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The Role of Identification and Perception of Just Outcome in Evoking Emotions in Narrative Persuasion



The question is addressed whether identification with a story character can evoke emotions that subsequently influence the audience's attitude. Study 1 (N = 145) manipulated identification and found it to influence the evoking of emotions as well as the audience's attitude. Study 2 (N = 115) examined whether emotions are evoked by the extent to which the story's outcome is perceived as just. The main character's culpability was manipulated thereby influencing the extent to which a bad ending was considered just. Mediation analyses attested to the greater importance of identification for evoking emotions compared to the perception of justice. The studies reveal the mediating role of emotions in narrative persuasion as well as how identification can evoke these emotions.
Journal of Communication ISSN 0021-9916
The Role of Identification and Perception of
Just Outcome in Evoking Emotions in
Narrative Persuasion
Hans Hoeken & Jop Sinkeldam
Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen, NL 6500 HD Nijmegen, the Netherlands
e question is addressed whether identication with a story character can evoke emo-
tions that subsequently inuence the audience’s attitude. Study 1 (N=145) manipulated
attitude. Study 2 (N=115) examined whether emotions are evoked by the extent to which
the story’s outcome is perceived as just. e main character’s culpability was manipulated
thereby inuencing the extent to which a bad ending was considered just. Mediation anal-
yses attested to the greater importance of identication for evoking emotions compared to
the perception of justice. e studies reveal the mediating role of emotions in narrative
persuasion as well as how identication can evoke these emotions.
Keywords: Narrative Persuasion, Mechanisms, Identication, Emotions, Just World
Perceptions, Perceived Realism.
Narratives, whether in the form of short stories, books, television series, or movies,
can inuence the beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behavior of their audience (e.g.,
Appel & Richter, 2007; Diekman, McDonald, & Gardner, 2000; Green & Brock,
2000; Morgan, Movius, & Cody, 2009; Moyer-Gusé & Nabi, 2010; Slater, Rouner, &
Long, 2006; Strange & Leung, 1999). Now that the persuasive potential of narratives
has been established, research is aiming to identify the mechanisms responsible for
these eects. Several studies have found strong correlations between the emotions
evoked by a narrative and participants’ subsequent attitudes (Busselle & Bilandzic,
2009; De Graaf, Hoeken, Sanders, & Beentjes, 2009; Murphy, Frank, Chatterjee,
& Baezconde-Garbanati, 2013) and even behavior (Murphy, Frank, Moran, &
Patnoe-Woodley, 2011). In research on persuasion, the importance of emotions
for the persuasion process has been acknowledged (see, e.g., Dillard & Nabi, 2006;
Dillard & Seo, 2013; Nabi, 2010). Murphy et al. (2013, p. 131) conclude that emotions,
Corresponding author: Hans Hoeken; e-mail:
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Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam
transportation, that is, the feeling of being lost in the story, and identication are
related constructs, but that it is unclear what their exact contribution to the persuasive
impact of narratives is.
In this paper, two experiments are reported that aim to clarify the relation between
identication and emotion in narrative persuasion. Green and Donahue (2009, p. 247)
describe how identication with a character can serve as a mechanism of narrative
persuasion and state that “implications of events experienced by that character may
carry special weight” in shiing a reader’s attitude. Oatley (1995, 1999) has argued
that identication with a character implies that readers consider the character’s goals
as their own. Objects, people, or regulations that hinder the character in attaining its
goals will evoke negative feelings and readers may form a negative attitude toward
these obstructing factors, whereas objects, people, and regulations that enable the
character to realize its goals will evoke positive feelings and a positive attitude. e
intensity of the emotions may depend on the extent to which readers have identied
with the character. e stronger their relation with a character, the more impact the
character’s success (or failure) has on their feelings. In the rst experiment, the validity
of this line of reasoning is studied.
In the second experiment, the question is addressed whether the extent to which
emotions are evoked depends (also) on the extent to which the story’s outcome is
considered as in accordance with a just world. Raney (2004, 2006) has developed the
disposition theory of media enjoyment. In his view, enjoyment depends on the extent
to which the story evokes emotions. Raney suggests that the type of emotions evoked
by a story as well as the extent to which they are experienced depend on the extent to
which the story conforms to or diverts from the audience’s perception of a just end-
ing. at is, stories evoke stronger positive emotions when the good guys are rewarded
(and the bad guys punished), whereas they evoke stronger negative emotions when
the bad guys get away with it or the good guys do not get what they want. e second
experiment compares to what extent diversion from a just ending and identication
are responsible for evoking emotions. First, however, the role of identication in nar-
rative persuasion and its relation to other processes will be discussed.
Transportation and identication
Transportation Imagery Model (Green & Brock, 2002), the Extended Elaboration
Likelihood Model (Slater & Rouner, 2002), and the Entertainment Overcoming
Resistance Model (Moyer-Gusé, 2008). All models view the experience of “being
lost in a story” as a crucial factor in narrative persuasion. is experience is referred
to as absorption (Slater & Rouner, 2002), or narrative engagement” (Busselle
& Bilandzic, 2009), and most frequently as transportation (Gerrig, 1993; Green
& Brock, 2000, 2002; Moyer-Gusé, 2008). Green and Brock (2000, p. 701) dene
transportation as a mental process which integrates attention, imagery, and feelings.
is denition suggests that the process is multidimensional. In a series of stud-
ies, Busselle and Bilandzic (2009) have indeed identied four dimensions of this
936 Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association
H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion
experience employing audiovisual stimuli: attentional focus (the extent to which
the audience’s attention is focused on the story), narrative presence (the extent to
which the world depicted in the story feels more real than the real world), emotional
engagement (the extent to which the audience was aected by the story), and narra-
tive understanding (the extent to which the audience could follow the story thread/
story line). Busselle and Bilandzic call this multidimensional experience “narrative
e concept of identication is not included in the denitions of transportation
or narrative engagement. Murphy et al. (2011) cautiously use the label (character)
involvement because of the many dierent ways in which identication has been con-
ceptualized, ranging from perceived similarity, liking, wanting to be like the char-
acter, feeling as if one interacts with the character, and perspective taking (see also
Moyer-Gusé, 2008). ey argue that whereas transportation refers to the feeling of
being absorbed into the narrative in general, character involvement refers to feeling
engaged with a specic character (Murphy et al., 2011, p. 412). is distinction is sim-
ilar to the one made by Oatley (1999, p. 445), who distinguishes between the audience
identifying with a character, that is when the reader takes on the protagonist’s goals
and plans,” and the audience becoming a spectator, “an unobserved observer in scenes
of the lives of characters in the story world. He or she stands in their bedrooms, hovers
at their dining tables, drives with them in their cars.” is latter description is highly
similar to Busselle and Bilandzic’s (2009) “narrative presence dimension of narra-
tive engagement as well as to the imagery dimension of Green and Brock’s (2000)
conception of transportation.
