Promoting Support for Public Health Policies Through Mediated Contact: Can Narrator Perspective and Self-Disclosure Curb In-Group Favoritism?

Riva Tukachinsky, Emily Brogan-Freitas, Tessa Urbanovich


An online 2 × 2 factorial experiment (N = 203) examined the effect of parasocial contact on support for public health policies in the context of opioid addiction. We hypothesize that because of an intergroup dynamic, individuals are less likely to engage with an out-group character than an in-group character featured in a news magazine article. Results support the in-group favoritism hypothesis. The study examines two narrative devices for overcoming this tendency: the narrator’s perspective and amount of insight into the character’s inner world through character self-disclosure. We find support for the narrator perspective but not for the self-disclosure effect. Finally, the study compares the effects of different types of character involvement with the in-group and the out-group character on support for social policies. The results indicate that readers identify with an in-group character to assist the out-group rather than empathizing with the out-group directly.


parasocial contact, character identification, parasocial relationships, opioid addiction, public health policies

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