Month/Year of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)



First Advisor

Janelle Beadle, Ph.D


Empathy is an important capacity that is essential to forming strong relationships and connecting with others. Initially, there were anecdotal cases which suggested that reading fiction enhanced empathy which prompted researchers to further explore this relationship. There is evidence that greater frequency of reading fictional stories is associated with higher empathy levels (Takahashi et al., 2023). It has been suggested that the simulation of social interactions in fiction may play a role in the link between reading fiction and enhanced social cognition (Tamir et al., 2016). Previous research examining fiction and empathy has consisted primarily of younger adults, and the majority of participants were women. Studies have focused on examination of relationships between fiction reading and theory of mind, which is a subcomponent of cognitive empathy. Thus, further research including aging populations and men is warranted. Additionally, the relationship between a tendency to take the perspective of individuals in books and movies and emotional empathy has not been studied across the adult lifespan and in men and women. The present study included 91 healthy adults (Mage=52.12; SD=21.99) and examined age differences in the tendency to take the perspective of individuals in books and movies and one subcomponent of emotional empathy – emotion contagion. Specifically, participants completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index Fantasy Subscale (IRI-F) and the Emotion Contagion Scale (ECS). There was a negative correlation found between the ECS and age. A negative correlation was found between the IRI-Fantasy score and age. The correlation between IRI-Fantasy and ECS score did not reach significance. Future studies should further investigate the association between age, fiction reading, and cognitive and emotional empathy using behavioral measures and longitudinal studies.

Available for download on Thursday, May 13, 2027