Opinions dier on how transportation and identication are related. Green,
Brock, and Kaufman (2004, p. 319) suggest that transportation “may be a prerequisite
for identication with ctional characters.” ey argue that to adopt the character’s
goals and plans requires the audience to become part of the story world. Only if the
world depicted in the narrative becomes real enough to the audience, it will take over
a character’s plans and goals. Bilandzic and Busselle (2011, p. 34) take the opposite
position. ey claim that the creation of a story world depends on the audience iden-
tifying with a character because otherwise the audience could not understand deictic
elements such as “I,” “you,” “here,” and “now.” A third option is that identication
and transportation stimulate each other. A rather shallow level of identication is
needed to interpret deictic elements in order to create the story world. A richer story
world may subsequently increase the chances of stronger identication with the
character, which in turn may make the story world seem more real.
Regardless of the exact nature of the relation between identication and trans-
portation, it is important for this study to manipulate identication independently
of transportation. In recent studies, this has been done successfully (Sestir & Green,
2010; Tal-Or & Cohen, 2010). ese studies used Cohen’s (2001, p. 261) denition of
identication: an imaginative process through which an audience member assumes
the identity, goals, and perspective of a character.” Cohen’s denition appears to
be broadly accepted in the current literature (Green & Dill, 2013; Moyer-Gusé
Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association 937
Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam
& Nabi, 2010) and closely resembles Oatley’s (1995, 1999) conceptualization of
identication. erefore, this denition is also used for the present studies.
Identication as a mechanism of narrative persuasion
As a result of being swept up by a story, the audience may be more easily persuaded for
a number of reasons. First, people may be unable or unmotivated to argue against the
narrative’s persuasive subtext (cf. Green & Brock, 2002; Moyer-Gusé, 2008; Slater &
Rouner, 2002). Second, the narrative may evoke such lifelike images of certain events
that the audience nds it more likely for the event to occur in real-life. For instance,
the vivid depiction of an airplane crash may increase people’s belief that airplanes are
not safe (cf. Green & Brock, 2002). ird, identifying with a character may inuence
people’s beliefs and attitudes.
e empirical evidence for the importance of identication to narrative persua-
sion is growing rapidly.1Identifying with characters from episodes of television series
inuences risk perceptions of teen pregnancy and subsequent intentions to have safe
sex (Moyer-Gusé & Nabi, 2010) and the intention to talk about sexually transmitted
infections with friends (Moyer-Gusé, Chung, & Jain, 2011). Identication with char-
acters from professionally produced movies has been shown to mediate the impact of
these movies on the audiences beliefs (Igartua, 2010; Igartua & Barrios, 2012), social
distancing toward people with a mental illness (Caputo & Rouner, 2011), and attitudes
toward the death penalty (Till & Vitouch, 2012). Cho, Shen, and Wilson (2014) reveal
the importance of identication for narrative persuasion for even short narratives in
antidrinking and antimeth PSAs as well as beer ads.
e question is how identication drives narrative persuasion. According to
Green and Donahue (2009, p. 247), identication can inuence people’s attitudes
in two ways. Firstly, if people identify with a certain character, they may be more
likely to adopt the opinions and attitudes expressed by that character. De Graaf,
Hoeken, Sanders, and Beentjes (2012; Experiment 2) manipulated identication with
characters who held opposing views through manipulating the perspective from
which the (written) narrative was told. ey found that the perspective manipula-
tion inuenced identication, which in turn led participants to adopt the attitude
expressed by the character they had identied with. is eect has been replicated
using a dierent story on a strongly counterattitudinal issue (Hoeken & Fikkers,
ter’s experiences. Oatley (1995, p. 66) species how identication with a character can
his own planning processes, taking on the character’s goals and experiencing emo-
depend on the extent to which plans succeed (leading to happiness or contentment) or
fail (which may evoke anger or sadness). e degree to which participants experience
emotions will depend on the extent to which they have identied with the charac-
ter. e more strongly the audience has identied with a character, implying that it
938 Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association
H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion
perceives the character’s goals as its own, the happier it will feel if the character suc-
ceeds (and the sadder if the character fails). is leads to the rst hypothesis: Stronger
identication with a character will evoke stronger emotions than weaker identication
with a character (H1).
Emotions can play an important role in narrative persuasion. Several studies
have found positive relations between emotions and attitudes (Busselle & Bilandzic,
2009; De Graaf et al., 2009; Murphy et al., 2013). De Graaf et al., for instance, had
participants read a story on the experiences of a woman who sought asylum in
the Netherlands. e asylum-seeking procedure frustrated this woman’s eorts.
Following Oatley’s (1995) claim, the participants who identied with this woman
in the sense that they had adopted her goal (getting asylum) as their own, would
be expected to experience (negative) emotions as a result of the asylum seeking
procedure being an obstacle to attaining this goal. Emotions typically serve as signals
that one’s interests are at stake (Frijda, 1986), and thus may alert the audience to the
fact that the current procedure is not in their best interest. is may lead to a negative
attitude toward the current procedure. is line of reasoning is in accordance with
Green and Donahue’s (2009) claim that the experiences of a character the audience
identies with can inuence the audience’s attitude. However, the design of these
studies does not allow drawing conclusions about the causal nature of this relation-
ship because identication was not manipulated. In the present study, identication
issues that are consistent with the character’s goals than weaker identication (H2).
Emotions evoked by identication with a character may serve as a mediator of nar-
rative persuasion. Several other concepts have been hypothesized to mediate narrative
impact as well. Transportation, that is, the audience’s engagement with the story world
(rather than with a specic character), may inuence peoples attitude (e.g., Green &
Brock, 2000; Murphy et al., 2011). In addition, a narratives persuasive impact may
depend on the extent to which the narrative is perceived as realistic (e.g., Busselle &
Greenberg, 2000; Cho et al., 2014; Green, 2004). Given that these variables may covary
with dierences in the degree in which identication takes place, any eect of iden-
tication may be mediated by any or all of them. is leads to the following research
question: To what extent are eects of identication mediated through the emotions
Study 1
In Study 1, a quasi-experiment was conducted in which participants read dierent
versions of a narrative in which the main character was being portrayed as more
or less likeable. Character likeability has been shown to be related to character
identication (Chory, 2013; Tian & Honer, 2010); Tal-Or and Cohen (2010) were
successful in manipulating identication through making a character more or
less likeable.
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Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam
Participants, design, and procedure
A site for people involved and interested in handball was employed to attract partic-
ipants. Within 2 weeks, 151 participants had responded to the invitation to take part
in a study on the evaluation of stories. ey received an e-mail containing a link to a
website and were randomly assigned to one of the versions of the experiment. Aer
reading the story and lling out the questionnaire, participants received information
on the design and goal of the experiment. Based upon the reading times, six partici-
pants were excluded from the analysis because of their abnormal reading times: Four
spent fewer than 100 seconds2reading the text, whereas two participants spent far
more time than expected (25 and 70 minutes). For the remaining 145 participants,
than men took part in the experiment. is website also contained an e-mail address
that they could use if they wanted more information. An experimental session lasted
on average 11.5 minutes.
