Narrative Persuasion Meta-analysis Wins Award at AEJMC

Meta-analyses are no small feat, but the hard work pays off! My major project of the past year — a meta-analysis of narrative persuasion research — recently earned a top student paper award at the 2017 AEJMC conference in Chicago.

For this project, I synthesized studies of the effect of narratives on audience resistance. Narratives are frequently used in health campaigns to promote healthy behaviors, as well as in advertising to distract consumers from critical processing (see viewer comment about this drug commercial having a better love story than Twilight).

Does embedding a persuasive message in a story really produce less resistance than if it were delivered in a non-narrative format like a rhetorical argument or statistical information?

Preliminary findings of the analysis, which I presented at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), indicated that there is indeed a persuasive advantage of narratives.*

The project won Top Student Paper in the ComSHER division (which stands for Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk). It was also awarded the Eason Prize, created in memory of former PhD student Lori Eason, to acknowledge graduate students doing important science communication research. This was a great honor.

Another highlight of the Chicago trip was spending the day with colleagues at Northwestern University (here’s the enviable view from their office) as we made preparations for a productive writing retreat this fall in Park City, Utah. Our upcoming projects will span narrative persuasion, psychological reactance, genetic communication, and more.

And of course there was some time left over for dancing — and some award money set aside for new tango shoes ;)

*Since presenting this paper, I’ve worked with a professor to expand the analysis and submit the paper to a journal for review. Crossing our fingers!


I’m a health writer and graduate student. I'm interested in the wily side of health – self sabotage, persuasion, and why health campaigns so often manage to inadvertently piss people off.

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