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Rich and Co.

People are Persuaded by Fiction as Much as Fact

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Take Aways:

  • The higher the emotional and semantic content of a story, then, the more likely they are to distract people from the persuasion attempt.
  • People resist being told what to do, but will respond to the moral of a story.

Transportation Leads to Persuasion — PsyBlog
Psychological research on persuasion suggests that stories which transport people are more likely to be persuasive.

people resist being told what to do, but will respond to the moral of a story.  So we try to persuade each other with little stories about ‘someone we know’. Then we simplify and embellish them to make the moral clear.

Engage To Persuade
Stories work so well to persuade us because, if they’re well told, we get swept up in them, we are transported inside them.  Transportation is key to why they work.  Once inside the story we are less likely to notice things which don’t match up with our everyday experience.

Also, when concentrating on a story people are less aware that they are subject to a persuasion attempt: the message get in under the radar.

Two sorts of people who may be particularly susceptible to being persuaded by stories are:

  • those who seek out emotional situations
  • those who enjoy thinking
  • Stories which contain emotional elements draw in those looking for an emotional charge
  • Meanwhile the twists and turns of the plot and the meaning of the story draw in those looking to rev up their brains.

Whether through emotion or thought, stories that engage are more likely to persuade. The higher the emotional and semantic content of a story, then, the more likely they are to distract people from the persuasion attempt.

Crafting Better Stories
Highly persuasive stories need to be engaging. Here are some more factors that make an engaging and persuasive story:

  • Literary techniques like foregrounding, which is using things like irony or metaphor to make the banal and everyday seem new and fresh. It’s about shaking the reader out of the mundane
  • Imagery is important as it helps the story come alive in the reader’s mind
  • Suspense keep us reading for the oldest of reasons: to find out what happens next
  • Modelling: if you want someone to change a behaviour, then you can model it. The character in the story has to go through the transformation that you want the reader to go through.

For inspiration break down your favourite novels, TV shows or films to see how the narrative works. Oddly whether the story is true or not doesn’t seem to matter that much, people are persuaded by fiction just as much as fact.

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Written by Rich and Co.

January 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm

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