Narrative’s Persuasive Influence on Strong Dissonant Attitudes
LMU Munich, Germany
There is no doubt that narratives can have a persuasive impact on their audiences’ attitudes (Tukachinsky & Tokunaga, 2013; Van Laer, Ruyter, Visconti, & Wetzels, 2014). However, there has not been much systematic research into narratives’ persuasive influence on strong dissonant attitudes. The results of the few studies that consider prior attitudes (e.g., Cohen, Tal-Or, & Mazor-Tregerman, 2015; Hoeken & Fikkers, 2014; Slater, Rouner, & Long, 2006) seem to point more to a reinforcement of prior attitudes, as narrative effects seem to be weaker or non-existing for dissonant prior attitudes (e. g., Chung & Slater, 2013; Cohen u. a., 2015; Slater & Rouner, 1996). This study aims to systematically investigate narrative persuasion within the context of exposure to highly counter-attitudinal narratives.
A one-factorial (low vs. high immersive viewing context) between subject experiment was conducted. Participants were screened to identify individuals with strong attitudes toward abortion or assisted suicide, i.e., they had to extremely support or oppose one of the two issues, be certain about their attitude, and judge it as personally relevant. At least one week later eligible persons (N = 97; Age: M = 22 years (SD = 2.7); 69.1% female) individually participated in a lab session. They were presented with one of three 17-minute excerpts of fictional TV series which contained an explicit counterattitudinal storyline in the second half of the stimulus (pro & con abortion, con assisted suicide). The level of narrative engagement was manipulated using variations of viewing context variables (display size & quality, lights). Measures included the narrative engagement scale (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2009) and a one-item measure of the attitude towards the issue (Pre: M = 1.57, SD = 0.50, Post: M = 2.10, SD = 1.08). Values were recoded, so that higher values represent more narrative-consistent attitudes for all participants. Control variables included prior experience (M = 3.33, SD = 1.81) and familiarity with the stimulus (M = 0.63, SD = 0.89).
Overall, the stimulus narratives had a positive effect on narrative-consistent attitudes (F(1, 89) = 4.72, p < .05, η p 2 = .05; EMt0 = 1.55 (SE = .05) < EMt1 = 2.06 (SE = .13)). The viewing context manipulation did not have any direct effects on narrative engagement dimensions (s. table 1). However, it moderated the effect of narrative engagement on post exposure attitudes: Within the low immersive viewing context narrative understanding (b = -0.36, SE = 0.08, p < .01) and attentional focus (b = -0.18, SE = 0.06, p < .05) both have an unexpected negative effect on attitudes (s. table 2). There are no significant relationships for the high immersive context.
While the results confirm the persuasiveness of narratives even in the context of high attitudinal dissonance, the test of the mechanism of narrative engagement yields unexpected results that have implications not only for theorizing but also for the operationalization of transportation. These will be discussed at the conference. Overall then, this paper will contribute to the advancement of the theoretical explanation of narrative persuasion.
Effects of perspective and similarity on narrative persuasion
Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands, The
Narratives have been shown to be potentially powerful tools of persuasion, and several scholars urge more research into which elements of narratives produce these effects (Green, 2008; Moyer-Gusé, 2008). This study focuses on two narrative elements that have been suggested to play a role by affecting the process recipients experience during reading a narrative. Firstly, a first-person perspective is expected to increase identification with the protagonist compared to a third-person perspective. When a reader has access to the thoughts and experiences of a character, the reader likely empathizes with the character, which is an important aspect of identification (Cohen, 2001). Secondly, a protagonist with similar characteristics to the reader is expected to increase self-referencing. When a reader recognizes him-/herself in the protagonist, the reader is more likely to connect the narrative events to his or her own life (De Graaf, 2014). These narrative elements have been studied separately so far, but combining them in one study is important for establishing the interplay between them. It is an open question whether perspective and similarity have reinforcing effects on narrative processes like identification and self-referencing, or whether they may conflict in bringing about persuasive effects.
The study employed a 2x2 between-subjects design with perspective (1st vs. 3rd) and similarity (student vs. non-student) as factors. Participants were 122 female students who were thus similar to the student protagonist and dissimilar to the non-student protagonist. Each participant read one of the 4 versions of a narrative about a protagonist who gets a concussion because she has an accident when she was cycling home after heavy drinking. After reading, participants answered questions about identification (e.g., ‘I imagined what it would be like to be in the position of the protagonist’), self-referencing (e.g., ‘The story reminded me of my own life’) and risk beliefs and attitudes (e.g., ‘I am worried something similar will happen to me’).
Univariate analysis showed that perspective had an effect on identification (F(1,119)=7.21, p<.01, η2=.057). Participants who had read the narrative in the first-person perspective (M=4.80, SD=1.13) identified more with the protagonist than in the third-person perspective (M=4.20, SD=1.28). Furthermore, univariate analysis showed that both perspective (F(1,119)=3.93, p<.05, η2=.032) and similarity (F(1,119)=3.97, p<.05, η2=.032) had main effects on self-referencing. Self-referencing was higher for the first-person (M=4.44, SD=1.59) than for the third-person perspective (M=3.84, SD=1.71). Unexpectedly, self-referencing was also higher for the non-student (M=4.45, SD=1.56) than the student protagonist (M=3.85., SD=1.73). In addition, there was a main effect of similarity on risk beliefs (F(1,119)=5.14, p<.05, η2=.041), such that readers of the non-student version had higher risk perceptions (M=2.98, SD=1.57) than readers of the student version (M=2.37, SD=1.35). Other main effects and interactions were not significant.
