Rivers, Anissa, Ian E. Wickramasekera II, Ronald J. Pekala et Jennifer A. Rivers. « Empathic Features and Absorption in Fantasy Role-Playing ». American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 58, no 3 (12 janvier 2016), 286-94. doi:10.1080/00029157.2015.1103696. PMID: 26675155.Tabletop RPG gamers scored higher than control group on empathy measurement tools. There is also a positive correlation between empathy and absorption (r = .43, p < .001). It doesn't mean RPGs increase empathy, nor empathic persons are more incline to play RPGs. But, it can refute some negative stereotypes associated to RPG gamers. It's possible the level of education of the players influenced positively the score of empathy.
This study (n=127) uses 2 tests: the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index (for measuring empathy) and the Tellegen Absorption Scale (for measuring absorption). Even if the definition of empathy is debated, empathy is an important ability according to psychologists. It's the ability to understand others, put yourself in someone else shoes, to identify yourself to them. Empathy reduces prejudice, racism and bullying. It leads to more satisfying relationships and it's a first step to companionate actions.
Absorption is the ability to be focus on a task, to be immersed into a fiction through an empathic link with a character. In RPG, this link asks the players an high level of openness to the experience suggested by the gamemaster. This special relation is similar to the relation in hypnosis. « We hypothesize that the way in which the gamemaster describes the visual imagery and physical experiences of a player in an RPG may be quite analogous to how a hypnotist uses imagery, experiential language, and suggestions in hypnosis. » (p.289)