All posts in “Emotions”

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: partisan media; reading the Constitution; the ideal affect; power of the mind; understanding our social brains.

Spreading disinformation. A recent study suggests that partisan media outlets encourage us to disregard information that fails to support our point of view. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

An American read. If you were ever interested in reading the Constitution, here is a nerdy guide to getting started. From Garrett Epps via The Atlantic.

Affect valuation theory. A study from the American Psychological Association examines the relationship between how we would like to feel and how we actually feel. From Marianna Pogosyan Ph.D. via Psychology Today.

Cheering up the world. A clever poem written by a high schooler goes viral with a very inspiring message. From Mark DeNicola via Collective Evolution.

The social brain. Scientists constructed a neurodevelopmental model of a rare genetic disorder that may help explain what makes humans social beings. From University of California at San Diego via PsyPost.

 

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Image: flickr/freyjo7 CC-BY-ND 2.0

Chairs posed for conversation

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: opening up conversations about race; connections between emotional, mental and physical health; contagious generosity; brain systems that contribute to empathy; operating on instinct.

Open conversation. Psychologists Keith B. Maddox and Heather L. Urry work to motivate people to approach rather than avoid conversations regarding race. From Jacqueline Mitchell via Phys.

Emotional health.
New research explores the way our emotions directly affect our physical health. From Christina Sarich via Collective Evolution.

Contagious generosity. We are more likely to be empathetic when we observe others’ empathetic responses. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

Cognition, not sensation. Understanding and empathizing with someone else’s pain is neurologically different from experiencing our own physical pain. From University of Colorado at Boulder via PsyPost

Fight or flight. Rachael Sharman discusses the functional and adaptive purposes of the fight, flight, or freeze response to a feared stimulus. From Rachael Sharman via The Conversation

 

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Image: flickr/refreshment_66 CC-BY-ND 2.0

Weighing the brain and heart on a scale

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: a new age of news; emotions vs. reason; how television can inspire altruism; extreme do-gooders; gender bias in the media.

Social media bubbles. Viral news sources, tailored to individual users’ likes and profile characteristics, are contributing to a growing news gap. From Angela Phillips via The Conversation.

Emotion-driven morality. Harvard psychology professor Joshua Greene examines the role of emotions in our moral decision-making. From Lauren Cassani Davis via The Atlantic.

Meaningful media. A recent study suggests people are willing to help others from different groups after watching meaningful, uplifting media. From Penn State via PsyPost.

Extreme altruists. Theoretically, the world would be a better place if we were all do-gooders all of the time, but one author studies the realistic implications. From Regan J. Penaluna via Nautilus.

Seen, not heard. New research finds that women are more often seen in media via pictures than heard through their stories or opinions. From Nathan Collins via Pacific Standard.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Ajari CC BY 2.0

Faces on the subway

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: how dogs process human faces; the queer legacy of Ziggy Stardust; a Fitbit for feelings; the production of vocal emotion; anti-Muslim bias in the media.

Written on your face. A study finds that dogs are able to recognize and categorize human emotional states. From University of Lincoln via Science Daily.

Defying labels. David Bowie lived a life that defied labels and influenced a generation of LGBT youth. From Catherine Kustanczy via Pacific Standard.

Fitbit for feelings. A new wristband gathers data from your body to graph a visualization of your emotion levels throughout the day. From Michele Debczak via Mental Floss.

Tone it down. By digitally altering the tone of a speaker’s voice, researchers uncover new insights about vocal emotional perception. From Lund University via Psy Post.

Muslims in the media. A study finds that exposure to negative media representations of Muslims may increase support for anti-Muslim public policies. From Jared Wadley via Futurity.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Transformer18 CC BY 2.0

Scared cat

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the benefits of anxiety; story motifs across time; healthy social networks; origins of phobias; links between the amygdala and kindness.

Detecting social threats. Anxious people may process social threats in a different region of the brain than less anxious people. From eLife via Science Daily.

Story skeletons. From perilous journeys to brave new worlds, the structure of storytelling remains much the same across time. From John Yorke via The Atlantic.

Healthy relationships. A recent study finds strong social relationships can help to reduce health risks throughout a person’s life. From University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill via PsyPost.

