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Psychiatr Danub. 2013 Jun;25(2):158-62.

Who identifies with suicidal film characters? Determinants of identification with suicidal protagonists of drama films.

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  • 1Department of General Practice and Family Medicine, Center for Public Health, Medical University of Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.



Identification with a media character is an influential factor for the effects of a media product on the recipient, but still very little is known about this cognitive process. This study investigated to what extent identification of a recipient with the suicidal protagonist of a film drama is influenced by the similarity between them in terms of sex, age, and education as well as by the viewer's empathy and suicidality.


Sixty adults were assigned randomly to one of two film groups. Both groups watched a drama that concluded with the tragic suicide of the protagonist. Identification, empathy, suicidality, as well as socio-demographic data were measured by questionnaires that were applied before and after the movie screening.


Results indicated that identification was not associated with socio-demographic similarity or the viewer's suicidality. However, the greater the subjects' empathy was, the more they identified with the protagonist in one of the two films.


This investigation provides evidence that challenges the common assumption that identification with a film character is automatically generated when viewer and protagonist are similar in terms of sex, age, education or attitude.

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