GERNSBACHER, M. A., HALLADA, B. M., & ROBERTSON, R. R. W. (in press). How automatically do readers infer fictional characters’ emotional states? Scientific Study of Reading (Special Issue).
We propose that reading stories, such as a narrative about a character who takes money from a store where his best friend works and later learns that his best friend has been fired, stimulates readers to activate the knowledge of how someone feels when he finds out that his best friend has been fired from a job for something the person did. In other words, we propose that readers infer fictional characterÕs emotional states. In this paper we first review two series of laboratory experiments (Gernsbacher, Goldsmith, & Robertson, 1992; Gernsbacher & Robertson, 1992) that empirically tested this hypothesis by measuring participantsÕ reading times to target sentences that contained emotion words that matched (e.g.,. guilt ) or mismatched (e.g., pride) the implied emotional state. We then present a third series of laboratory experiments that tested how automatically such knowledge is activated by using a divided-attention task (tone-identification, per-sentence memory-load, or cumulative memory-load) and by comparing target-sentence reading time when the emotional state is explicitly mentioned versus only implicit.