A narrative from a professionally produced brochure served as the base material. e
brochure was about people who had a so-called PGB: a personal health care budget.
is budget enables people with severe health problems to organize their own health
care, for instance, by hiring a nurse, so that they can live in their own homes instead
of being forced to move to a nursing home. In three short introductory paragraphs
(196 words), the news was introduced that the Dutch government had plans to stop
this kind of support. e introduction was followed by the story of Loes Hamers. She
is a 45-year-old woman, who suers from a brain injury aer she was hit by a cab. e
PGB enables her to live on her own because she can hire help for shopping, cleaning,
and driving her to her appointments, and a nurse to help her with medical issues. As a
result of the new government plans, Loes would be forced to live in a nursing home. At
it remains unclear whether Loes will be forced to live in a nursing home.
e main manipulation related to the character’s likeability, that is, whether Loes
was portrayed as a likeable or a less likeable person. is manipulation was imple-
mented in a more elaborate and a more succinct discussion of Loes’ character. e
hypotheses for the elaborate and succinct manipulation are the same, but this design
enabled a more nuanced assessment of the hypotheses and research question. e
story consisted of ve paragraphs. e second and fourth paragraph contained the
manipulation; the other paragraphs were identical in all versions. In the more elabo-
rate manipulation of likeability, the manipulation in the second paragraph consisted
of three dierences. In the version with the likeable character, she drinks coee and
has a nice chat with the help, she pays a friend from her budget for the help this friend
sion, she is rude to the help because she feels she has better things to do than drinking
coee with her, she sometimes pays her friend from her budget but usually does not,
940 Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association
H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion
and she hires additional help to do household chores she does not like. For the succinct
whereas in the version with the less likeable one, her being rude is not included. e
sions. In the version with the likeable character, it is said that she gives the money she
does not need back to the government whereas in the version with the less likeable
character she keeps the money for herself. In the longer versions, there is also only
people can use it.” In the less likeable version, it is said that she keeps the money even
though she knows that she should give it back and states “then they shouldn’t have
given me that much.”
Both the elaborateness of the manipulation and the likeability manipulation
yielded dierences in length. For the less elaborate versions, the one with the likeable
character was slightly shorter (721 words) than the one with the less likeable character
(758 words). For the elaborate versions, the version with the likeable character was
also slightly shorter compared to the one with the less likeable character (882 vs.
937 words). e average word and sentence lengths of the four versions were highly
e questionnaire contained the following dependent variables. e Attitude toward
the PGB wasmeasuredusingtheclause“IfthePGBisabolished,Iregardthatas
followed by four 7-point semantic dierentials (e.g., good– bad, foolish– wise; Cron-
bach’s α=.91). Enjoyment of reading the story was measured employing ve Likert
scales developed by Hartmann and Vorderer (2010) (e.g., I found reading the story
about Loes: A waste of time, Interesting, Boring; α=.79). Next, Emotions evoked by
the story were measured using 21 items used by Banerjee and Greene (2012). A fac-
tor analysis revealed four factors: one consisting of eight items representing Positive
emotions (e.g., happy, relaxed, satised; α=.91), six items representing Negative pas-
sive emotions (e.g., sad, worried, scared; α=.85), three items representing Negative,
active emotions (e.g., angry, irritated; α=.75), and three items representing Surprise
(e.g., surprised, shocked; α=.79).Oneitem,bored,didnotloadonanyofthesefactors
and was excluded from the analysis. Character liking was measured using four 7-point
Likert items inspired by Moyer-Gusé’s (2008) description of this concept (e.g., I liked
To measure the experience of Transportation, the 17 items of the (Dutch) ques-
tionnaire developed by De Graaf et al. (2012, Experiment 2) were used. ey report
the questionnaire measuring three dimensions of this experience: Identication
with a character was measured by six Likert items (e.g., “During reading, I felt for
Loes”; “During reading, I imagined what it would be like to be in Loes’ position,”
“During reading, I had the feeling that I went through what Loes was experiencing”:
α=.81); Narrative presence, the extent to which participants felt present at the events
described in the story, was measured using seven items (e.g., During reading, I was
Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association 941
Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam
Table 1 e Mean Scores (and Standard Deviations) for the Dependent Variables as a
Function of Likeability and Elaborateness (Reading Time in Seconds; 1 =very negative,
7=very positive)
Likeable Character Less Likeable Character
Short (n=32) Long (n=39) Short (n=37) Long (n=37)
Reading times 182.19 (76.50)232.59 (82.59)207.16 (73.66)268.19 (125.97)
Character liking 4.30 (0.98)4.60 (0.71)3.33 (0.82)2.92 (1.21)
Attentional focus 3.97 (1.10)4.37 (1.24)4.32 (0.92)4.09 (0.95)
Narrative presence 4.60 (1.00)4.30 (1.23)4.41 (0.91)4.23 (0.88)
Perceived realism 5.10 (1.12)5.06 (1.04)4.51 (0.78)4.32 (0.96)
Enjoyment 4.14 (1.01)4.78 (0.98)4.15 (0.95)4.16 (1.09)
Identication 4.02 (0.95)4.05 (0.94)3.73 (0.69)3.29 (1.01)
Positive 2.73 (1.14)3.12 (0.95)3.27 (1.13)3.22 (1.06)
Sadness 3.96 (1.14)3.51 (1.32)3.14 (1.28)3.20 (1.35)
Anger 4.46 (1.24)3.95 (1.29)4.30 (1.00)4.59 (1.26)
Surprise 3.52 (1.26)3.91 (1.23)3.59 (1.44)4.11 (1.36)
Attitude 6.17 (0.92)6.10 (1.02)6.01 (0.85)5.71 (1.17)
in the world described in the story; α=.88); Attentional focus, that is, the extent to
which the participants’ attention was focused on the story, was measured by four
items (e.g., During reading, I was fully concentrated on the story; α=.73). Finally, the
story’s Perceived realism was measured using six items developed by Canter, Grieve,
Nicola, and Benneworth (2003) to measure the extent to which participants regarded
the story as plausible and realistic (e.g., I found this story unbelievablebelievable,
logicalillogical, not truthful truthful; α=.79).
Separate 2 (Likeability) ×2 (Elaborateness) analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were
conducted. Table 1 contains the mean scores for the dependent variables. First, the
impact of these factors on reading time was assessed. Reading the more elaborate
version took almost one minute longer (M=249.92, SD =106.74) compared to the
shorter version, M=195.58, SD =75.49; F(1, 141) =13.07, p<.001, η2=.085. ere
was a trend for the version with the likeable character to be read faster (M=209.87,
SD =83.26) compared to the version with the less likeable character, M=237.68,
SD =106.98; F(1, 141) =3.86, p=.051, η2=.027. e interaction between the two
factors was not signicant, F(1, 141) <1. In subsequent analyses, Reading time was
entered as a covariate in all analyses as a control for story length. For only one
dependent variable, the extent to which participants experienced surprise, proved
Reading time a signicant covariate, F(1, 140) =5.36, p=.022, η2=.04; none of
the main eects nor the interaction were signicant for this dependent variable
942 Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association
H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion
(ps>.195). For all other dependent variables, Reading time was not signicant,
Fs(1, 140) <1.
