Fiction. Marketers, take note. Bonding with characters makes people lower their guard.
As someone who’s written movies and worked in marketing, I can’t say I’m shocked but it’s nice to have this scientifically confirmed.
Research has examined the ability of entertainment-education (E-E) programs to influence behavior across a variety of health and social issues. However, less is known about the underlying mechanisms that account for these effects. In keeping with the extended elaboration likelihood model (E-ELM) and the entertainment overcoming resistance model (EORM), we examined how story features, such as narrative transportation and involvement with characters, may reduce three forms of resistance to persuasion[mdash]reactance, counterarguing, and perceived invulnerability. In a between-subjects experiment, 367 undergraduates viewed either a dramatic narrative or a nonnarrative program about the difficult consequences of an unplanned teen pregnancy. Participants completed a questionnaire assessing their reactions to the program immediately after viewing and again 2 weeks later. Consistent with predictions derived from the EORM and E-ELM, the dramatic narrative reduced reactance by fostering parasocial interaction with characters and decreasing perceptions of persuasive intent. Also as expected, identification with characters in the narrative reduced counterarguing and increased perceived vulnerability to unplanned pregnancy[mdash]although the latter occurred only at the delayed posttest 2 weeks after exposure. Unexpectedly, transportation into the dramatic narrative was associated with greater counterarguing. Taken together, this research demonstrates that investigating narrative influence from the perspective of overcoming resistance is a useful approach. Findings also suggest important differences in how individuals process narrative and nonnarrative messages.
Source: Explaining the Effects of Narrative in an Entertainment Television Program: Overcoming Resistance to Persuasion from Human Communication Research by Emily Moyer-Gusé, Robin L. Nabi