Identification, TEBOTS, and Vicarious Wisdom of Experience

Narrative and the Self

Authored by: Michael D. Slater , Jonathan Cohen

The Routledge Handbook of Media Use and Well-Being

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138886582
eBook ISBN: 9781315714752
Adobe ISBN: 9781317501954


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In this chapter we consider how the experience of narrative entertainment – stories – may serve to increase well-being, through its impact on the reader or viewer’s experience of self and others. There are many ways in which narratives can serve the needs of self and thereby contribute to well-being. We share with the authors of the initial chapters of this volume a conceptualization of needs of the self that includes needs for agency or effectiveness, affiliation or relatedness, and autonomy (Ryan & Deci, 2000; also see the chapter by Rigby and Ryan in this volume), and for meaning and purpose (Oliver & Bartsch, 2010; also see the chapter by Bartsch and Oliver in this volume). Narrative can meet these needs in perfectly straightforward ways. For example, movies and books provide ample opportunity for establishing enjoyable vicarious social relationships with favorite characters and performers. Such parasocial relationships are discussed in detail in another chapter (see Hartmann in this volume) and will receive limited attention here. Media portrayals can increase agency and choice by modeling attitudes and behaviors that can increase self-efficacy and skill acquisition, and lead to positive social and health outcomes for individuals, communities, and even national populations (Singhal & Rogers, 2012; Slater & Rouner, 2002; also see the chapters by Klimmt and by Hastall in this volume). The use of narratives to support personal exploration of meaning and purpose is reviewed in detail elsewhere in this volume as well (see the chapter by Bartsch and Oliver).

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