The Effect of Character’s Visual Style on Viewer’s Empathy and Sympathy Responses

Jisu Park, Purdue University


A believable virtual character is able to emotionally interact with the audience. To achieve believability, every component of the character from its movement to its appearance should be carefully designed. However, few studies that investigated what visual factors trigger the emotional interaction between character and audience can be found in the literature. The purpose of this experimental study was to examine the effect of visual styles of 3D animated characters on audience empathy and sympathy responses. In the study, seventy-one participants watched three animations of three characters whose visual style differed in degree of stylization (e.g. lead, stylized, and iconic). In each animation, the characters showed happy, angry and sad emotions. After viewing each character’s animation, participants responded to a survey that measured their empathy and sympathy levels. Findings from the study show that characters visual style does not seem to have a significant effect on audience empathy and sympathy.




Adamo-Villani, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Personality psychology

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