Morality and narrative persuasion


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How and where moral intuitions interact with story features to impact attention to and learning from narratives.

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  • So you might be saying to yourself these two things have nothing in common. And you could be right 
  • But what id like to do today is tell you how I ended up studying these things together, and perhaps you can then understand what I have been doing, and why I am trying to connect such disparate things as morality and persuasive communication. To start with, lets move away from the persuasion aspect of the talk and start with where I really also began, in entertainment.
  • So I don’t know how many of you are entertainment researchers, but when you say you study entertainment, people pretty much think you spend your days watching Michael Bay movies and discussing which explosions are the most awesomeUnfortunately I spent a lot more time doing things reading papers like this,,,,
  • Which is just as exciting, if not mainstream entertainment. So Dolf Zillmann is really considered the father of entertainment studies in America. And I was lucky enough to study with a former student of his, Ron Tamborini at Michigan State. So of course we focused a lot on a theory Zillmann proposed, namely Disposition Theory.At its heart, disposition theory simply says: We like watching good things happen to those who deserve them, and like watching bad things happen to people who deserve those.It was proposed in order to resolve the “empathy paradox” which suggested we only enjoy drama to the extent we empathize with characters. But, of course, if that were the case, we could never enjoy watching bad things happen to characters, which in fact, of course, we do. Disposition theory proposes that we enjoy watching characters suffer to the extent they DESERVE their suffering.
  • So, for example…. I happen to think thisjif of Geoffery getting slapped by Tyrion in Game of Thrones to be just about the best example of how pleasurable watching a character who needs it suffer can be…
  • We even have a neural response to watching bad people get punished. This is data from an imaging study I ran with Rene Weber looking at how people’s brains respond while watching soap opera; basically we were measuring the extent to which all our subjects’ brains responded similarly to each other. And as you can see, we got the highest level of synchrony when epople were watching bad people getting punished. So this is a really powerful thing.But that begs the question, how do we determine who is a good person and a bad person? How do we determine the level of suffering that is appropriate and desirous? Well, Zillmann actually suggested in his work that morality is not a simply good bad continuum, but that it varies among and between people, and does so in predictable ways that will then affect how people respond and enjoy media..
  • So. I thought, hey. This is quite interesting. And I started to do some studies exploring this notion of morality subcultures.Now I was quite lucky because there was a movement in moral psychology that was taking place at the same time I was reading Zillmann to death.
  • And the movement I was talking about was known as the social intuitionist model of moraltiy by Jonathan HaidtSo what that means is that, in contrast to rational models of morality, Haidt suggested that morality could be an “instinct” that had a functional evolutionary basis for existing in all people. For example, the desire to care for our children, or shun someone who defects against our group, or punish this little boy for using a naughty gesture, or join in with these folks protesting for equal rights. He calls these social intutions, because they are intuitions that govern our behavior in the social sphere. But he also suggested that these instincts could be sensitized through cultural emphasis.
  • What I found in the first study was that the extent to which you were high on harm or fairness predicted how much you liked the clip you were presented – that violated that particular moral doamin. So for example, this clip violated the care instinct, by showing brutal photos and blood. And you may say “oh, okay, but that’s just gross….” But we found the same thing with narratives that were, for example, very unfair. In fact, when we tested this across the five domains, examining the extent to which showing morals upheld or violated predicted enjoyment, we found that in 7 out of 10 cases your moral intutions predicted how you responded to the clip.
  • But it can also be disasociated from character to the extent that we respond based on our moral intutionseen with minimal information!For example, I ran an imaging study looking at the extent to which liberals and conservatives reacted to moral violations presented while they were in a scanner. %signal change on left.,… what you see here is differential activation across different areas of the brain for libearl and conservative participants judging either statements that dealt harm and fairness issues like “he hurt someone” or “he was unfair” versus issues dealing with things like “he violated authority” and “he betrayed his group.” I don’t want to get too far into this for this talk, really, just to say this is how I trust this idea…that we can identify moral intuitions, and use them as indicators of morality subcultures – as primeable, salient, individually and culturally different variables that we can THEN use, FINALLY, to persuade people 
  • So the first one comes directly from the initial studies I did looking at how morality affected our interpretation and reaction to media content, but Lately I have moved from simply understanding how morality can affect how we react and judge media characters, to thinking about how this can affect our behavior, intentions, and attitudes. Now, these ideas are not new. But what I think is new is the combination of moral intutions and entertainment theory with persuasive models. Just a note, when I say content her,e I am most often referring to narrative content… when not, I will mention it so.
  • What stories do we learn morals from? Think about stories that affected you as a child and how that might now be part of your life… for example, my sister was an avdi reader of these pig books, and quickly gave up bacon and then all meat…This is of course not new…. If you have ever read these books and are now a vegetarian, for example, you know the way a good story can affect your thoughts and beliefs by making certain attitudes more salient to you, often via the actions of a protagonist and his or her strugglesBut I think if we are interested in where and how moral intutions may interact with persuasion, there are three main areas in which the effects may be most clearly seen.
