Sometimes stories sell: When are narrative appeals most likely to work?


Rose Thompson, Welsh Centre for Learning Disabilities, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.



Research has demonstrated that narratives can be effective in eliciting attitude change, especially when recipients become transported into the narrative. In three studies, we addressed whether some people are predisposed to be influenced by narratives and whether narrative and rhetorical appeals are differentially effective for different people. In Study 1, participants read an experimental or a control narrative, and completed measures of attitudes, need for affect (NFA), need for cognition (NFC), transportation, and transportability. The results revealed that NFA and NFC were positively correlated with transportation and transportability. In Study 2, participants read either a narrative appeal or a rhetorical appeal about cervical cancer and completed a measure of attitudes and the individual difference constructs. Study 3 was a replication of Study 2 using a different topic (organ donation). In both studies, the results revealed a consistent pattern of correlations among the individual difference measures. Further, we found that although the narrative and rhetorical appeals were judged to be of equal efficacy, the persuasiveness of the narrative appeal differed as function of individual differences in NFA and NFC. The implications for narrative persuasion are discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.