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Empathic Inaccuracy in Narrative Fiction

  • Suzanne KeenEmail author

In this essay, I expand upon my previous proposals about empathic inaccuracy: “A reader persuaded that she has felt with a fictional character may defy the stated or implicit intentions of an author.. .. Empathic inaccuracy, to craft a hypothesis out of this circumstance, may then contribute to a strong sense that the author’s perspective is simply wrong” (Keen 2007, pp. 139–40, emphasis in original). I base my definition of empathic inaccuracy on the psychological concept of empathic accuracy, studied by William Ickes and others. This cognitive capacity involves the relative abilities of people correctly to infer others’ dispositions, personality traits, and psychological states, including their thoughts and feelings (Ickes 1993). Empathic accuracy can be stronger or weaker in an individual, and it is usually measured after interviewing subjects and target individuals. Ickes makes the recommendation that “the most straightforward way to measure empathic accuracy is to compare the...


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Conflict of interest

I have no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hamilton CollegeClintonUSA

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