An "empathy machine" or a "just-for-the-fun-of-It" Machine? Effects of immersion in nonfiction 360-video stories on empathy and enjoyment

Miguel Barreda-Ángeles*, Sara Aleix-Guillaume, Alexandre Pereda-Banõs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Immersive storytelling is widely considered to have a great potential to foster empathy toward suffering people, as well as to provide enjoyable experiences able to attract wider audiences. This article examines how the immersive presentation of 360-video nonfiction contents impacts both empathy toward the characters and enjoyment of the experience and the interplay between these two psychological outcomes. Participants watched a series of 360-video stories presented either on a virtual reality headset or a screen, and measures of spatial presence, empathy (in terms of perspective taking and empathic concern), and enjoyment were collected. Mediation analyses and structural equation models showed a direct positive effect of spatial presence on perspective taking and empathic concern, and an indirect negative effect of immersive presentation on empathic concern through enjoyment. These findings indicate that enjoyment of pleasurable aspects of the experience may hinder the affective dimension of empathy toward the characters, and point out to the need to carefully consider the targeted reactions from the audience, since different intended psychological outcomes may not be fully compatible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-688
Number of pages6
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Issue number10
Early online date22 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2020


  • 360-video
  • empathy
  • enjoyment
  • immersive journalism
  • virtual reality


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