Some like it bad: Testing a model for perceiving and experiencing fictional characters

Elly A. Konijn, Johannes Ferdinand Hoorn

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

142 Citations (Scopus)


We developed an encompassing theory that explains how readers of fiction and spectators of motion pictures establish affective relationships with fictional characters (FCs). The perceiving and experiencing fictional characters (PEFiC) theory is anchored in art perception, psychological aesthetics, and social and emotion psychology and addresses both the complexity and intrinsic affectivity involved in media exposure. In a between-subject design (N = 312), engagement and appreciation were measured as a function of the ethics (good vs. bad), aesthetics (beautiful vs. ugly), and epistemics (realistic vs. unrealistic) of eight protagonists in feature movies. The PEFiC model best fit the data with a unipolarity of factors and outperformed traditional theories (identification, empathy): The trade-off between involvement and distance explained the appreciation of FCs better than either distance or involvement alone. The mediators similarity, relevance, and valence exerted significant (interaction) effects, thus complicating the results. Furthermore, the effects of mediated bad persons differed strongly from ethically good ones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-144
Number of pages38
JournalMedia Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


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