To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes: How narratives can change causal attribution through story exploration and character customization

Nathan Walter*, Sheila T. Murphy, Traci K. Gillig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study provides evidence for the independent and additive effects of story exploration and character customization induced by fictional narratives on causal attribution and support formarginalized groups. In Study 1 (N = 163), participants read a story about a transgender teenager. Story exploration influenced identification and narrative engagement, increasing external attribution for the character’s negative actions, as well as engendering more positive attitudes toward transgender individuals. Study 2 (N = 116) replicated these results in the context of undocumented immigration. Study 3 (N = 230) focused on a story about a Muslim teenager. Analysis suggested that the strongest impact on causal attribution is achieved by allowing readers to design the main character (i.e., customization) and control the narrative (i.e., exploration).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-57
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Communication Research
Volume44
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Keywords

  • Causal attribution
  • Customization
  • Exploration
  • Identification
  • Interactivity
  • Narrative persuasion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language

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