Deterrence via Narrative – The Role of Narrative Transportation in Creating Persuasive Messages

Romero, V.

In Leveraging Neuroscientific and Neurotechnological (Neuro S&T) Developments with Focus on Influence and Deterrence in a Networked World, (Eds. H. Cabayan, W. Casebeer, D. DiEuliis, J. Giordano, and N.D. Wright), a Strategic Multi-Layer Assessment (SMA) White Paper (2014).

Stories engage a different type of cognitive processing than do logical arguments; stories can bypass the psychological defenses that hinder persuasion by argument. Narrative transportation heightens this stoy-specific processing and may hold the key to creating highly persuasive stories. Key findings from research on narrative transportation include:

  • Audiences are more open to ideas and position that conflict with their own when they are presented within stories.
  • Audiences’ intended behaviors can be impacted by stories.
  • Audiences remember information learned in stories as though it is true—even when they know the story is fictional.
  • Stories disengage parts of the brain associated with self-referential, internally focused thought.
  • All of these effects are magnified when a story is highly transportive.
  • Research offers guidelines on creating transportive stories.

Narrative transportation is the experience of becoming lost within the world of a story. Richard Gerrig first used the travel metaphor to express how readers become psychologically detached from the real world as they become more engrossed in world of the story. In the 20 years since, we have learned a great deal about the intersection between stories, transportation, and persuasion. We have empirical evidence that experiencing a narrative can be a transformational experience with long-term effects on audiences’ attitudes, beliefs, and behavioral intentions. The impact of transportation on persuasion is so strong that researchers are looking at how others are using elements of transportation in their attempts to create persuasive messages.


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