Apart from a trend implicating that reading the more elaborate story versions was
considered more enjoyable than reading the succinct ones, F(1, 140) =3.68, p=.057,
η2=.026, there were no main eects of Elaborateness for any of the dependent
variables (ps>.187). If the impact of the Likeability manipulation depended on the
degree to which it was elaborated, an interaction between these factors should arise.
e most likely candidate for such an interaction to arise would be the manipulation
check about the character’s perceived likeability. is proved indeed to be the case,
F(1, 140) =5.13, p=.025, η2=.035. Simple eect analyses revealed that whereas
the eect of the Likeability manipulation was already highly signicant for the
shorter versions, F(1, 66) =18.80, p<.001, η2=.22, it was even larger for the longer
ones, F(1, 73) =54.20, p<.001, η2=.43. ere was a trend for a similar eects on
Evoked anger, F(1, 140) =3.87, p=.051, η2=.027 and Enjoyment of reading, F(1,
140) =3.49, p=.064, η2=.024. Whereas participants tended to experience more
anger and enjoy themselves less aer reading the elaborate version with the less
likeable character compared to the elaborate version with the likeable character,
these eects appeared smaller for the succinct versions. Finally, there was a trend
for Likeability and Elaborateness to interact for Attentional focus, F(1, 140) =3.10,
p=.081, η2=.022. Whereas for the versions with the likeable character the more
elaborate versions appeared to score higher on this dimension, the opposite eect
appeared to occur for the more succinct versions. For none of the other variables was
the interaction between Likeability and Elaborateness signicant (ps>.126).
Next, the main eects of Likeability are discussed. ere were highly signicant
main eects of Likeability on the character’s perceived likeability, F(1, 140) =69.19,
p<.001, η2=.331, and identication with the character, F(1, 140) =11.77, p=.001,
η2=.078. Participants liked (M=4.46, SD =0.85) and identied more strongly with
the likeable character (M=4.03, SD =0.94) than they liked (M=3.13, SD =1.05) and
identied with the less likeable character (M=3.51, SD =0.89). Likeability had no
impact on attentional focus and narrative presence, Fs(1, 140) <1. e manipulation
ing the other transportation dimensions.
Hypothesis 1 predicted that identication would evoke stronger emotions. ere
were main eects of Likeability for the degree to which the participants reported
experiencing stronger sadness-related emotions, F(1, 140) =7.12, p=.009, η2=.048
and stronger positive emotions, F(1, 140) =3.68, p=.029, η2=.026, one-tailed tested.
Reading a story with a likeable character yielded stronger sadness-related emotions
(M=3.71, SD =1.26) and less positive emotions (M=2.94, SD =1.05) compared to
reading a story with a less likeable character (sadness: M=3.17, SD =1.31; positive:
M=3.24, SD =1.09). ere were no main eects for surprise, F(1, 140) <1or
anger, F(1, 140) =1.13, p=.29. Hypothesis 2 predicted that the attitude toward the
issue would be more positive aer reading the version with the likeable character.
Participants who had read the version with the likeable character held indeed more
Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association 943
Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam
positive attitudes (M=6.13, SD =0.97) compared to those who had read the ver-
sion with the less likeable character, M=5.86, SD =1.03; F(1, 140) =3.17, p=.038,
η2=.022, one-tailed tested. Apart from these (predicted) main eects of Likeability,
the version with the likeable character was also perceived as more realistic (M=5.08,
SD =1.06) than the version with the less likeable character, M=4.42, SD =0.88; F(1,
140) =17.37, p<.001, η2=.11. In addition, there was a trend toward reading the
version with the likeable version yielding a more enjoyable experience (M=4.50,
SD =1.03) than reading the other version, M=4.15, SD =1.01; F(1, 140) =3.25,
p=.074, η2=.023.
on the attitude. e indirect eects analysis of multiple mediators as proposed by
Hayes (2013) was employed using his PROCESS macro. In all analyses, bias-corrected
bootstrap condence intervals were computed for the indirect eects (B)basedon
10,000 bootstrap samples and with a 95% condence interval. As a rst step, the
dependent variables for which signicant eects of Likeability were obtained (i.e.,
Positive emotions, Sadness-related emotions, Identication, Perceived realism, and
Enjoyment) were entered as potential mediators while statistically controlling for the
attention and narrative presence dimensions of transportation, the emotions of anger
and surprise, and reading time. Only for the indirect eects of Sadness-related emo-
tions (B=.125, CI: .039 to .280) and Perceived realism (B=.173, CI: .045 to .409)
were the condence intervals entirely above zero. ese variables served as mediators
for the impact of Likeability on the Attitude toward the PGB, whereas Identication
(B=.009, CI: .096 to .010), Positive emotions (B=−.006, CI: .083 to .043), and
Enjoyment (B=−.037, CI: .160 to .008) did not.
e extent to which emotions were experienced was expected to depend on the
extent to which participants had identied with the character. To assess whether this
lyzed whether the Identication– Sadness-related emotions (serial) relation served
as a mediator while statistically controlling for all other variables. Both the indirect
eect of the serial relation (B=.025, CI: .005 to .079) and Sadness-related emotions
(B=.079, CI: .007 to .219) yielded condence intervals that were entirely above zero;
this was not the case for Identication (B=.006, CI: .065 to .088 ). To check whether
Perceived realism inuenced Identication, a similar serial multiple mediator anal-
ysis was conducted but now with Perceived realism– Identication as serial medi-
ators while statistically controlling for all other variables including Sadness-related
emotions. Only the condence interval for the indirect eect of Perceived realism
(B=.145, CI: .030 to .370) was entirely above zero. is was not the case for the
indirect eects of the (serial) Perceived realism– Identication mediator (B=.002, CI:
017 to .028) and Identication (B=.005, CI: .051 to .074 ).
Whereas previous studies hinted at the importance of emotions for the narrative per-
suasion process, this study is the rst to provide evidence for the mediating role of
944 Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association
H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion
identication in evoking emotions and their subsequent impact on attitude. e more
people identify with the main character who might have to live in a nursing home if
the new regulation is put in place, the more strongly people experience sadness, and
the more favorable their attitude toward the personal budget system, that enables the
character to live on her own, becomes. In addition, the results corroborate the impor-
tance of perceived realism as a driver of narrative persuasion as it served as a (separate)
mediator in the persuasion process.
Given the importance of emotions for narrative persuasion, an interesting
question is in what other ways emotions might be evoked. Raney (2004, 2006) has
developed the aective disposition theory to explain how stories evoke emotions.
He included the importance of the just world belief. In a just world, good people are
rewarded whereas bad people are punished. In an unjust world, good people fail to
we experience positive emotions (joy, satisfaction) if the outcome of a story conrms
our view of a just world whereas we experience negative emotions if the story’s out-
come goes against this view. Crucially, in case of a likeable character, the audience’s
emotions are similar to those of the character (i.e., sadness when the character feels
sad), whereas in case of a less likeable character, these emotions may be reversed (i.e.,
we may enjoy the character feeling sad). In summary, the experiencing of emotions
does not depend on the outcome of the story per se (whether characters get what
accordance with the just world belief.
