In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Narrative Persuasion

  • Introduction
  • Interpersonal and Cultural Factors

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Communication Narrative Persuasion
Angeline Sangalang, Sheila T. Murphy, Michael J. Cody
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 August 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0165


Everyone loves a good story, and the notion that narratives can influence beliefs, attitudes, and behavior is a widely held assumption in academia. Generations of consumers and voters, for example, were influenced by the dramatic, emotional stories written by muckrakers and social advocates who penned Uncle Tom’s Cabin and scores of other texts, documentaries, and movies. Only since the late 20th century has there been greater systematic exploration of the nature and impact of narratives, beginning with research on “prosocial” television programs, “soap operas for social change,” and the narrative paradigm in W. R. Fisher’s Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value, and Action (Fisher 1987, cited under Key Foundations). Theory construction and rigorous tests of psychological processes underlying the effects of “narratives” from social scientific perspectives began only about the mid-1990s, and these works have been advanced by a growing number of interdisciplinary scholars in communication, health, psychology, and other disciplines.

Core Texts

There are multiple origins to modern-day theory and research on narrative influences. Many of the seminal texts describing narrative persuasion, which are cited under Key Foundations, provide the backbone to theoretical concepts developed much later. For example, Fisher 1987 was one of the first works to describe the unique nature of narrative to other texts. Bruner 1991, Gerrig 1993, and Bandura 2001 describe early thoughts on the experience of narrative. Abbott 2002 describes the many components of a story. Green, et al. 2002 and Singhal, et al. 2004 combine both theoretical chapters and case studies for the study of narrative and stories in entertainment media. The questions posted in these volumes in many ways set the agenda for research that followed them.

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