PRO-SOCIAL PLAY! International Conference on Storytelling and Well-being across Media Borders

June 25-26, 2020 - University of Potsdam, Germany.

Call for Papers

This truly interdisciplinary and international conference brings together scholars of empirical and theoretical research as well as practitioners working on narrative arts for promoting pro-social behaviours and mental well-being across different media.  

The past several decades have seen the emergence of a plethora of graphic, film and interactive narratives and live performances that aim to promote mental health as well as to increase people’s awareness of critical and timely social issues, such as the experience of trauma in war zones, social injustice, issues relating to health and illness. The social impact of these narratives builds on their powerful integration of narrative absorption and educational value. This conference focuses precisely on this unique integration.

Recent empirical research indicates that beyond major personality traits, demographic variables, wealth and education, people’s greater engagement with the arts predicts greater prosociality.  Narrative arts in particular provide powerful vehicle for promoting prosocial behaviours — empirical evidence has shown that storytelling in a variety of media forms promotes social bonding, perspective taking, empathy and good mental health.

To date, the pro-social narratives have often been studied with a focus on testing people’s media exposure and pro-social effects. Nevertheless, as explicitly pointed out by most of these studies, we also need to investigate how the narrative factors are designed, structured and mobilised in a specific coherent way to effectively achieve the intended prosocial and mental health purposes. Hence, it is crucial to advance the theoretical link between thedesign choice of narrative, media technological features for engaging people in difficult topics and their pro-social response. Establishing the link is precisely the main objective of this conference. This includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • Narrative factors for evoking people’s empathy, achieving educational purposes
  • Storytelling, practical application and mental health
  • Link between prosocial behaviour and mental health
  • Technology features of different media platforms that afford, strengthen or constrain the pro-social, persuasive functions of narratives
  • Impact of social cultural conventions on different narrative designs
  • Historical perspectives of pro-social storytelling
  • Transmedia comparison of pro-social messages, for instance, across film, TV, comics, video games, games, literature, etc.
  • Pro-social storytelling in social media
  • Pro-social storytelling through live performances and live interaction
  • Balance between emotional engagement and message credibilities
  • Empirical evidence of pro-social, persuasive functions in storytelling across media
  • Pro-social narrative designs for children and adolescents
  • Narrative medicine

Plenary speakers

  1. Charles Forceville, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam
  2. Tobias Greitemeyer, Department of Psychology, University of Innsbruck
  3. Anja Laukötter, Centre for the History of Emotion, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
  4. Harry Yi-Jui Wu, Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, LKS Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong kong

Key dates

Abstract submission deadline: 31. 10. 2019

Acceptance notification date: 30.11.2019


We invite two kinds of submissions:

1. Research papers :Participants of accepted research papers will be given 20 minutes for oral presentations, followed by 10 minutes Q/A.

2. Workshops by artists, designers, health professionals and other practitioners working on pro-sociality and storytelling.

Abstracts (max. 300 words) with bio notes (max. 100 words) must be submitted (as PDF or Word attachment) to

Participants of workshops must specify what presentation formats are proposed.

Conference fees

€60 for postgraduate students and €140 for staff.