In the rst experiment, the main character’s likeability was manipulated through
the way in which she treated the nurses (friendly vs. unfriendly) and what she did
manipulations may have had dierent eects on the perception of the outcome. Being
unfriendly to the nurses may have made the character merely unsympathetic; keeping
the money for herself, on the other hand, may have given the participants the impres-
sion that it would be her just dessert if she were no longer to receive nancial support.
In other words, this version of the story may have been more in accordance with the
participants’ view of what is a just outcome and therefore evoke less intense negative
Study 2
e goal of this experiment was to assess whether the extent to which a sad story
evokes negative emotions depends on the extent which the main character is held
responsible for that outcome. A story was written in which a heart patient is waiting
for a donor heart. e manipulation consisted of the extent to which this man could
be held responsible for his condition: Either this was the result of a genetic defect (not
responsible) or the result of an unhealthy lifestyle (responsible). Hoeken and Hustinx
(2007) were successful in manipulating the perceived responsibility of a person in this
way. Raney (2004, 2006) predicts that people will nd it easier to identify with the
Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association 945
Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam
former character than with the latter, which leads to the following hypothesis: Par-
ticipants will identify more strongly with an innocent character than with a culpable
one (H3).
e story ends with the man dying because no donor heart is available. is would
be considered more divergent from a just world in the case of the man who cannot
be blamed for his heart condition compared to the case of the man being responsi-
ble for his condition: Participants consider the story with the innocent character as
more divergent from a just world than the story with the culpable character (H4).
Both stronger identication and stronger diverging from a just world should evoke
donation. Participants will experience more negative and more intense emotions and
develop a more positive attitude toward organ donation aer reading the story with
the innocent character (H5). Finally, the question is whether identication and/or just
world perceptions mediate the impact of the character manipulation on the evoking
of emotions: To what extent does identication or just world divergence mediate the
impact of character culpability on the evoking of emotions? (RQ2)
Participants and design
A total of 115 participants took part in the experiment. Age ranged from 18 to 64, with
an average of 37 years. More women (58.3%) than men took part in the experiment.
Participants were randomly assigned to read one of the two versions of the story and
were then asked to ll out a questionnaire.
transplant was available in time. e man, omas van Hees (36), is happily married
and a father of two children. Aer a seizure at the tennis club, he is diagnosed as having
ness reecting his growing despair about no donor heart being available. e dierent
were equally long (806 words, 78 sentences, 11 paragraphs). e only dierence was
the extent to which the main character led a healthy life or not, a dierence that later
in the story was referred to as aggravating the severity of his heart disease whereas the
disease was ascribed to hereditary causes in the other version. e manipulation was
intended to present omas as more or less responsible for his condition.
e questionnaire contained the following dependent variables.
e Attitude toward donor registration was measured using four 7-point semantic
dierentials (e.g., sensible– foolish, bad good) preceded by the clause: “Registering
myself as a donor, is”: e reliability of the scale was good (Cronbach’s α=.84).
Emotions were measured employing an instrument developed by Carrera, Caballero,
946 Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association
H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion
Munoz, and Oceja (2011). Participants were asked to express the extent to which they
experienced the following emotions: “Because of the story, I felt angry,” “I felt sad,”
“I felt ashamed, “I felt guilty,” “I felt joyful,” and “I felt scared.” e ve negative
emotions yielded a reliable scale (Cronbachs α=.74). is instrument was chosen
because it was shorter than the one used in Study 1 and its focus on negative emotions
which proved to be important in that study. In addition, Emotional intensity was
measured using the items “I found the story touching” and I found the story moving”
(Cronbach’s α=.80).
e same items as in Study 1 were used to measure Character liking (n=4,
Cronbach’s α=.93), as well as Identication (n=6, Cronbach’s α=.87), Narrative
presence (n=7, Cronbach’s α=.91), and Attentional focus (n=4, Cronbach’s α=.83).
To assess whether the manipulation of culpability had been successful, the extent to
which participants held the character responsible for his illness was measured using
two items: “omas could not help getting the disease” and “It’s omas’s own fault
that he has this heart disease (reversed coded) (Cronbachs α=.86). e extent to
which the story’s outcome was in accordance with the just world belief was mea-
sured by ve semantic dierentials following the clause: “I think what happened to
omas is (fairunfair, unacceptable– acceptable)” (Cronbachs α=.81). Finally,
a shortened version of the perceived realism scare was employed consisting of two
semantic dierentials following the clause “I nd the story (realistic unrealistic,
unbelievablebelievable)” (Cronbach’s α=.86).
Four master students approached participants individually and asked whether they
would be interested in participating in a study on the evaluation of weblogs about
health issues. If they agreed, they received at random one of the versions of the exper-
imental booklet. Aer reading the blog and lling out the questionnaire, participants
were told the purpose of the experiment and any remaining questions were answered.
An experimental session lasted between 10 and 15 minutes with an average of 12
In Table 2, the means and standard deviations for the dependent variables are reported
as a function of the character’s culpability. It also contains the results of the statistical
tests. First, it was checked whether the manipulation was successful. Participants who
had read the story with the “innocent” character considered the main character to
be less responsible for his heart condition and liked the character more than those
who had read the version with the “responsible” character. Apart from these intended
eects, participants perceived the version with the innocent character as more realistic
and felt that it kept their attention more strongly. In addition, there was a trend for
this version to evoke a stronger feeling of narrative presence.
Both hypotheses 3 and 4 were conrmed. Participants reading the version with the
“innocent” character identied more strongly with the main character and considered
Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association 947
Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam
Table 2 e Mean Scores (and Standard Deviations) for the Dependent Variables as a
Function of the Culpability of the Main Character (1 =very negative,7=very positive)
Innocent Culpable
M(SD)nM(SD)ntdf p η2
Character culpability 1.73 (0.98) 57 5.05 (1.33) 58 15.27 113 <.001 .674
Character liking 4.58 (0.94) 57 3.72 (1.22) 58 4.22 113 <.001 .136
Attentional focus 5.01 (1.15) 57 4.54 (1.23) 58 2.14 113 .035 .039
Narrative presence 4.91 (1.04) 57 4.47 (1.34) 58 1.95 113 .053 .033
Attitude 5.98 (1.29) 57 6.01 (1.18) 58 0.11 113 .910
Perceived realism 6.03 (1.00) 56 5.33 (1.39) 58 3.07 112 .003 .078
Identication 4.31 (1.04) 57 3.81 (1.22) 58 2.36 113 .020 .047
Just ending 2.19 (0.99) 57 2.92 (0.91) 58 4.11 113 <.001 .130
Positive emotion 1.49 (0.93) 57 1.53 (1.01) 58 0.24 113 .812
Negative emotions 3.71 (1.20) 57 3.08 (1.00) 58 3.04 113 .003 .076
Emotional intensity 5.68 (1.01) 55 5.17 (1.21) 58 2.43 111 .017 .051
the story more unjust than the ones reading the version with the culpable character.
