Exploring the Role of Identification in an Entertainment-Education Context
Marett, Emily Garrigues
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Although previous literature has demonstrated the potential of entertainment-education (E-E) as an effective strategy for achieving attitude and behavior change, much still remains to be known regarding the mechanisms that enable E-E to be effective. Cautionary tales are a popular narrative form that are very prevalent in media-saturated environments, and could be considered one of the oldest forms of E-E. Despite the frequency of its use, very little empirical research has been conducted to identify the conditions under which cautionary tales successfully persuade audiences to avoid the misfortune that befalls the protagonist. Studying the effects of cautionary tales is one potentially fruitful avenue for developing a greater understanding of the factors that impact the success of an E-E campaign. By empirically examining the cautionary tale, this study addresses several voids in the current literature. First, this study examined the persuasive effects of the cautionary tale, and whether this narrative form is a viable rhetorical form for E-E campaigns. Second, this study utilized narrative processing and engagement theories to help identify the conditions under which E-E will be successful. Specifically, this study examined the influence of identification and affective disposition on the effects of the cautionary tale. To achieve these goals, a post-test only with control group experiment was conducted that manipulated affective disposition (positive/negative). Two different cautionary tales (carbon monoxide/money) were utilized to test the hypotheses for replication purposes. To test the hypotheses, ANCOVAs, regression analyses, and structural equation modeling were conducted. Results indicate that identification positively influences adoption of pro-social attitudes and perceived risk. Affective disposition was identified as a significant predictor of identification and perceptions that the narrator "deserved" the negative consequences experienced in the narrative. The ability of cautionary tales to influence adoption of pro-social attitudes was partially supported. Being exposed to the carbon monoxide cautionary tale had a significant positive influence on carbon monoxide attitudes, when compared to the control. However, no significant difference in attitudes toward debt or credit cards occurred across the money cautionary tale conditions.