Narrative impact of health and occupational safety messages
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Within the field of health communication, narrative approaches are emerging as a promising set of tools for motivating and supporting health-behavior change. The transportation theory of narrative persuasion posits that absorption into a story may be a key mechanism of narrative impact. Transportation is thought to be a tripartite formulation (attention, imagery, feelings) of persuasive communication specifically focused on the experience of becoming immersed in a story and how this immersion can lead to real-world belief, attitude and behavior change. The way in which a narrative is delivered has not typically been the focus of study in regards to the transportation theory; nevertheless, having a notion of whether or not a particular combination of features is more transporting than another is of practical importance. The objective of this study was two-fold. The first objective was to compare first-person and third-person narratives manipulated by medium and topic to gain a better understanding about which message features influence emotional response, narrative processing, message perceptions and intentions to behave. The second objective was to test narrative impact in a real-world setting. A 2 (narrative voice: first-person voice or third-person voice) X 2 (medium: audio or print) X 2 (topic: health or occupational safety) factorial design was employed. In total, 232 male professional firefighters in Georgia from DeKalb County Fire and Rescue Department served as the study population. The experiment consisted of data collection prior to and after the participants read or listened to a narrative message. Overall, the narrative messages transported participants generating some support for hypothesis grounded in previous research. However, counter to expectations, differences between narratives in first-person voice compared to narrative messages in third-person voice were not found. Additionally, differences between audio and print narratives were not discovered. However, one anomalous finding appeared. That is, significant differences were found on several of the variables between the two topics. Knowing now that a topic can potentially interfere with narrative impact lends for a great deal of discussion for researchers and practitioners alike. Future research should continue to attend to these possibilities in considering narrative processing and message design.