When Actors Don’t Walk the Talk: Parasocial Relationships Moderate the Effect of Actor-Character Incongruence
The study examines the effect of a narrative that featured an actor playing a counterattitudinal role. Participants read an online magazine interview with a popular comedian and then watched a sitcom in which this actor played a role that was either consistent or inconsistent with his personal views. Parasocial relationships with the actor moderated the effect of actor-character incongruence. Specifically, incongruence was associated with lower support for narrative-related attitudes, but only among viewers with weak parasocial relationships. These results provide evidence of the existence of vicarious cognitive dissonance, wherein witnessing another person’s hypocritical behavior produces attitude change in the observer.