Health Communication| Moved to Act: Examining the Role of Mixed Affect and Cognitive Elaboration in “Accidental” Narrative Persuasion

Enny Das, Tijmen Nobbe, Mary Beth Oliver


This research assesses the persuasive potential of being moved. We propose that emotionally moving film fragments may “accidentally” persuade viewers by promoting reflective thought, which, in turn, may prompt action in line with the behavior modeled in a movie. Cognitive load was manipulated to assess whether limiting participants’ capacity for reflective thought decreased persuasion. Hypotheses were tested in a 2 (movie fragment: moving, control) × 3 (cognitive load: during watching, after watching, no load control) between-subjects design among 119 participants. Key dependent measures were mixed affect, transportation, retrospective reflection, and intentions to engage in physical activity. Findings reveal that a manipulation of cognitive load decreases mixed affect and transportation for the moving but not for the control fragment. Transportation mediated the effect of mixed affect on intentions only for the moving film fragment. Mixed affect and transportation were unrelated to health intentions in the control condition, and retrospective reflection was unrelated to other measures for both movie fragments. Being moved may motivate action by stimulating reflective thought.


eudaimonic entertainment, narrative, persuasion, mixed affect, transportation, reflective thought

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