Health Communication| Engaging Doctors and Depressed Patients: Effects of Referential Viewpoint and Role Similarity in Health Narratives

Kobie van Krieken, José Sanders


This study examines the effects of referential viewpoint and role similarity on readers’ identification with characters in a mental health narrative. Students from the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Arts at a Dutch university read one of two stories about a doctor–patient consultation. In the story version from the patient’s viewpoint, the patient was referred to with pronouns, whereas the doctor was referred to with nouns, and vice versa for the version of the story from the doctor’s viewpoint. Independent of role similarity, participants identified emotionally and cognitively more strongly with the doctor after reading the story written from the doctor’s (versus the patient’s) viewpoint. No effects were found for participants’ identification with the patient. These findings advance our knowledge of the salient features of effective health narratives by showing that subtle linguistic viewpoint markers have the potential to affect readers’ identification with narrative characters.


health narrative, identification, pronouns, role similarity, viewpoint

Full Text: