Processing Mode and Actor-Character Congruency as Moderators of Narratives' Effects on Viewers' Attitudes
AdvisorMastro, Dana E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe study examined the ways in which individuals manage inconsistent information about actors and fictional character that the actors play. Previous research suggested that people tend to attribute characters' characteristics to the actors. Therefore, actor-character inconsistency might be deemed as hypocritical and undermine the effects of the media content. However, this effect was hypothesized to be moderated by information processing mode. Specifically, when viewers transport into the narrative, namely, become absorbed in the story, they are not able to integrate actor information with character information. Similarly, when processing the message heuristically, viewers lack sufficient cognitive resources to integrate actor information. Thus, it was hypothesized that character incongruence will only diminish media effects when viewers process the media content critically. These hypotheses were explored in the context of perceptions of cosmetic surgery and sexual objectification of women. Participants read a fictitious interview in which the actor Raymond Romano expressed either approval of breast augmentation procedures or criticized this practice. Then, participants watched an edited segment from an Everybody Loves Raymond episode in which Romano played the role of a character that encouraged his wife to undergo cosmetic surgery. Viewers were requested to engage in issue elaboration, encouraged to transport into the show (narrative elaboration) or had to complete a distraction task while watching (heuristic processing). They listed all the thoughts they had during the media exposure and completed questionnaires assessing attitudes towards cosmetic surgery and sexual objectification of women. The same measures were completed again, one week after the lab session. Analysis of viewers' reported thoughts indicated that the manipulation successfully induced the different types of processing. Further, participants in the issue elaboration condition tended to generate both message consistent thoughts and counter-augments, whereas participants in the narrative elaboration condition generated few counter-arguments. In the heuristic processing condition, viewers listed very few thoughts, and did not counter-argue with the message. However, narrative consistent or inconsistent thoughts did not affect persuasion. Finally, incongruence between the actor and the character did not reduce persuasiveness of the message or hinder actor's likability, suggesting that viewers successfully maintain separate actor and character schemas.
Degree ProgramGraduate College