The impact of different narrative perspectives on the perception of the narrating person
The social cognition research fosters a narrative approach to several mental functions (e.g. thinking, emotion, motivation). However, unique features of a narrative structure have gained only sparse interest. This study aims at specifying the role of a narrative perspective. The study defines the concept of a narrative perspective in a life story narrative and its variations (observer, re-experiencing, experiencing narrative perspective). Following a review of the relevant narratological, discursive and psychological studies, I set up hypotheses regarding the relationship between the narrative perspective and the current state of a narrating person (namely its coherence, emotional intensity, and re-editing of past experiences). I tested these hypotheses in a social perception study. Participants (26 psychotherapists, and 61 laypersons) formed impressions about, and judged the identities of narrating persons who described important identity-related life events from one of the three different narrative perspectives. Results showed that narrative perspective had a highly significant influence on impression formation and identity judgments even when the same events were described. Narrators using the observer perspective were generally judged to be better adjusted, more socially desirable and less anxious and impulsive than were narrators describing the same events from the re-experiencing or experiencing perspectives. The results support the conclusion that the narrative perspective has a function in the emotional regulation of narrated experiences.
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