Hypothesis 5 was partly conrmed: e version with the innocent version was con-
sidered more moving and it evoked stronger negative emotions than the version with
the culpable character. No dierences were found for the positive emotion and for the
attitude toward donor registration. e absence of these eects may have been caused
Research question 2 is about the mediating role of identication and/or just
world perceptions as mediators of the culpability manipulation on the evoking
of emotions. Given that the manipulation inuenced other variables as well (i.e.,
Perceived realism, Attentional focus, Narrative presence), the data were analyzed
into the analysis, and for each variable it was assessed whether or not it functioned
as a mediator while statistically controlling for the other variables. When conducting
the indirect eect of Identication was entirely above zero (B=.226, CI: .037 to .517).
iswasnotthecaseforJustendingperception(B=−.007, CI: .176 to .140) or any
of the other variables (Perceived realism: B=−.053, CI: .201 to .045; Attentional
focus: B=.079, CI: .074 to .408; Narrative presence: B=−.030, CI: .320 to .187;
Emotional intensity: B=−.022, CI: .254 to .167). A slightly dierent pattern of
signicant mediator (B=.125; CI: .011 to .404), whereas Just ending perception did
not (B=.094, CI: .040 to .288). Of the other variables, Perceived realism was a
signicant mediator in this case (B=.225, CI =.072 to .494), whereas the others were
not (Attentional focus: B=.045, CI =−.055 to .248; Narrative presence: B=.030,
CI =−.070 to .238; Negative emotions: B=−.022, CI =−.157 to .057).
948 Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association
H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion
A story in which a person dies of a disease that he brought at least partly upon
himself, evoked negative emotions to a lesser extent and was considered less moving
compared to a story in which this person cannot be held responsible for his disease.
Two mechanisms can explain such an eect. e identication mechanism explains
the decreased impact by stating that the audience identies less with the main char-
acter, which results in experiencing less intense emotions. e just world mechanism
predicts that if a character can be held responsible for his or her death, our belief in
a just world is challenged less than if the character cannot be held responsible. e
former situation may lead to less intense emotions than the latter one. e mediation
analyses revealed that whereas identication served as a mediator for both the extent
of negative emotions and emotional intensity, the perception to which the story con-
forms to a just world did not.
General discussion
e results of these studies provide new insights into the mechanisms of narrative per-
suasion. e rst study shows that the extent to which people identify with a character
inuences the extent to which people experience emotions, which in turn inuences
study provides additional evidence for the role of identication in evoking emotions.
Again, identication (rather than perceiving the story’s outcome as just) mediates the
impact of the dierent story versions on the extent to which participants experienced
negative emotions and were moved by the story. Interpreting signicant relations
between variables as causal ones is a delicate exercise.3First, there needs to be a solid
theoretical foundation for such an interpretation. Green and Donahue (2009) pre-
dict that identication can inuence people’s attitudes as a result of the implications
of events experienced by the character with whom people identied. Cohen (2001)
denes identication as perceiving the character’s goals as one’s own. In the two sto-
live in a nursing home; in the second story, the man wanted to live. Oatley (1995,
1999) predicts that the audience will experience emotions when these plans meet
vicissitudes. In both stories, the attainment of these goals is threatened: by a new gov-
ernment policy in Study 1 and by the absence of an organ donor in Study 2. Similarly,
in both studies, there is a positive relation between identication and the experiencing
of (negative) emotions, which makes sense given that the more one has adopted the
ese negative emotions are signals that there are barriers to one’s goals, and will result
in negative attitudes toward these barriers (i.e., the new government policy, the short-
attitude toward the new policy; in the second study, this is not the case. One reason
for the absence may be that there is a ceiling eect for the attitude toward becom-
Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association 949
Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam
organ donor) is only indirectly connected to the actual obstacle, that is, the shortage
of organ donors.
which other variables that may mediate the eect are controlled for. In both stud-
ies, a number of variables have been measured that have been identied as potential
mediators of narrative persuasion, notably the attentional focus and narrative pres-
ence dimensions of transportation, and perceived realism. In addition, in Study 1
several other emotions and the extent to which participants enjoyed reading the story
were measured; in Study 2, the extent to which participants considered the ending
as covariates or as potential mediators. Only perceived realism served as a media-
tor, and did so in both studies; the other variables did not serve as mediators. More
importantly, the hypothesized relation between identication and emotion served as
ing the relations between perceived realism and emotions and attitude into account.
is combination of a sound theoretical foundation and statistical control for poten-
tial alternative explanations provides strong support for the identicationemotion
relation as a mechanism of narrative persuasion.
No support was found for the relation between perceiving the story’s outcome as
just and the experiencing of emotions. On one hand, the conditions for observing such
one (and the scores were below the neutral midpoint of the scale). Furthermore, the
manipulation’s impact on the just outcome perception was larger than the impact on
identication. Still, the manipulations impact on emotions was mediated by identi-
cation and not by just outcome perceptions. On the other hand, the manipulation of
the character’s culpability could be considered relatively weak. Raney’s (2004, 2006)
aective disposition theory explains why people may enjoy a story in which a char-
character’s heart condition was aggravated by his drinking habits hardly puts him in
about “bad” people would have an even stronger impact on just outcome perceptions
and emotions.
e results of these studies show how narratives can evoke emotions and
how such emotions can inuence people’s attitudes. e rst study also shows
that this persuasive outcome depends on specic emotions: Sadness-related emo-
tions served as a mediator, whereas other types of emotions did not. is nding
provides corroboration for claims that the persuasive impact of emotions depends
on the type of emotions (see, e.g., Dillard & Nabi, 2006; Dillard & Seo, 2013;
Nabi, 2010). In addition, the importance of sadness for obtaining a persuasive
outcome replicates previous studies that also found sadness to be an important
determinant of persuasive success (see, e.g., Dillard & Peck, 2000; Yoo, Kreuter,
Lai, & Fu, 2014). is combination of ndings points out an interesting venue for
future research.
950 Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association
H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion
First, which emotions are evoked by a narrative depends on how the events
described impact a character’s goals and plans. Oatley (1995, p. 69), for instance,
predicts that “plans that meet success, the nding of friends, falling in love, tend
to elicit happiness, injustice provokes vengeful anger, separation and danger elicit
anxiety, reunion aer separation elicits tears, what is despicable provokes contempt.”
relation between this emotion and the persuasive outcome. Second, the intensity of
these feelings can be manipulated by manipulating the extent to which the audience
identies with the character. Several ways to manipulate the extent to which people
identify with a character have been documented. Perspective, that is, through whose
eyes we experience the story events, can inuence with whom the audience identies
(De Graaf et al., 2012; Hoeken & Fikkers, 2014). Manipulating a character’s likeability
Cohen (2010). Finally, the similarity between the character and the audience may
lead to a stronger feeling of identication as well (see, e.g., Andsager, Bemker, Choi,
& Torwel, 2006).
e studies reported here shed light on how identication with a character can
evant for future research. First, narratives have been identied as a promising genre
to improve the eectiveness of health communication (see, e.g., Green, 2006; Hin-
yard & Kreuter, 2007; Kreuter et al., 2007). Understanding exactly how narratives
can bring about persuasive eects is essential in order to understand when and why
stories can have positive eects. Second, the question is to what extent persuasive
success depends on what specic emotions are evoked by communication. Manipu-
lating narratives provides an interesting way to evoke specic emotions as well as to
manipulate their intensity. Research on the persuasive impact of narratives thereby
opens up an interesting research agenda in which two important lines of research
are combined.
supervised by Hans Hoeken. We would like to thank Enny Das, Asifa Majid, Donna
Rouner, Malcolm Parks, and four reviewers for their valuable comments and sug-
gestions on previous versions of this paper. Needless to say, any remaining errors
are ours.
