All posts in “Creativity”

lego diving into water

Immersed, Transported & Persuaded by Story

How the Right Story Can Shape Our Attitudes – and Even Our Behaviors

A Wonderlab Interview with Melanie Green

Dr. Melanie Green studies the psychology of storytelling. Her research examines how becoming immersed in a story, known as narrative transport, can influence attitudes and change behaviors.

 

Why did you become interested in storytelling?

“Stories have the power to make children go to sleep and soldiers go to war.” That’s a quote from Jens Eder, who also studies the psychology of storytelling. I love this quote because it really captures something important about stories. On the one hand, they can be really simple and very easy to understand. On the other hand, they can have the power to create social change.

Dr. Melanie Green

Melanie Green examines the power of narrative to change beliefs and behaviors.

Your research has focused on what you describe as narrative transportation. What is it and why is it important?

Narrative transportation is the experience people have when they become so engaged – or immersed – in a story that the real world just falls away. Transportation is important because it focuses the attention of the audience, elicits strong emotional reactions and generates vivid mental images. As a result, after they exit the world of the story, the transported story audience tends to maintain story-consistent beliefs. In fact, studies show that those who are more transported into narratives are more likely to show attitude and belief change.

How can transporting stories help to change people’s beliefs?

Often times when we encounter a persuasive message that doesn’t fit with what we believe, our first response is to come up with arguments against the message. But there seems to be something special about transporting stories that reduce that tendency to argue. This concept is commonly referred to as suspension of disbelief or reduction of counter arguing.

Transporting stories can also make narrative events seem like real experiences. There is a lot of psychological evidence that the very best way of changing people’s attitudes is giving them real experiences with an attitude object – a person, place, idea or event about which you can express an attitude or make a judgment. But stories may be the next best thing — stories are concrete, specific, emotional, and vivid and all of those characteristics are similar to the way that our minds store memories of our real experiences. So if we’re engaged in a story that seems like things we’ve experienced, it holds greater weight.

What story elements and factors are needed to change people’s beliefs?

Audiences are more likely to be transported – and, therefore, more likely to be persuaded – if they can relate to a character or imagine themselves in a situation that the character finds themselves in. Research suggests that there are also personality factors and individual differences that influence the transportability of a person. That is, some people tend to become immersed in stories more easily than others. ‘The need for affect,’ which is a psychological tendency to seek out emotion inducing situations, influences transportability. The quality of the narrative itself also impacts transportation; the higher the quality, the more transporting. Psychological fluency, or how easy something is to think about, impacts the influence of the narrative as well.

What are some examples of stories that have created attitude or behavior change?

Stories have the ability to impact attitudes and change behavior in a variety of ways. One project gave children Manga comics where the character gets transported into a world where he has to fight the bad guys by eating healthy food. This led children to change their food choices and select more healthy snacks. As another example, while reading a story about homophobia in college fraternities, those that were familiar with the Greek system ended up being more transported into the story and more persuaded about issues in the story than people who didn’t have that familiarity or background. There’s also some great work by Sheila Murphy showing how a video story increased viewers’ likelihood of getting screened for cervical cancer.

 

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the empowering potential of citizen-led science; color and emotion; teaching empathy through dance; uncovering unconscious bias; gender differences in fear behavior.

Citizen-led science. Citizens are taking a more hands-on approach in scientific research and policy decisions that affect their communities. From Andrew Maynard via The Conversation.

Seeing red. Scientists examine the conscious effects of color on our emotions and what behaviors each color evokes. From Danielle Levesque via Psy Post.

Schoolroom salsa. A New York nonprofit brings ballroom dancing to schools to teach kids emotional skills like respect, teamwork, and empathy. From Audrey Cleo Yap via The Atlantic.

Call it like I see it. Unconscious processes, such as a schemas and heuristics, allow us to interpret the physical world and shape our judgment as well as behavior. From Richard E. Nisbett via Nautilus.

Frozen with fear. A study of learned fear behavior in male and female rats may point to possibilities for better treatment for people with PTSD. From Thea Singer via Phys.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Charlie Marshall CC BY 2.0

Robot reading

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the psychological appeal of horror; a controversial depiction of slavery in children’s lit; a voting reform pipe dream; Richard Scarry and the changing times; tricked into disagreeing with ourselves.

Terrify for a living. Author Alana Massey explores what motivates individuals to scare others, while also examining the psychological appeal and impact of horror. Via Pacific Standard.

Bittersweet Dessert. The children’s book A Fine Dessert has some critics concerned about whitewashed representations of slavery. From Leah Donnella via NPR.

Compulsory voting. Could compulsory voting ever be enacted in America? Nicholas Stephanopoulos lays out one possible path, starting at the municipal level. Via The Atlantic.

Illustrating social change. One man’s Flickr set catalogs the subtle but telling revisions made to Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever between 1963 and 1991. From Lisa Wade Ph.D. via Mental Floss.

Selective laziness. A Swedish study drives home the point that we judge reasoning posed by others more harshly than we judge our own. From Melissa Dahl via Science of Us.

 

Guinea Pig with video game controller

#GeekReads: 4 Quick Reads + 1 Watch that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: attentiveness and emotional comprehension in children; using magic to tell the truth; violent crime in America; decision-making in the visual cortex; villainizing video games.

