The purpose of this experimental study was to examine the effect of visual styles of three-dimensional animated characters on audience empathy and sympathy responses
ASSESSING EMPATHIC RESPONSE
Escalas and Stern's empathy and sympathy questionnaire was modified to fit the scope of this study. It consisted of five sympathy and five empathy questions, and participants answered on a five-point scale ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree".
- I understood what the character was feeling in the videos
- I understood what was bothering the character
- I tried to understand the events as they occurred
- I tried to understand the character’s motivationI tried to understand the events as they occurred
- I was able to recognize the problems that the character had in the last two videos hadI tried to understand the events as they occurred
- I experienced feeling as if the events were happening to meI tried to understand the events as they occurred
- I felt as though I was the characterI tried to understand the events as they occurred
- I felt as though the events in the videos were happening to meI tried to understand the events as they occurred
- I experienced many of the same feeling that the character portrayedI tried to understand the events as they occurred
- I felt as if the characters’ feelings were my own
Three 3D animated characters were created with Autodesk Maya software. All three characters were of the same gender and approximately same age. The only intended difference was the degree of stylization, which caused the proportion of the characters’ bodies and facial features to be different.
In order to mediate empathy via emotion, the audience needs to recognize the emotions the characters are presenting. The emotions represented in the animations were happy, angry and sad, which are three of the six basic emotions by Ekman. These three emotions were selected because they are easily recognizable. The selected emotions were expressed through characters facial expressions and mainly through body animation.
71 subjects, both undergraduate and graduate students participated in the study. All participants were students at Purdue University and were recruited via email. The age of the participants ranged from 18 to 27; 48% were male. 35 participants indicated that they majored in Computer Graphics Technology (CGT), the others were non- CGT majors.
Participants completed the online survey using their own computers or smartphones and the survey remained active for two weeks. In the survey, participants first answered demographic questionnaires, and then watched the three characters in a random order. After viewing one emotion clip, subjects were asked to select what emotion the character was feeling; four choices were provided (happy, sad, angry and other, where option ‘other’ allowed users to type the emotion they thought the character was displaying in the clip). After viewing all three emotion clips for one character, the participants took a questionnaire that measured their emotional response towards the character. After completing the questionnaire, they proceeded to the next set of clips.