Transportation and Narrative Persuasion

Reference:

Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2000). The role of transportation in the persuasiveness of public narratives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(5), 701-721. doi: 10.1037///0022-3514.79.5.701


Hypothesis:
 

To the extent that individuals are absorbed into a story or transported into a narrative world, they may show effects of the story on their real-world beliefs. 

Transportation was defined as a convergent process, where all mental systems and capacities become focused on events occurring in a narrative with three consequences.  Parts of the world of origin become inaccessible (getting lost in a story).  Strong emotions and motivations are experienced even when they know the events in the story are not real.  Readers return changed by the experience.   Four studies were conducted to test the hypothesis.

Participants: 

Undergraduates were given partial credit and assigned to various conditions.

Methods: 

Participants were given a story to read and then completed a dependent variable packet.  The dependent variables examined included story-specific beliefs, transportation, reality-source monitoring, character evaluations and recall among other variables.

 In the first experiment, participants were either assigned to one of two conditions: fiction – where the story was formatted as a narrative in a literary magazine, or nonfiction – where the story was formatted as a narrative in a newspaper clipping.  Both conditions were also clearly labeled as fiction or nonfiction on the front page of the narrative. 

Results: 

The study demonstrated a positive correlation between transportation, story-consistent beliefs, and positive evaluations towards the protagonist.  Response on belief indexes did not differ as a function of story source.  In fact, participants could rarely recall the correct reality status of their assigned story. 

Discussion: 

The three subsequent experiments further tested the correlation between transportation and real-world beliefs by manipulating story frame, reader’s instructions, drawing even more pronounced attention to the fiction/nonfiction condition, and by varying the text to less engrossing material.  The results consistently supported the findings in the first experiment with less compelling tests slightly more susceptible to transportation-weakening instructions. 

Fact or fiction recall was only apparent in the fourth experiment when participants were asked to circle whether their assigned story was designated as fiction or nonfiction before reading the story.

Comments/Questions:

What if the story promotes values counter to the reader’s values?  What if the story is viewed instead of read?  Would fact/fiction blur even more?

Take-away: 

To the extent that readers engage with written narrative and connect with the protagonist, they are likely to conform real-world beliefs to story-generated beliefs.  Further, once engaged, readers rarely recall whether the narrative was fact or fiction based.

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