Insecure Adult Attachment Predicts Engagement with Narrative Fiction
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Individual differences in attachment orientations predict how deeply involved people become in social relationships, but do they also influence the extent to which they become invested in fictional social worlds? In Studies 13, we found that an interaction between attachment anxiety and avoidance predicted becoming more absorbed into a story at both the trait and state level. To extend these findings and to gain a more nuanced understanding of the relation between attachment and narrative consumption, we next turned our attention to examine engagement with specific characters. In Study 4, we found that attachment anxiety predicted a greater tendency towards parasocial interaction and forming parasocial relationships with favourite TV characters. In contrast, attachment avoidance predicted the tendency to identify with characters, in addition to greater parasocial interaction with them. Study 5 expanded on Study 4, demonstrating that viewers higher in attachment anxiety perceive their favourite characters as being more sociotropic, whereas viewers higher in avoidance perceive their favourite characters as higher in autonomy. Finally, in Study 6, we manipulated emotional intimacy and found that attachment and parasocial relationships were positively related after participants were given an opportunity to experience emotional closeness with another person, whereas the two were unrelated when this opportunity was not provided. Overall, our findings suggest that attachment insecurity predicts a greater tendency to engage with narrative fiction, albeit through different processes. Individuals who are high in both attachment anxiety and avoidance tend to become transported into the story world, but do not report strong engagement with specific characters. Conversely, those high in anxiety form strong friendship-like bonds with fictional characters who prioritize relationships, while individuals high in avoidance engage with fictional agents by identifying with characters who prioritize autonomy.