Narrative Persuasion Across the Aisle: Mechanisms of Engagement With Discordant Characters

Rebecca Tukachinsky Forster, Nathan Walter*, John J. Brooks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A set of two experiments examined the effect of a narrative depicting either a concordant or a discordant character whose position on gun control was either central (Study 1: N= 153) or peripheral (Study 2: N = 654) to the storyline. Four potential mechanisms of narrative persuasion (perceived similarity, identification, transportation, and counterarguing), two relevant narrative devices (transparency and placement), and audience characteristics (trait empathy) were considered. Results suggest that exposure to a discordant character bolsters readers’ pre-existing beliefs, with counterarguing driving the effect. However, empathetic individuals are more receptive to counter-attitudinal information, albeit only when the controversial topic is peripheral to the story.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-78
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology of Popular Media
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 28 2022


  • counterarguing
  • identification
  • narrative involvement
  • narrative persuasion
  • perceived similarity
  • transportation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology


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