire. The TIS exhibited high internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha of 0.93 and 0.95), good one-month test-retest reliability (r = 0.89), and convergent validity evidenced by substantial correlations with other measures hypothesized to partly assess the same construct: Absorption (r = 0.70), fantasy proneness (r = 0.54), dissociation (r = 0.50), and emotional empathy (r = 0.39). TIS scores were approximately normally distributed, higher in females than males, and declining with age. Exploratory factor analysis showed the TIS to be composed of a single dominant factor. High TIS scorers were 2.5 times as likely as low scorers to have undergone hypnosis treatment, 2.6 times as likely to report at least moderate benefit after hypnosis treatment, and 3.8 times as likely to consider themselves highly hypnotizable. High TIS scorers also more frequently reported being highly creative, art lovers, intuition-reliant, absentminded, spontaneous, novelty-seeking, and prone to form intense relationships. The TIS is a reliable and valid measure that is likely to be useful in clinical hypnosis practice and hypnosis research and for quantifying communication between conscious and nonconscious mental functions.
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Empathy, feeling what others feel, is regarded as a special phenomenon that is separate from other emotional experiences. Emotion theories say little about feeling emotions for others and empathy theories say little about how feeling emotions for others relates to normal firsthand emotional experience. Current empathy theories focus on how we feel emotions for others who feel the same thing, but not how we feel emotions for others that they do not feel, such as feeling angry for someone who is sad or feeling embarrassed for someone who is self-assured. We propose an appraisal theory of vicarious emotional experiences, including empathy, based on appraisal theories of emotion. According to this theory, emotions for others are based on how we evaluate their situations, just as firsthand emotions are based on how we evaluate our own situations. We discuss how this framework can predict empathic emotion matching and also the experience of emotions for others that do not match what they feel. The theory treats empathy as a normal part of emotional experience. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
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This article reviews a growing body of research and theory in hypnosis and neuroscience that supports the empathic involvement theory (EIT) of hypnosis (Wickramasekera II, 2001; Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003; Wickramasekera II, 2007c). The EIT is a unified transpersonal theory of hypnosis and the self, which weaves together empathic elements of Dzogchen, neodissociative, neuroscience, psychoanalytic, sociocognitive, and other theories by proposing that hypnotic phenomena are inherently characterized by their deep involvement with processes of empathy and the self. The EIT proposes that the experience of hypnosis is embodied in a system of neural networks in the brain that utilizes empathy-related processes, adaptive resonance between perceptual input and top-down expectancies, and connectionist learning algorithms to (a) empathically enact the affect, cognition, body language, response expectancies, social roles, sensations, etc. that are presented to them during hypnosis in accordance with socio-cognitive theories of hypnosis; (b) engage in a convergent psychophysiological relationship with another person in accordance with psychoanalytic, Ericksonian, and polyvagal/social engagement system theories; (c) alter the empathic self/other (theory of mind) coding of phenomenological experiences during hypnosis in accordance with aspects of the neo-dissociative and socio-cognitive traditions; and (d) develop an experiential understanding of the illusion of self that may lead, in some people, to its transcendence in accordance with Bon-Buddhist, Dzogchen, and transpersonal scholars. A unified definition of hypnosis is proposed based on findings in the empathic neuroscience of hypnosis as well as a working model of the neuromatrix of the self.
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The importance of measuring hypnotic ability as an important first step in mind/body medicine is reviewed. Knowledge of a client’s hypnotic ability and phenomenological experience of hypnosis is of critical value when determining the ideal integration of hypnosis and biofeedback for that person. Differences in empathic disposition appear to underlie why low hypnotizable persons prefer using biofeedback at the onset of psychotherapy, as well as why high hypnotizable persons are recommended to begin with hypnosis. Low hypnotizable persons appear to enjoy the biomedical validation of applied psychophysiology, whereas high hypnotizable persons can utilize their empathic gifts in hypnosis.
