Description & Preconference format


This preconference provides the forum to continue and extend the productive discussion of the ICA preconference “Narrative Persuasion: From Research to Practice” in Los Angeles (Murphy, Walter, & Cohen, 2017) and the seminal workshop in Haifa (Cohen, 2015) in the growing field of narrative communication research. Narratives have been attracting the interest of scholars active in various fields, such as health communication, media psychology, political communication, or journalism studies (Green, Strange, & Brock, 2002). Their research is motivated by the observation that “Storytelling” has evolved as a message format widely used in applied settings, such as prevention and political campaigns or commercial advertising. Narratives are presumed to have unique capabilities of informing and persuading audiences, and substantial effort has been invested in past research to identify and characterize these capabilities (e.g. Green, Strange, & Brock, 2002). In doing so, scholars are following diverse theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches. This preconference is intended to energize the community of scholars interested in narrative communication and to illuminate a specific, under-researched aspect: the long-term effects of narratives.

Much of the existing research has been dedicated to short-term effects of narrative media content, analyzing its impact immediately after exposure. Although generally obtaining small effect sizes, these studies reliably document a stronger impact on the examined outcomes than non-narrative modes of communication. For example, narratives have been found to affect – in a short-term perspective – recipients’ attitudes and behavioral intentions that are beneficial to their personal health (e.g. Kim & Niederdeppe, 2016). Likewise, storytelling has been found to have a short-term impact on benevolent attitudes towards stigmatized groups in society (e.g. Wong, Lookadoo, & Nisbett, 2017).

Substantially less research has so far addressed the temporal stability and sustainability of narrative media effects. However, it is of great social and scientific interest to understand how effects of storytelling evolve over time: Communicative interventions aiming at the recipients’ personal health will only have a relevant impact if the positive short-term influence on attitudes and intentions translates into, for example, regular medical check-ups or physical activity. Narrative messages aiming at attitudes towards social fringe groups will only have a valuable impact on society if these groups are accepted and integrated in the long run. Therefore, there is a need to study long-term effects of narrative communication, which is, however, methodologically challenging and requires fresh theoretical perspectives. The preconference is dedicated to stimulate the discussion on related studies and future solutions to investigate long-term effects of narratives.

Generally, two forms of research of long-term effects can be distinguished. On the one hand, these are long-term effects of single narratives such as movies (Hart & Leiserowitz, 2009) or storified news messages (Shaffer et al., 2017). On the other hand, these are cumulated effects of multiple narratives disseminated in a serial format (Wang & Singhal., 2016) or sets of independent narratives on the same topic consumed over a longer period of time (Wills et al., 2009). The relatively small number of existing studies on long-term effects is related to a need for theoretical models specifying the development of persuasive effects over time and for solutions to methodological obstacles in detecting the long-term impact of narratives.

Preconference format:

The preconference serves both to present and discuss existing research on long-term effects of narrative communication and to stimulate active discussion and networking among scholars interested in theoretical and methodological progress. Therefore, the format of the event combines classic presentation setups with roundtable and workshop sessions in order to maximize both academic excellence and audience involvement.

For the presentation session, we seek for original contributions on both types of long-effects. The Call for Papers will invite scholars from various ICA divisions and interest groups to:

(1) discuss theoretical approaches modelling the long-term effects of narrative communication,

(2) reflect on (potentially unique) capabilities of narratives to involve audiences (e.g., transportation, identification, narrative engagement) as well as boundary conditions that may facilitate, enlarge, or undermine the long-term impact of storified messages,

(3) present current empirical research on long-term effects that may relate to a wide range of fictional and non-fictional narratives as well as diverse topics and outcome variables (e.g., knowledge structures, attitudes, behavioral intentions, actual behaviors).

These contributions will be discussed in the morning and early afternoon during conventional presentation and high-density poster sessions. In the final afternoon session, we build on this foundation and involve all participants in workshops dedicated to the challenges of examining long-term effects. In two (or three, depending on the overall number of participants) parallel sessions, we collect attendants’ ideas and then discuss occurring problems, questions and propositions on:

(1) theoretical and conceptual models of long-term effects (e.g. useful existing and new theoretical approaches, reinforcing or suppressing factors, mechanisms of narrative involvement and their long-term implications),

(2) methodological challenges (e.g. study designs, adequate time frames of “long-term” effects, adequacy of existing scales, best practice in selecting or designing stimulus materials, approach and long-term contact to participants).

The workshop hosts (organizers of the preconference) will moderate the discussion in the parallel sessions and document participants’ contribution digitally. They will rotate among the discussion groups so that each group will receive fresh input from the moderators’ learnings obtained from the other groups. A total of 90 minutes is foreseen for this workshop session; after 30 and 60 minutes, the hosts will switch between groups to bring in new impulses into each discussion round. A compiled summary of all discussion sessions will be made available to all attendants’ subsequent to the ICA conference via e-mail. This way, the results of workshop will be preserved for subsequent use and may serve as bridge to future events of the community of scholars interested in narrative communication.