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Keywords:

  • Entertainment media;
  • movies;
  • narrative;
  • smoking;
  • tobacco;
  • transportation into narrative worlds

Abstract

Aims

A growing body of research suggests that smoking portrayals in movies influence adolescent tobacco use. However, the mechanism for this influence remains unclear. The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of research on narrative transportation theory, particularly as applied to movies and smoking. We propose that this theory can provide a valuable framework for guiding research on the role of entertainment media in smoking and other addictive behaviors.

Methods

We review empirical work on transportation theory and highlight the psychological mechanisms underlying transportation effects. ‘Transportation into narrative worlds’ refers to cognitive, emotional and imagery engagement into a narrative (including movies and entertainment media). We link this work with research on the effects of movie smoking.

Results

Research suggests that individuals who are more highly transported into narratives show greater attitude, belief and behavior change. Transportation effects work through reducing counterarguing, creating connections (identification and liking) with characters and increasing perceptions of realism and emotional involvement. We propose several future directions and research challenges for applying a transportation framework to the issue of entertainment media effects on smoking and tobacco disparities. Understanding factors contributing to transportation may provide a more nuanced view of who will be affected by movie smoking, and understanding the psychological processes underlying narrative persuasion may guide intervention efforts.

Conclusions

Narrative transportation theory suggests that individuals' cognitive, emotional and imagery immersion in a narrative is a key mechanism of attitude, belief and behavior change. This theory provides a potentially generative and psychologically grounded framework for increasing knowledge about the boundary conditions and processes underlying the effects of entertainment media on tobacco use.