1 Murphy et al. (2011) have studied the relation between character involvement,
transportation, emotion, and persuasive outcomes. In their study, they have
operationalized character involvement for three dierent characters employing items
measuring the extent to which the participant thought to be similar to the character, knew
the one in our study.
Journal of Communication 64 (2014) 935– 955 © 2014 International Communication Association 951
Role of Identification in Narrative Persuasion H. Hoeken & J. Sinkeldam
2 In a pretest with 10 students, it was established that 100 seconds was about the minimum
needed for reading the story.
3 Typically, claims about causal relations between intervening variables are supported by
structural equation modeling. However, for such an analysis, the lower limit sample size is
200 participants (see, e.g., Weston & Gore, 2006); the numbers of participants in Studies 1
and 2 are lower. Hayes (2013, pp. 159– 162) claims that the mediation analyses are more
robust than SEM for smaller samples. He also shows how mediation analyses produce
estimates that are extremely similar to those produced by popular SEM programs as Mplus
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... Based on previous research we know that there are other factors besides abstract and concrete representations that predict identification with media characters. For example, people tend to identify with characters who are presented as having a more positive personality (e.g., Hoeken & Sinkeldam, 2014). Therefore, we placed a positive character in a negative situation that prompted unkind behavior that was natural and realistic for this specific situation, so situational attribution increased identification. ...
... The manipulation of the media character's virtue did work in Hoeken and Sinkeldam (2014) in which the protagonist whose behavior was positively or negatively depicted was a very ill woman. However, a large part of the manipulation regarding the woman's behavior revolved around her use of the financial budget she received from the government. ...
... For example, what would happen if the protagonist behaved badly in a way that was in line with the situation, but by doing so harmed other people? Or what happens if the protagonist who behaves badly is part of an unfavorable outgroup?However, while our study was based on a specific narrative, our hypotheses were based on the findings of previous studies that used other narratives (e.g.,Hoeken & Sinkeldam, 2014;Tal-Or & Cohen, 2010). The attribution explanation we suggested seems to be consistent with the findings of these other studies. ...
We explored new antecedents and consequences of identification with media characters that are related to concreteness or abstractness of representations. First, we examined how the portrayal of the protagonist’s behavior affects the reader’s identification with her. Participants read one of four narratives in which we manipulated the character’s usual behavior (abstract traits) and her behavior on a specific bad day (concrete states). As expected, when the character had positive traits but behaved unkindly in the negative situation, compared to the other conditions, the readers (N = 206) identified more strongly with her through the mediation of higher situational attributions, i.e. attributing the protagonist’s behavior more to the situation than to her traits. Then we examined the effect of identification on the readers’ concrete and abstract thoughts. We hypothesized and found that stronger identification with the character was related to increasingly more concrete thinking about the protagonist’s specific plans and reactions regarding the situation than abstract thinking about the protagonist’s life in general. Additionally, stronger identification was associated with more concrete thoughts about the readers themselves through the partial mediation of concrete thoughts about the character. These findings may reconcile previous inconsistent results about identification and have implications for narrative persuasion.
... Alternatively, there is an ongoing interplay between the two experiences. According to this view, some minimal level of mentalization and identification is needed to interpret and process the narrative, which in turn fosters character identification, which then further strengthens transportation (Hoeken & Sinkeldam, 2014). ...
... Although all the participants watched the same video narrative, identification levels varied depending on the background information viewers were privy to. Similar effects of character virtue on identification were found using print stimuli that embedded information about the character's positive or negative traits and behaviors (e. g., honesty, generosity) within the narrative itself (Cohen et al., 2015;Hoeken & Sinkeldam, 2014). ...
... There is a profound body of research on audiences' emotional responses to narratives that focuses on single emotions (Bezdek et al., 2015;de Graaf & Hustinx, 2011;Nabi, 2002;So et al., 2016), overall emotions (Altmann et al., 2012;Carrera et al., 2010;Dunlop et al., 2010;Hoeken & Sinkeldam, 2014;Knobloch-Westerwick & Keplinger, 2006;Kreibig, 2010;Murphy et al., 2013;Prestin, 2013;Rodrigue et al., 2014), or an end emotion specifically (e.g., Hamby & Brinberg, 2016). However, Nabi and Green (2015) have argued that the combination of all emotional shifts in response to a story (emotional flow) is a crucial factor in ongoing receptive processes such as narrative engagement. ...
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Varying emotional content guides audiences’ attention during story reception. This study explored audiences’ emotional responses to stories to examine how emotional flow is related to the narrative material in valence and structure. We investigated the match between textual and emotional valence trajectories and examined accompanying further immediate and retrospective affective responses. Responses were tracked to three auditory short stories of different genres (happy-ending story, tragedy, and thriller) over four plot units (introduction, complication, climax and end). Sympathetic and vagal activation were measured continuously. Valence, arousal, and emotional intensity were measured retrospectively. Textual valence trajectories acquired by sentiment analyses corresponded mostly to retrospective ratings of stories with textually clear content of happiness and sadness. Immediate and retrospective emotional responses corresponded evidently to structural narrative features such as the climax. We discuss our work as clarifying groundwork for future research on emotional flow that links textual analyses to emotional responses.
... A large body of research efforts has been devoted to exploring character-based determinants of narrative persuasiveness, including characters' attributes (e.g., Appel & Mara, 2013;Tal-Or & Cohen, 2010), behaviors (e.g., Chen et al., 2017), and associated outcomes (e.g., Hoeken & Sinkeldam, 2014;Krakow et al., 2017). Recently, the similarity between the story character and the recipient has been proposed as another character-based factor with the potential to optimize the narrative's persuasiveness. ...
This meta-analysis synthesized 19 empirical articles reporting 123 effect sizes of character-recipient similarity on narrative processing and persuasion outcomes across different contexts, including health, environmental, and social issues. We also aimed to investigate whether the effect magnitude varies depending on how the similarity is operationalized, which perspective is adopted, and what context the narrative persuasion is placed in. The results indicated that, compared to a dissimilar counterpart, a similar character leads to stronger identification (k = 34, d = 0.14, p < .01) and self-referencing (k = 12, d = 0.16, p < .01). The effects on transportation (k = 22, d = 0.13, p = .05) and resistance (k = 12, d = −0.16, p = .05) were marginally significant. It was also found that the similarity manipulated on chosen demographic and biographic variables like occupation and living place yields the strongest impact among other variables (i.e., innate demographic and biographic variables like age and sex, psychological and behavioral variables like beliefs and behaviors). Furthermore, the similarity effect in narrative persuasion becomes intensified when combined with a first-person perspective and placed in a social issue context. By presenting a synthesis of the existing research, this meta-analytical study sought to identify areas in need of further refinement and outline future investigation directions for narrative persuasion.
