Date of Award

Summer 8-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Cynthia Hoffner

Abstract

This study sought to expand current narrative persuasion models by examining the role of subtext processing. The extended elaboration likelihood model suggests that transportation leads to persuasion by reducing counterarguments to stories’ persuasive subtexts. The model implicitly argues that transportation should reduce total subtext processing, including counterarguments and intended elaboration. But this study reasoned that people with stronger eudaimonic motivation to have meaningful entertainment experiences, would put more effort into processing stories’ subtexts while engaging with the narrative. Because less eudaimonically motivated individuals may be at risk for missing the subtext, it was also expected that adding a supplemental conclusion scene that reiterates the intended message would facilitate persuasion.Following a pre-test survey, 201 undergraduate students were randomly assigned to view an episode of the crime drama Numb3rs: one of two versions of “Harvest,” designed to promote organ donation (with or without a conclusion scene), or a control episode. After viewing, participants completed a thought-listing task and second survey. Results show that “Harvest” did not result in persuasive outcomes related to organ donation. Transportation was a marginally significant positive predictor of total subtext processing. Contrary to predictions, eudaimonic motivation negatively predicted amount of total subtext processing.Eudaimonic motivation also negatively (but marginally) predicted doctor mistrust, but this effect was moderated by conclusion condition: eudaimonic motivation was negatively associated with doctor mistrust only in the no conclusion condition. Eudaimonic motivation was also negatively (but marginally) associated with intended elaboration. Further examination showed that, compared to people with low eudaimonic motivation, those with high eudaimonic motivation were less likely to engage in intended elaboration, but only in the no conclusion condition. This pattern of findings provides indirect evidence that intended elaboration was responsible for decreasing doctor mistrust among people with high eudaimonic motivation who saw the conclusion. But surprisingly, intended elaboration was not directly related to any persuasive outcomes.The findings tentatively suggest that transportation and subtext processing can coexist and that eudaimonic motivation can affect the extent to which viewers engage in subtext processing during narrative engagement. The results also indicate that supplemental conclusions may be useful tools for narrative persuasion.

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