Lost in a daydream. A recent study suggests that some children who frequently appear to be daydreaming may be occupied with trying to figure out the emotions of others. From The Conversation via PsyPost.

Magical realism. Author Salman Rushdie explains how he uses techniques such as fantasy and dream to express a vision that is grounded in reality. From Salman Rushdie via Big Think.

“Out of tension comes opportunity.” Attorney General Loretta Lynch discusses violent crime in America and the importance of conversation between police and the communities they serve. Via NPR.

Mind’s eye. New research has found that the visual cortex of our brain, which is responsible for seeing, also has the capacity to make decisions without the help from traditional ‘higher level’ areas of the brain. From Andy Henion via Futurity.

The video game debate. Dr. Rachel Kowert discusses how our appetite for cause and effect explanations may cause us to oversimplify discussions of video games and their effects on behavior. From Jesse Singal via Science of Us.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Katherine McAdoo CC BY 2.0

Nerd Treeson

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: does science diminish nature’s wonder; empathizing with puppets; building trust between police and teens; expanding our concept of “cosmopolitanism”; reading as a form of creative osmosis.

Unweaving the rainbow. By demystifying the natural world, does science diminish our sense of awe? Two poets explore the subject. From Nina Martyris via Nautilus.

Sharing is caring. A study finds that children as young as three exhibit surprising levels of concern for others – even when those others are puppets. From Max Planck Gesellshaft via Psy Post.

Operation Conversation.  A new program brings New York City police and teenagers together to build mutual respect, trust, and empathy. From Katie Reilly via Business Insider.

The cosmopolitan pariah.  What does it mean to be a 21st century cosmopolitan? In examining political theorist Hannah Arendt’s complex legacy, James McAuley argues that her status as a pariah made her a citizen of many worlds. Via Aeon.

Stylistic osmosis. Reading provides creative fuel to inspire different writing styles and helps writers find their narrative voice. From Joe Fassier via The Atlantic.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Nina Helmer, CC BY NC-ND 2.0

Panda hug

#GeekReads: 4 Quick Reads + 1 Watch that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: that warm and fuzzy feeling how social cues influence the risks we take; “professional discomfort producers”; putting emotions into words; practicing global compassion.

Warm and fuzzy. Has it ever warmed your heart to see a stranger do something kind for someone? Science helps explain the effects of niceness on the brain and body. From Melissa Dahl via Science of Us.

Follow the crowd. Observed behavior can lead us to make safer or riskier choices than we would make alone. From Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute via Psy Post.

Growing pains. One comic book writer shares her artistic process of confronting the uncomfortable in hopes of sparking conversations that lead to change. From Rachel Gillett via Business Insider.

Talk it out. Research has found that putting feelings into words releases stress and helps us feel less isolated as we process our emotions. From Monica Joshi via Big Think.

Global compassion. Looking to Buddhist practices, psychologist Paul Ekman explores compassion for total strangers and whether it can be taught. From Paul Ekman via Big Think.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/TaQPets, CC-ND BY 2.0

#GeekReads: 4 Quick Reads + 1 Quick Watch that Made Us Smarter (Jan 24)

This week’s #GeekReads: contagious emotions; the problem with absolute truths; achieving more by doing less; the importance of staying true to ourselves; and how identity influences our habits.

 

What if 2 +2 ≠ 4? If you’re in search for the truth, a belief in absolute truthfulness may be your biggest obstacle. From David Deutsch via Nautil.us.

Human see, human do. Do mirror neurons make emotions contagious? From Braincraft via PsyPost.org.

Doing more by doing less. There are often days we wish for an extra hour, but what if a new clock isn’t what’s needed to deal with a lack of time, energy, or patience? From Lisa Evans via FastCompany.com.

New habit, new identity. A change in our everyday behavior may first require a change in the way we perceive ourselves. From Melissa Dahl via The Science of Us 

“My blackness is not a secret.” A woman’s story of suppressing her true self in order to ensure the comfort of others. From Priscilla Ward via Salon.com.

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

 

Image: flickr/MorganCC BY-SA 2.0

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter (Jan 17)

In this week’s #GeekReads: Computers that know us better than our friends; getting bored to get creative; meditating to become more empathetic; the psychology of the Internet misogynist; and recruiting job-seeking millennials with a focus on social impact.

 

Bored and brilliant. In a world of tech overstimulation, sometimes the best way to generate creativity is old-fashioned boredom. Via NPR.

Think different. How Zen meditation changed the way that Steve Jobs understood the world and what we can learn from his experience. From Drake Baer via Business Insider.

Computers that really know us. By analyzing the things we like on Facebook, computers may end up knowing us better than our best friends. Is this how Skynet takes over the world (Terminator, for the non-geeks)? Via Futurity.org.

The Internet misogynist. How the anonymity of online comments reveals the sexism lingering in the hearts and minds of many men. From Olga Khazan via The Atlantic.

Mission-minded millennials. How social impact, more than compensation, can attract job-seeking millennials. From Ariel Schwartz via FastCoExist.com.

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

 

 

Image: flickr/Louis K., CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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