... This effect was driven by an increase in perceived message quality and credibility. These findings may be understood in terms of reduced affective reactance (i.e., reduced anger and annoyance) regarding a message challenging one's beliefs (Dillard & Shen, 2005;Hoeken & Sinkeldam, 2014). A recent meta-analysis also suggests that reactance may be decreased by narratives (Ratcliff & Sun, 2020). ...
Overtly persuasive narratives such as testimonials pose significant challenges for theories of narrative persuasion. Such theories argue that overt persuasive intent diminishes entertainment and entertaining narratives reduce counterarguing. We propose that testimonial narratives instead have persuasive advantages through their ability to arouse message-consistent emotions and reduce affective reactance to the messages. Participants (n = 1478) were randomly assigned to read a testimonial narrative or a non-narrative article about physician-assisted suicide. Articles were perceived as highly persuasive and low in entertainment intent; the testimonial was higher than the non-narrative in perceived eudaimonic intent. As predicted, testimonials reduced counterarguing via increased meaningful affect and decreased affective reactance to the message. Interaction tests showed that these effects were stronger in counterattitudinal participants. Theoretical implications for understanding the effects of testimonial narratives, particularly when the narratives are eudaimonic, are discussed, as are innovations for measuring counterarguing and perceived message intent.
... An additional gap is the consideration of fan identification as an antecedent in the decoding process of a narrative message. Most of the time, research has focused on the mediation effect of identification in a narrative transportation (Hoeken & Sinkeldam, 2014;De Graaf et al., 2011). Poor evidence is present on the moderation effect of a pre-existing identification to enhance the power of narrative persuasion. ...
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This experimental study investigates message narrativity, CSR-brand fit, and fan identification of corporate social responsibility (CSR) endorsements in the sport industry. Specifically, the aim is to understand if certain elements of narrative messages can foster the advocacy intention of related and non-related CSR initiatives. Previous research focused attention on storytelling and narrative messages without addressing which narrativity elements can lead to positive audience behaviour. In addition, the strategic sports communication field, even if it has a strong connection with narratives, has not been interested in previous analysis. Focusing on two different fake initiatives of Manchester United, an experiment (N = 166) was conducted in which the message narrativity and the CSR-brand fit of the endorsement were manipulated. The advocacy intention of the audience was measured. The study found a significant positive relationship between rich narrativity and advocacy intention. A better CSR initiative leads to higher advocacy intention without being significant. Finally, fan identification does not moderate the main relationships, but it plays, as expected, a crucial role with a significant positive effect on advocacy intention. These findings add theoretical and practical value to the field, showing how, in the sports industry, narrative communication can foster advocacy intention for both fans and non-fans. The research also specifies which elements create a more narrative message, and it creates a scale that reliably measures, for the first time, the concept of fan identification in both its dimensions, fandom and fanship.
This research involves the development of a cinematic VR experience that exhibits narrative engagement and the investigation of possible measurement tools to evaluate that engagement. This is accomplished by the implementation and analysis of standardized self-reporting measures and observational data. The efficacy of these measurement tools is discussed as well as their possible modifications and limitations for storytelling in VR.
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This paper presents a pilot study aimed at investigating the comprehension of pantomimic stories and its possible cognitive underpinnings in typically developing children. A group of twenty-two Italian-speaking children aged between 8.02 and 10.11 years were included in the study. Participants watched short videos in which professional actors performed pantomime narratives; then answered a comprehension question and retold the stories. Analyses revealed positive correlations between the comprehension of pantomimes and age, theory of mind, and working memory. The implications of these results for a narrative model of language origin are discussed against the background of an eco-evo-devo perspective.
Purpose The importance of effective public messages has been widely recognized during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In particular, the role of news items and interpersonal conversations for the acceptance of public health measures has been highlighted. The authors propose a conceptual model based on the existing literature on how to measure the degree of persuasion of news narratives in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Design/methodology/approach The authors adopted a whole population approach, where the unit of analysis was the population of the media news about the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors selected a sample to develop and test their conceptual model. The sample size was n = 248. The questionnaire was distributed online using a non-probability convenience sampling plan. The authors used a pre-post pseudo-experimental design. Respondents answered questions about their attitude toward the COVID-19 pandemic. After watching a narrative news report on the same subject, they then answered questions designed to measure changes in their attitude. A structural equation model, the Sobel test and a paired samples t -test were used to test hypotheses. Findings The results showed that there is a significant relationship between narrative with transportation and empathy. There was also a positive and significant relationship between transportation and empathy with attitude and interpersonal talk. The relationship between transportation and self-referencing was also supported. Further, transportation and attitude mediated the relationships between narrative and interpersonal talk, self-referencing as well as empathy. A paired samples t -test revealed that attitudes were changed or reinforced before and after watching the narrative news report. Originality/value This paper contributes to the body of knowledge by identifying the outcomes of narrative persuasion during public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Terror management research has found that mortality salience increases self-esteem preservation, which tends to produce counter-persuasive effects in the health context. The present study examines the persuasive potentials of an alternative mortality prime, death reflection, in a between-subjects online experiment with current smokers (N = 92). We tested the effects of two death primes on their posttraumatic growth, identification with a story character, and quitting intentions after exposure to an anti-smoking PSA. The results showed that only death reflection significantly affected quitting intentions through two serial mediators. First, death reflection promoted a greater sense of posttraumatic growth than the control condition, whereas mortality salience did not. Second, the increased sense of growth enhanced identification with a testimonial character in the anti-smoking PSA, which, in turn, lowered quitting intentions. Implications for health communication are discussed.
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Perceived realism may be a crucial message characteristic facilitating narrative-based persuasion. This study examined dimensions of perceived realism and their roles in narrative persuasion. Data based on responses to messages on three topics showed that perceived realism was multidimensional. Its dimensions included plausibility, typicality, factuality, narrative consistency, and perceptual quality. Plausibility predicted emotional involvement, but not identification. Typicality predicted identification, but not emotional involvement. Narrative consistency and perceptual quality predicted message evaluation. Emotional involvement, identification, and message evaluation, in turn, predicted attitudes. Implications for theory, research, and message design pertinent to narrative persuasion are discussed.
The impact of entertainment-education messages on beliefs, attitudes, and behavior is typically explained in terms of social cognitive theory principles. However , important additional insights regarding reasons why entertainment-education messages have effects can be derived from the processing of persuasive content in narrative messages. Elaboration likelihood approaches suggest that absorption in a narrative, and response to characters in a narrative, should enhance persuasive effects and suppress counterarguing if the implicit persuasive content is counterattitudinal. Also, persuasion mediators and moderators such as topic involvement should be reduced in importance. Evidence in support of these propositions are reviewed in this article. Research needed to extend application of these findings to entertainment-education contexts, to further develop theory in the area of persuasion and narrative, and to better account for other persuasive effects of entertainment narrative, such as those hypothesized in cultivation theory, are discussed.