  • Stories as a flight simulator – can prime or make salient aspects of real life you need to focus on for greater thought. You think to yourself what would I do in this situation? How would I react? Is what she did like what I would do? This would assume that we treat story worlds as real worlds – and that our moral intuitions can therefore be influenced as if the characters in story worlds are like us.
  • Do I think moral foundations can be affected by content? Yes.I ran a quasi-experiment varying 8-weeks of exposure to online soap opera (also terrible) in order to see if compared to a control group, the group exposed to this very norm violating soap opera would shift their moral intuions over time. And well, they did…. And particulal interesting, they did it in a direction predicted by content.Measured module salience one week before and one week after final episodeThe more people perceived the heroine to violate harm norms, the more salient harm norms were at Time 2(β = .30, t = 3.13, p < .05; R2adj. = .52). The more people perceived the villain to violate purity norms, the more salient purity norms were at Time 2
  • Harrys law vs control – salience of loyalty and care
  • So there are more questions to be answered, which we are trying to do now. But I would like ot move on to the second idea of how morality may intersect with persuasive intentions
  • Emotion to behavior…. This notion of persuasion suggests that premise that stories can make you feel powerful emotions, and that these emotions are linked to some specific moral triggers. Specifically, Behavior can be influenced through experience of Elevation(Algoe & Haidt, 2009)Warmth AffectionLoveFrom witnessing/reading/encountering “morally excellent behavior” Pro-social behavior Helping behavior Donations to social cause
  • 120 participants (46% women) Care vs. Purity clipMeasuresMFQ Care (Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2008)( α= .62, M=4.24, SD= .72) MFQ Purity (Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2008)( α= .62, M=3.58, SD= .75) Elevation (Oliver, Hartmann, & Woolley, 2012) 6 items (α: .89, M=3.27, SD= 1.20)Pro-social intentions (Algoe & Haidt, 2009)8 items (α= .85, M=4.61, SD= 1.49)
  • The link between viewing morally excellent behavior in the “care” domain and elevation was significantly moderated by the salience of “care” (b = 1.32, SE = .44, t = 2.96, p < .01, R2chg .05, p < .01).
  • Of course, some small problems with Study 1…. Not many people who watched the video had any purity salience. In fact, most people thought the guy was well. Not elevating. So we thought okay we will also look at this in contrast to a very neutral video, a hand shaking hello video.
  • 95 participants (68% women) Care vs. control clipLittle girl cutting hair for brother vs. Hello!MeasuresMFQ Care (Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2008)( α= .56, M=4.97, SD= .58) MFQ Fairness (Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2008)( α= .72, M=5.19, SD= .64) Elevation (Oliver, Hartmann, & Woolley, 2012) 6 items (α: .92, M=2.88, SD= 1.31)Pro-social intentions (Algoe & Haidt, 2009) 8 items (α= .77, M=4.09, SD= 1.03)
  • The link between viewing morally excellent behavior in the “care” domain and elevation was again significantly moderated by the salience of “care” (b = 1.32, SE = .44, t = 2.96, p < .01, R2chg .05, p < .01). The effect of the clip on pro-social intentions through elevation was stronger if salience of “care” was high, b = .69, SE = .28, CA.95 (.18, 1.28), and weaker if salience of “care” was low, b = .24, SE = .15, CA.95 (.05, .63). The residual direct effect of the “care” condition on pro-social intentions remained significant, b = -.81, SE = .27, t(87) = -2.94, p < .01. In total, the model explained 11% of the variance in pro-social intentions.This was through elevation…. Is there other ways that morality could influence attitude and behavior? Sure…
  • One cue for this can be found in transportation….Transportation into fictional worldsVia identification with character, desire to be characterBased on different functions of storyAffiliation salience may predict narrative involvementTransportation = Affiliation with narrativeCharacter identification = Affiliation with characterWill affiliation salience or empathy be a better predictor of transportation and character identification? Affiliation salience may predict narrative involvementTransportation = Affiliation with narrativeCharacter identification = Affiliation with characterWill affiliation salience or empathy be a better predictor of transportation and character identification?
  • Bonobo group… 100 members… Strength in numbersAffiliation is another one of these functional cues – we like people who work within a group, we ike to be part of a groupSocial surrogacy hypotheses
  • With Matt Grizzard….In our story, Craig and Jon are two friends who have climbed numerous mountains all over the world. They are attempting to climb Mount Everest when Jon injures his ankle, potentially endangering the climb due to the hazardous conditions of Mount Everest’s massive height. However, Craig helps Jon complete the climb, and the story ends with both characters returning to base camp
  • New study being run looking at replicating this with affiliation to wizards, vampires, and sports players…Built off study “becoming a vampire without being bitten” suggesting that group affiliation underlies transportation and group affiliation to stories. Currently testing if effect is only seen for magical creations, and the role of mortality salience on the need to affiliate(WITH JOLIENARENDSON AND BO VAN GRISVAN)
  • In conclusion, if we think of ways that media can persuade people to change attitudes, either by functioning as a social simulation, as an evoker of strong emulative emotions, or as a trigger for underlying group affiliation motives, we see some areas wherein moral intuitions can help us understand the role of content, emotion, and personal relevance in changing attitudes. Now, where are we going next?
