This study examined the levels of empathy and absorption of individuals who regularly play fantasy and science fiction role-playing games. A hypothesis was developed that higher levels of empathy would be found in individuals who fantasy role-play based upon previous research in hypnosis such as J. R. Hilgard's (1970) imaginative involvement hypothesis, research into the "fantasy prone" personality type (Wilson & Barber, 1981), and the empathic involvement hypothesis (Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003). The participants in the current study were 127 fantasy role-players who volunteered and completed the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index (empathy) and the Tellegen Absorption Scale (absorption). The results demonstrated that those who play fantasy role-playing games scored significantly higher than the comparison group on the IRI scale of empathy, confirming the hypothesis that fantasy role-players report experiencing higher levels of empathic involvement with others. Correlational analysis between the measures demonstrated a significant positive correlation between empathy and absorption (r = .43, p < .001). These results collectively suggest that fantasy role-players have a uniquely empathically-imaginative style. The results also confirm and extend previous findings on the relationship between empathy and absorption as predicted by the Empathic Involvement Hypothesis (Wickramasekera II & Szlyk, 2003).
Keywords: absorption; empathy; hypnosis; role-play.