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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Differences in theoretical constructs of processing health information in narrative entertainment television messages
by Stitt, Carmen R., Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2008, 186; 3331447
Abstract (Summary)

Stories can play a crucial role in conveying health information to audiences. Several theories have been used to describe cognitive processing of narratives and subsequent belief change; yet there have been no comparative studies to date examining these theories.

A primary objective was to compare transportation, flow, and AIME. A secondary objective of this study was to examine previous experience with a health issue as a possible moderator between exposure to entertainment television narratives and subsequent belief change. This is important to examine because previous experience may predispose audience members to have more durable attitudes.

A pre-test/post-test experimental design was used to test theories of cognitive processing of narrative entertainment television programs with three different health topics: binge drinking, problem-eating behavior, and unprotected sexual intercourse. Stimuli were drawn from one-hour, broadcast television programming. Measures of the theories, health related beliefs, and previous experience with the three health issues were assessed.

Findings revealed that different constructs represented in the three theories were significant predictors of belief change. Results showed that while most individual constructs of theories predicted belief change, the theories were not interchangeable. An analysis of the extent to which participants reported cognitive processing according to each theory revealed more flow and AIME experienced in comparison to transportation. Reports of flow and AIME were equal in a third condition. More globally, all three theories accounted for a significant portion of belief change, but no differentiation was evidenced between the theories in their ability to predict belief change.

In analyses of the effects of exposure to television narratives, belief change was significant in all three treatment conditions. Previous experience with a health issue did not impede belief change following exposure to television narratives. This lends support to theorizing about cognitive processing of narratives in that previous experience with an issue may enhance story-consistent beliefs.

Overall, findings demonstrate that a more fruitful endeavor in future research on the persuasive impact of narratives is to devote attention to the underlying constructs of theories, rather than assuming cognitive processes are the same among theories.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kunkel, Dale
Commitee: Kenski, Kate, Segrin, Chris
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Communication
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mass communications
Keywords: Constructs, Entertainment, Health communication, Health information, Mass media, Narratives, Television
Publication Number: 3331447
ISBN: 978-0-549-89492-6
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