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Interactive stories and the audience: Why empathy is important

Why empathy is important in neuromarketing

MediaScience is the leading provider of lab-based media and advertising research, incorporating a range of neuro-measures including biometrics, facial expression analysis, eye tracking, EEG, and more. With state-of-the-art labs in New York, Chicago, and Austin, MediaScience is discovering actionable insights in advertising, technology, media, and consumer trends.

Dr. Duane Varan, the global authority of neuromarketing research, founded Audience Labs (formerly the Interactive Television Research Institute) during his tenure at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, in 2001. In 2005, he launched the Beyond : 30 Project, a consortium exploring the changing media and advertising landscape, and in 2008, he was approached by Disney Media Networks to set up a dedicated custom research lab on a broader scale – and so MediaScience was born. Though he officially left Murdoch in 2015, he continues to maintain some research links with the University of South Australia and has been widely recognised for his innovative contributions to teaching and the neuromarketing industry as evidenced by a long list of awards and over 90 published academic papers in his field.

Below is an abstract from one of his papers about Interactive stories and the audience: Why empathy is important from the ACM Digital Library.

Interactive narratives have long been advocated as having the potential to create more immersive and transformative experiences for audiences by adding the pleasure of agency. In practice, however, finding the balance between sufficient interactivity for agency and narrative structure has been difficult. This article proposed a model of interactive narrative, which encased interactivity within a strong narrative structure, as the best model to increase audience entertainment. In order to test the hypothesis that such a model would out perform its linear counterpart in terms of audience entertainment, two separate audience studies were conducted. The first study tested an interactive drama for television and the second tested two interactive narrative-based advertisements. When analyzing the two studies, there was a surprising result: in each case audience empathy was consistently and significantly increased by the addition of interactivity. This discovery suggests links between empathy and interactivity, and has exciting implications on the role of empathic stress and structure in the creation of future models of interactive narratives.

Stacey Hand and Duane Varan. 2009. Interactive stories and the audience: Why empathy is important. Comput. Entertain. 7, 3, Article 39 (September 2009), 14 pages.