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Recent findings indicate that events in video games as well as players’ perceptions of game characters moderate well-established video game effects. This includes the level of identification with game characters, and players’ interpretation of whether or not the actions of the characters are conceived as moral. In the present study, it was tested whether manipulating empathy for well-known game characters influences video game effects in a violent beat-‘em-up game. As was expected, playing the comic hero Superman led to more prosocial behavior (i.e., returning a lost letter) than playing the evil villain Joker. A similar positive effect was observed for inducing game characters as warm and empathic before playing. Compared to a neutral text, participants in the empathy text condition judged the violence in the game as less justified, irrespective of game character. When looking at hostile perception, an interaction was found between empathy and game character. For Superman, empathy led participants to interpret neutral faces as less aggressive. When playing the evil Joker, however, empathy even increased hostile perception. This is in line with previous findings that empathy may not be positive per se. In fact, it may backfire depending on the interaction of game character and the empathy players feel for them.
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Many avid gamers discount violent conduct in video games as morally insignificant as “it is just a game.” However, recent debates among users, regarding video games featuring inappropriate forms of virtual violence, suggest a more complex truth. Two experiments (N1 = 49, N2 = 80) examined users' guilt responses in order to explore the moral significance of virtual violence. In both studies, justification of virtual violence and users' trait empathy determined guilt in a structurally similar way to real-world scenarios: People felt guiltier if they engaged in unjustified virtual violence, especially if they were empathetic players. These results show that video games are capable of inducing affective moral responses in users. Accordingly, virtual violence may be considered morally significant action.
To facilitate a multidimensional approach to empathy the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) includes 4 subscales: Perspective-Taking (PT) Fantasy (FS) Empathic Concern (EC) and Personal Distress (PD). The aim of the present study was to establish the convergent and discriminant validity of these 4 subscales. Hypothesized relationships among the IRI subscales between the subscales and measures of other psychological constructs (social functioning self-esteem emotionality and sensitivity to others) and between the subscales and extant empathy measures were examined. Study subjects included 677 male and 667 female students enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes at the University of Texas. The IRI scales not only exhibited the predicted relationships among themselves but also were related in the expected manner to other measures. Higher PT scores were consistently associated with better social functioning and higher self-esteem; in contrast Fantasy scores were unrelated to these 2 characteristics. High EC scores were positively associated with shyness and anxiety but negatively linked to egotism. The most substantial relationships in the study involved the PD scale. PD scores were strongly linked with low self-esteem and poor interpersonal functioning as well as a constellation of vulnerability uncertainty and fearfulness. These findings support a multidimensional approach to empathy by providing evidence that the 4 qualities tapped by the IRI are indeed separate constructs each related in specific ways to other psychological measures.
Throughout the history of hypnosis, excellent hypnotic subjects (sometimes referred to as somnambules or somnambulists) have been studied in terms of how they respond and what they experience when given suggestions to hallucinate, to age regress, to experience anesthesia, to go into a trance, etc. Although their behavior in a hypnotic or suggestive setting has been looked at extensively, there has been very little research in which they were intensively interviewed to discover how their extremely high responsiveness to suggestions is related to their life histories.
The growing interest in the use of games and simulations to support learning is evidenced in the literature, as well as in recent research projects and initiatives. While a focus upon the users of games and simulations is not well evidenced in the literature, this study aimed to highlight key issues and perceptions that inform and underpin how games and simulations were regarded by learners, tutors and experts using these tools. The paper highlights several key issues at stake in the wider debate about the validity of using games and simulations, including strengths of games to motivate learners, as well as scepticism about its efficacy as a learning tool. However, games and simulations are regarded as tools that may support differentiated learner groups including underserved learners, learners with skills needs (e.g. numeracy and literacy) and informal learners seeking to learn from experiences, as well as supporting collaborative learning practices. Furthermore, the majority of learners and tutors using games and simulations involved in the study did find value in using these tools as part of their wider learning and teaching practices.
[This book examines] empathy from the standpoint of contemporary social/personality psychology—emphasizing these disciplines' traditional subject matter (e.g., emotion, cognition, helping, aggression) and its research techniques (survey research, laboratory experiments). [The author's] goal was to provide a thorough, readable . . . summary of contemporary empathy research [primarily for advanced undergraduate and graduate students]. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
begin with a review of the literature on personality correlates of hypnotizability / [examines] situational influences on suggestibility / consider the interface of person and situation, as manifested by situation-specific person variables personality correlates of hypnotic responsiveness [absorption, context effects and the Tellegen Absorption Scale, imaginative involvement, fantasy proneness, imagery vividness, dissociation] / situational correlates of suggestibility [hypnotic inductions and suggestions, "advanced" hypnotic techniques, enhancing suggestibility without a trance induction, expectancy-altering information, the modification of hypnotizability] (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)