These results show that a first-person perspective can increase identification as well as self-referencing, suggesting that these processes are compatible. Unexpectedly, self-referencing was higher in the non-similar version, and risk perceptions followed this pattern. Perhaps narratives about negative events should not get too close to readers in order to be most effective.
Moved to Act: Examining the Role of Mixed Affect and Cognitive Elaboration in “Accidental” Narrative Persuasion
1Radboud University, Netherlands, The; 2Penn State University, USA
The consumption of media entertainment is generally not characterized as a particularly healthy behavior, but rather as a pleasant activity that may be generally benign if done in moderation. However, more recent theorizing has begun to recognize that entertainment can also provide individuals with meaningful and moving experiences that may reflect gratifications more akin to appreciation rather than enjoyment (Oliver & Bartsch, 2010; Vorderer & Reinecke, 2015). This has demonstrated that meaningful or eudaimonic media is associated with unique cognitive and affective responses, such that feeling moved or touched by meaningful entertainment appears to result in greater cognitive elaboration or reflection. This research has thus far not focused on the persuasive potential of such media.
The present research combines the research domains of eudaimonic media gratifications and narrative persuasion by assessing persuasive effects of moving media in the context of health. Specifically, we propose that entertainment that triggers complex emotions may especially have persuasive potential by triggering cognitive elaboration. Translated to the context of physical activity, watching an emotional fragment in a sports movie may increase intentions to engage in physical activity by triggering a mixed affective state that promotes reflective elaboration. This process is defined as ‘accidental’ because the reflective thoughts were not triggered by the topic of physical activity, but rather by the emotional movie scene.
Hypotheses were tested in a 2 (Movie Fragment: moving, control) X 3 (Cognitive Load: during watching, post watching, no load control) between-subjects design among 119 participants. The moving and control materials were matched by using two comparable fragments of approximately equal length from the comedy sports film Cool Runnings directed by Jon Turteltaub (1993), to make sure that visual, sound, and narrative effects (e.g., main characters, leitmotiv) were constant and thus comparable across conditions. We used a manipulation of cognitive load to assess the role of reflective thought in the persuasion process, and we compared effects on transportation versus retrospective reflection to increase understanding of the question how elements from a story world can inspire viewers’ thoughts and actions in the real world. Key dependent measures were thus; mixed affect, transportation, retrospective reflection, and intentions to engage in physical activity.
Findings showed that cognitive load decreased mixed affect and transportation for the moving, but not for control movie fragment. Transportation mediated the effect of mixed affect on intentions only for the moving movie fragment. Mixed affect and transportation were unrelated to health intentions for the control fragment, and retrospective reflection was unrelated to other measures for both movie fragments. Moving entertainment may ‘accidentally’ persuade target audiences towards behaviors central in the story line.
The findings potentially explain why not all entertainment experiences motivate action; mere fun is not enough to motivate reflective thought, and reflective thought is needed to motivate action. The finding that mixed affect predicted transportation which, in turn, increased intentions to engage in physical activity only for the moving fragment suggest that especially movies that trigger reflective thoughts have persuasive potential.
Psychological Effects of Repeated Exposure to Elevating Entertainment: An Experiment over the Period of Six Weeks
University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Non-hedonic responses to entertaining media offerings have recently attracted an extensive line of research investigating which stimuli can lead to which kind of experiences. Moral emotions such as elevation have been serving as blueprint for the emulation of mechanisms of eudaimonic entertainment. In the case of elevation, research has proposed theoretically and shown empirically that witnessing moral goodness (be it in mediated or non-mediated settings) increases people’s prosocial motivation, well-being, and affiliative intentions. These mechanisms have been widely examined as short-term processes emerging immediately after being exposed to moral goodness; however, given the prevalence of portrayals of moral virtues in the current media landscape, it seems justified to assume that individuals are exposed to mediated moral goodness not only once but in a repeated manner. A long-term view on elevation effects, therefore, may do justice to the nature of prolonged exposure to entertaining media in real life. Long-term investigations on the effects of cumulative exposure to entertaining media over time, however, remain the exception. The present study, therefore, examined whether the effects of elevating entertainment on viewers’ prosocial motivation, psychological flourishing, and affiliative intentions are sustainable after prolonged exposure to corresponding media material. In an experiment, subjects (N = 93) were exposed to video material over the course of six weeks, six days a week. The independent variable was the content of the videos, resulting in three conditions wherein the videos either showed either (1) acts of human kindness, (2) violent stimuli, or (3) funny/neutral content. The experimental design covered three types of videos in order to contrast the unique effects of elevating material. Several self-report measures were administered in the course of this long-term experiment. On a daily basis, participants were asked to rate the video and rate to what extent certain emotions and thoughts applied to that specific situation. On a weekly basis, open-ended questions were set asking participants to report about positive and negative experiences during the last week. At four pre-determined points of time within the course of seven weeks, four longer questionnaires (measuring prosocial motivation, psychological flourishing, conception of human beings, and intention to interact with stereotyped groups) were given to subjects. Results showed that prolonged exposure to elevating videos does not have direct enduring effects on viewers’ psychological flourishing and willingness to interact with stereotyped groups. Nevertheless, repeatedly viewing acts of human kindness in online videos can indirectly increase prosocial motivation and improve recipients’ conceptions of human beings – mediated through the daily sense of elevation. Despite the absent direct effects, the current study gives first hints that cumulative elevation effects on prosocial motivation and more positive views on humanity may be conditional on people’s everyday elevation experiences. With this pattern, this long-term experiment contributes to the state of knowledge by addressing media effects under consideration of the recurring nature of media exposure and by pointing out the psychological paths through which repeated exposure to elevating media sequences can have positive effects on recipients’ cognitions and prosocial motivation.