"And we will live happily ever after, too": The effects of romantic narratives and parasocial relationship status with fictional characters on relationship evaluations
Young, Ariana Francesca
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The present research examined the effects of romantic narratives - and the parasocial, or one-sided, relationships (PSRs) people may form with the fictional characters within those narratives - on relationship evaluations. The current work also investigated the underlying mechanism and a potential implication of these effects. In Study 1, participants who had or did not have a PSR with the same-sex member of a fictional couple read a romantic narrative featuring that couple (vs. a control narrative) prior to completing implicit and explicit relationship evaluation measures. I predicted that participants who did not have a PSR with the same-sex character would feel worse about their relationship following exposure (at least implicitly), but that those who had a PSR would feel better about their relationship. Study 2 manipulated participants' perceived similarity with the same-sex member of an unknown fictional couple and examined relationship evaluations following exposure to a romantic narrative featuring that couple. I predicted that participants who perceived similarity with the same-sex character (simulating a PSR) would feel better about their own relationship than those who did not perceive similarity. Further, I predicted that assimilation of the character's positive feelings toward their partner would be the underlying mechanism of improvements in participants' own relationship evaluations. Study 3 examined participant's tendency to seek out romantic narratives following relationship threat as a function of PSR status with the characters in that narrative, as well as relationship evaluations following romantic narrative engagement. I predicted that relationship threat (vs. no threat) would lead participants who did not have a PSR with the same-sex member of a fictional couple to report less interest and spend less time engaging in a romantic narrative featuring that couple (to decrease contrast effects), but those with a PSR to report greater interest and spend more time engaging the romantic narrative (to increase assimilation effects). I also predicted that, after engaging in a romantic narrative, participants who had a PSR would feel better about their relationship than those who did not have a PSR and that this effect might be pronounced under conditions of relationship threat. Across all studies, none of the predicted results were obtained. Limitations and implications of the present research are discussed.