The Effects of Narrative Perspectives and Gender Similarity to a Victim on Sympathy and Support for Aid to People in Need

Xiaoxia Cao


An online experiment was conducted among a convenience sample of college students (N = 219) to explore the effects of narrative perspectives (first-person vs. third-person) and gender similarity to a victim on sympathy and support for aid to people in need. To be specific, the study examined the influence of telling a story of an abused woman from a first-person perspective as opposed to a third-person perspective on participants’ sympathetic reactions and their support for aid to abused women while considering the moderating role of gender similarity between the victim and participants.

The results of structural equation modeling showed the anticipated positive effects of gender similarity to the victim on sympathy and support for the aid. Gender similarity to the victim also interacted with narrative perspectives to influence support for the aid through affecting sympathy aroused for the victim. Specifically, telling the victim’s experience from first-person as opposed to third-person perspectives had little impact on sympathy and the support among female participants but increased sympathy and, therefore, the support among male participants.

These findings shed light on how media portrayals of human suffering can increase aid to people in need. More importantly, they suggest how to call forth help via the media from people who are not normally inclined to support aid to those in need.

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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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