Empathetic perspective-taking is one of the main psychological mechanisms behind audiences’ engagement with narrative (Coplan 2004; Eder 2006). What happens, however, when a story confronts with a character whose emotions, motivations, and beliefs we fail to understand? This paper examines the phenomenon of “unreadable minds” (Abbott 2008) from a transmedial perspective: how do audiences relate to a character who defies all attempts at making sense of his or her identity despite being the main focus of a narrative? My case studies - the novel American Psycho (1991) by Bret Easton Ellis and the video game Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games 2012) - foreground two such characters: by calling attention to the opaqueness of their protagonists, they heighten the audiences’ interest in - and puzzlement at - their identity. In my comparative analysis I explore two dimensions that contribute to audiences’ sense of unknowability of the protagonists: the hallucinations and delusions experienced by both characters (an instance of what Bernaerts  calls “narrative delirium”); and their extreme violence, which raises unanswered ethical questions. While bringing out the continuities between American Psycho and Hotline Miami, I also highlight how the interactivity of Hotline Miami makes the central paradox of relating to an unknowable character even more salient for the audience. In this way, I show that the video game medium has reached a level of interpretive complexity that can stand the comparison with literary fiction.
Soile Loukusa, Leena Mäkinen, Ilaria Gabbatore, Päivi Laukkanen-Nevala and Eeva Leinonen
This study examined the development of social-pragmatic comprehension in 170 Finnish four- to eight-year-old children. The children were asked to respond to socially and contextually demanding questions targeting their social-pragmatic language processing, and to explain their correct answers in order to elicit their awareness of how they had derived the answers from the context. The results showed that the number of correct answers increased especially between the ages of four and seven years. We found that questions demanding contextual processing without mind-reading were the easiest to understand, followed by questions demanding processing of feelings of others and false beliefs. The questions demanding understanding of relevant language use and processing of contextual factors including mental states and intentions were the most challenging for the children. Between four and five years of age there was a remarkable developmental phase in children’s ability to give proper explanations.
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