  • There has been some work showing that transportation can ffect how we respond to even simple visual advertisements, so currently testing models of exposure, emotion, and purchase intention with simple ads evoking different moral domains, using moral salience as a predictor. We are also beginning a study looking at morality as a predictor of selective exposure, and combining work on moral disengagement with moral intuitions to see how they may interact.
  • Morality and narrative persuasion

    1. 1. Morality and narrativepersuasionAllison EdenVU University Amsterdam
    2. 2. Outline of talk• Why Morality ?• How Morality?• Morality and narrative persuasion– 3 intersections of morals and persuasion
    3. 3. • We like it when…– Good things happen to good people– Bad things happen to bad people• We dislike it when…– Good things happen to bad people– Bad things happen to good people
    4. 4. Zillmann, 2000, p 60-61“In order to predict more accurately whichretributive events foster delight andwhich repugnance in whom, it will benecessary to stake out existing moralitysubcultures and to determine thejudgmental properties that characterizeand distinguish them.“
    5. 5. Moral Foundations Theory (MFT)
    6. 6. MFT and US Politics1. Harm/care2. Fairness/reciprocity3. Ingroup/loyalty4. Authority/respect5. Purity/sanctity(Haidt & Graham, in press, SJR)(Compassion, Peace)(Equality, Justice)(Patriotism, Solidarity)(Obedience, Duty)(Chastity, Wholesomeness)LiberalsConservatives
    7. 7. Enjoyment of morally salientnarratives
    8. 8. Interaction betweenBroad Moral Domain and Trait Progressivismx = 49 x = -2 x = -13-0.06- ConservativesRight Temporal Pole-0.18-0.13-0.08- ConservativesLeft Precuneus-0.18-0.13-0.08- ConservativesLeft Superior Frontal GyrusAutonomy CommunityLiberal Liberal
    9. 9. Morality and narrative persuasion• Two premises–We are affected most by content that ismorally relevant to us–We can be moved by this content to changeour behavior or attitudes
    10. 10. Morality and persuasion• Fiction as simulation• Emotional effects• Transportation
    11. 11. Story as simulation
    12. 12. Narrative∆Non-Narrative∆F pCare 0.07 -0.07 6.89 0.01Fairness 0.02 0.01 0.01 0.92Loyalty 0.09 0.00 4.16 0.04Authority 0.09 0.00 2.05 0.16Purity 0.08 0.02 2.22 0.14
    13. 13. Some questions for“story as simulation”• Is this simply social cognitive theory orpriming?
    14. 14. Some questions for“story as simulation”• What must be made salient?• What content works?• Is it the simulation or the message?• How much exposure is required?• Does this translate beyond the moral itself tobehavior (or behavioral intentions?)
    15. 15. CarePurity
    16. 16. Is it relevant? Is it emotional?Care = 1Purity = 0Elevationb = 1.42**CareSaliencePuritySalienceb = .31 b = .09, nsInt x b = .55** Int x b = -.15, ns∆R2 = .03*
    17. 17. Content x relevance x emotion =behavioral intentionCare = 1Purity = 0Elevation Pro-socialIntentions-1 SD: b = .97 **Care M: b = 1.27 **+1 SD: b = 1.57 **CareSalienceb = .25, nsInt x b = .48**
    18. 18. CareHello!
    19. 19. Content x relevance x emotion =behavioral intentionCare = 1Control = 0Elevation Pro-socialIntentionsResidual direct effect = -.81*-1 SD: b = .24 **Care M: b = .47 **+1 SD: b = .69 **CareSalienceInt x b = 1.34**
    20. 20. • Some evidence that moral intuitions canbe combined with entertainment andemotion models to predict behavior• But are there other mechanisms viawhich morality may affect attitudechange via stories besides socialemulation and particular moralemotions?
    21. 21. Transportation
    22. 22. Group affiliation
    23. 23. In conclusion….
    24. 24. Thanks for listening!Collaborators:Ron Tamborini, Michigan State U.Matthew Grizzard, U. BuffaloNicholas D. Bowman, West Virginia U.Robert Lewis, U. TexasRene Weber, UCSBPaul Skalski U. CincinnatiTilo Hartmann, Jolien Arendsen, Bo vanGrisvan, Gino Mulder, Jeroen Wolper, VUUniversity