GERNSBACHER, M. A., GOLDSMITH, H. H., & ROBERTSON, R. R. W. (1992). Do readers mentally represent fictional characters’ emotional states? Cognition & Emotion, 6, 89-111.
Subjects read stories that described concrete actions, such as a main character stealing money from a store where his best friend worked and later learning that his friend had been fired. Following each story, subjects read a target sentence that contained an emotion word that either matched the emotional state implied by the story (e.g., guilt) or mismatched that emotional state. In Experiment 1, target sentences were read more slowly when the mismatched emotion words were the perceived opposites of the emotional states implied by the stories (e.g., pride). In Experiment 2, target sentences were read more slowly when the mismatched emotion words shared the affective valence of the implied emotional state; therefore, readers must represent more than simply the affective valence of the emotional states. In-stead of reading target sentences that contained matching versus mismatching emo-tion words, subjects in Experiment 3 simply pronounced matching versus mismatching emotion words. Mismatching emotion words were pronounced more slowly. These experiments sug-gest that readers form explicit, life-like, mental representations of fictional characters’ emotional states, and readers form these representations as a normal part of reading comprehension.