What emotional and physical experiences do individuals undergo when reading? Do individuals react to a text as they react to others in a social situation? The current study is an interdisciplinary exploration of how and why individuals become engaged with and engrossed in certain texts. Specifically, the study examines empathy and narrative point-of-view in relation to an individual's emotional and physical experience while reading. Participants read one of three texts, differing in narrative point-of-view but recounting the same story. After reading their assigned text, participants completed an empathy scale, personality inventory, and questionnaire about their reactions. Additionally, participants' blood pressure and heart rates were measured before and after reading. A Pearson's correlation revealed no significant difference in participants' physiological change between textual conditions, and no significant relationship between empathy and physical reaction to a text. Variables such as absorption, narrator identification, and emotion did appear to influence reading experiences, and these experiences differed depending on textual condition. The evidenced relationships between these variables suggest that readers may undergo para-social interactions through narrator identification and absorption in a textual world. The joint reader and text influences of reading experiences observed in this study also provide support for social reader response theory.


Grace, Nancy

Second Advisor

Casey, Michael


English; Psychology


Applied Behavior Analysis | Other Communication


reader response, pulse, literary journalism

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2011 Sarah Gerlach