Is there is a term for the mechanism where a reader consciously or unconsciously associates a fictional character with someone they know? *

A conceivable example might be a parent reading about a child character (who is described in general terms) who has an accident or similar and the parent reader may feel grief in excess of a reader who isn't a parent. Specifically because they have placed their son or daughter in the scene.

That's just one example, the mechanism I'm interested in isn't particular to parent/child empathy, but more general.

It would happen in narrative drama - TV, film, theatre - also...

It's not just 'association' is it? I'm finding it a hard thing to search for online.

* The veracity of the association is irrelevant.

  • 5
    I think "Identification" is the word you are looking for. But asking about individual words is not really on topic here.
    – user161890
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 5:45
  • @mbakeranalecta, Ahhh, yes google is being much more cooperative with that term, thank you! If you want the rep, go ahead and answer, or you can vote to close as off-topic, your choice ;) Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 6:29
  • 1
    Association (or a qualification of it like a reader's personal association) seems like your best option. It is a term of art in psychology: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_(psychology)
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 15:58
  • Well it could be allegorical if the writer intends such a correlation Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 16:21

2 Answers 2

  • "Term for associations made by a reader between fictional characters and people they know"

— We may call such characters 'LIFELIKE'

— Term for such associations 'IDENTIFICATION ' and the situation 'VERISIMILITUDE'

— The characters represent our 'ALTER-EGO'

and when we lose our identify in the identity of the fictional characters and love, like, pity, hate or laugh or cry as the characters do in their make-believe world, the situation may be termed "EXPERIENCE -TAKING" , a new coinage by a group of researchers of Ohio State University.

IDENTIFICATION is the proper term in the present perspective.


oneirataxia - (n. The inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality) is a vague word to say the very least.

It is the second result on Words that mean "association between reality and fantasy" - Writers’ Reverse Dictionary. The other fourteen results at the beginning make even less sense:

  1. twilight zone
  2. earth
  3. lose
  4. ego
  5. phantasm
  6. loses
  7. antibiosis
  8. relation
  9. metaphysics
  10. correlation
  11. barth
  12. connection
  13. relationship
  14. communion
  • 1
    Right after twilight zone :D
    – Helmar
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:49
  • ... "barth" as in John Barth?
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:59

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