Pre-wired fear? A lack of understanding of how fear is acquired can lead us to believe that phobias are pre-wired when in fact they may be more of an adaptation. From Graham C.L. Davey Ph.D. via Psychology Today.

Monkeying around. By observing amygdala activity in rhesus macaques, researchers can predict when one monkey will behave charitably toward another. From Michele Berger via Futurity.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Dat CC BY-ND 2.0

3D glasses

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads; reading emotions in 3D; socially-relevant curricula; investigating the racial wealth gap; standing up (or staying seated) for what’s right; Pixar’s first non-white lead.

Amplified emotions. New research finds that 3D displays of facial expressions evoke stronger emotional reactions than 2D photos. From Aalto University via Psy Post.

Shifting curriculum. A white fifth-grade teacher shares her journey of shifting classroom curriculum to explore the subjects that matter most to her students. From Valerie Strauss via The Washington Post.

Getting ahead. Reporter Mel Jones examines some of the reasons why the racial wealth gap still exists among Millennials. From Adrian Florido via NPR.

More to the story. Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat on December 1, 1955, was one day in the life of a battle-tested freedom fighter. From Nshira Turkson via The Atlantic.

Sanjay’s Super Team. Pixar’s new animated short tells the story of a young boy’s journey to bridge the generational and cultural gaps between his American and Indian heritage. From Madeleine Thomas via Pacific Standard.

 

Robot in the sand

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads; empathizing with robot ‘pain’; emotional expressiveness and gender stereotypes; Ferguson in the classroom; literary trigger warnings; when jealousy and empathy collide.

Robo-empathy. A study finds that people have visceral, automatic empathy responses to seeing robots in painful situations. From Greta Weber via Slate.

‘Manly’ restraint. In a recent experiment, participants viewed emotional restraint as a sign of intelligence in men, but as something suspect in women. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

Learning from protest. A course called Black Lives Matter: Race, Resistance and Popular Protest at NYU’s Galltin School inspires engaged discourse in an environment of mutual respect. From Errin Whack via NPR.

Reading is risky. Reading carries the potential for emotional and psychological upheaval, offering us challenging experiences that are rarely under our control. From Frank Furedi via Aeon.

When jealousy and empathy collide. A new study suggests we show less neural empathy for those we dislike or view as competition. From Christian Jarrett via Science of Us.

Head tilt shadows

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads; expressive head movements; looking abroad for policy solutions; innovations in online campaigning; sad songs and the brain; the pros and cons of collaborative problem-solving.

It’s all in your head. Study finds people can accurately use head movements to judge emotions, even in the absence of sound or facial expressions. From McGill University via PsyPost.

Overcoming “exceptionalism.” Political scientist Dominic Tierney argues that America could learn much from policy solutions implemented in other countries. Via The Atlantic.

Target audiences. Political campaigns are using social networks like never before to quickly and effectively send out their political message to target audiences. From Scott Detrow via NPR.

Musical distraction. A study of the effects of music on the brain explores why sad music distracts some listeners from their negative feelings, while exacerbating anxiety for others. From Lori Chandler via Big Think.

The pros and cons of clustering. A study finds that collaboration and connectedness can increase efficiency in sorting through information, but may inhibit diversity in problem-solving approaches. From Sara Rimer via Futurity.

Porcupines cross the road

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: prickly people; oral storytelling among African-American preschoolers; imaging emotions; the art of persuasion; the stories we tell ourselves.

The porcupine problem. As much as humans feel a drive for companionship, our different natures and qualities often repel us apart. From Michael Fitzgerald via Pacific Standard.

Show and tell. A study of African-American preschoolers finds a unique link between oral storytelling skills and reading development. From Dave Shaw via Futurity.

The brain’s signature. Advances in brain imaging allow researchers to accurately predict and read human emotions. From Dartmouth College via PsyPost.

Natural smooth-talkers. Research has found that we regularly underestimate our ability to persuade other people. From Melissa Dahl via Science of Us.

Story of my life. According to narrative psychologists, the stories we tell ourselves become important aspects of our personality. From Julie Beck via The Atlantic.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Denali National Park, CC BY 2.0

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