The effect of manipulating a story point on the perception of the story

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2015

26 Pages, Grade: 2,3




1. Abstract

2. Introduction

3. Method
3.1 Participants
3.2 Design
3.3 Materials
3.4 Procedure

4. Results

5. Discussion

6. References

7. Appendices
7.1 Factor Analysis Table

1. Abstract

The study introduced in the following paper examines the impact of the story point to the reader´s perception of a story. Therefore, the basic understanding of the reading experiences such as transportation and its outcomes are explained. The main hypothesis is divided into six further hypothesis to examine every aspect. To carry out the study, six stories were created and the story points manipulated. The audience was spread and conducted in a student setting and the study was realized through an online-survey. The results show significant differences in the perception of almost all variables. So, the story point has an influence on the perception. But this study was just a pre-test and therefore, it is necessary to include the results to a further study and to specify on several aspects.

2. Introduction

Stories may have the power of enormous impact. They can provoke a social or cultural change and not only Jesus’ parables but also modern-day soap operas are good examples for this (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 316). But all these changes begin with the belief change of individual recipients. In order to understand the ability of a story to evoke a narrative persuasion the focus should be firstly on the narrative experience itself.

Reading experience and transportation

When human beings read they get transported into the story´s world and see the action of the story instead of their physical surroundings (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 317). So, reading is not just a passive consuming process but it is the active process of creating a virtual world. The aspect of transportation is a central point in this paper because it is the reason for the experience of strong emotions and motivations (Green & Brock, 2000, p. 702) and it is also the key determinant of narrative impact (Green & Brock, 2000, p. 703). How deep a reader gets transported into a story depends on the reader, the text and context attributes (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 323). That is why different readers have varied perceptions of a story. For this study the aspects of the reader, text and context attributes are summarized as reading experience or else narrative engagement, because it contains all the aspects which a reader experiences while reading. The context attributes include different facets such as emotional engagement, attentional focus, text quality and the ability to create images. The following part explains these terms more exactly.

The first important component which is needed to get transported is the emotional engagement of the reader. It contains the three aspects of suspense, enjoyment, appreciation and cognitive involvement. First, there is the suspense. Transportation requires a fluent reading of the text, otherwise the storyline would stop and with it the transportation. Suspense is the engine of narration (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 328) and one way to keep the reader’s attention to the story. Beside this, the reader´s enjoyment plays a prominent role. It is defined as a “positive affect driven by hedonic gratifications (i.e., pleasure seeking)” (Lewis, et. al, 2014, p. 398). So, it is a positive response of the reading experience. Enjoyment also depends on the ending of a story. Lewis et. al. (2014) found out that the enjoyment in stories with a positive ending was rated higher than in stories with a negative ending. This emotion results from quick and intuitive processing (Lewis, e. al, 2014, p. 399). But transportation can also take place in negative-rated stories. Therefore, the contrast part is appreciation. It is the result of slower and controlled processing which is “necessary for weighing the salience” (Lewis, et. al, 2014, p. 399) of conflicts. So, if a narrative contains conflicts it does not mean the reader does not like the story. Maybe he/she does not feel enjoyment, but he/she can feel appreciation. The last point of emotional engagement is the cognitive involvement of the reader. Among others, it contains the sympathy and empathy between the reader and the story´s characters. The reader feels empathy when he/she understands the character´s choices and feels the character´s emotions. Sympathy is when the reader feels “sorry, embarrassed or concerned for a character” (Busselle & Bilandizc, 2009, p. 324). The difference between these two ideas is that readers who feel sympathy have emotions for the character but are not sharing them. When a reader has this intense identification with a character he/she forgets his/her position as a recipient of a story (Busselle & Bilandizc, 2009, p. 323) which results inevitably in transportation into the story.

The aspect of attentional focus also plays a major role. It includes the thematic interest and the surrounding of the reader. The first point to explain is the thematic interest. The reader must perform some action to get transported into the story. At least he/she needs to pay attention to the text (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 324). If he/she is not interested in the topic of the story it is harder to focus on the text because the reader might get bored. When the concentration on the story is disturbed the reading experience stops or goes on slowly and with it the transportation. The subject of thematic interest is not impressionable by the story itself. It just depends on the reader´s mind. But it is possible to compensate this point with strong suspense for example.

Also not impressionable is the surrounding of the reader. If he/she is in a boring or stressful situation it is more difficult for him/her to focus on the story (Green & Brock, 2000, p. 720). Just as the thematic interest the point of a stressful surrounding can be compensated by other criteria. These are the artistic craftsmanship of an author (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 328), which is the point of text quality on one side and the reader´s ability of creating vivid imagery (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 327) on the other side. The artistic craftsmanship of an author is necessary to create a well-written text. The text-quality is dependent on the vividness. So, image generation is an important part of a narrative story. The reader´s ability to create vivid imagery is a fixed postulate for the possibility of transportation and narrative engagement because “vivid imagery is indeed frequently associated with reading involvement” (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 322).

Beside these aspects of narrative engagement, another important point is a reader´s perceived realism which means the “similarity associated between a narrative and the real world” (Dahlstom, 2013, p. 4), so how realistic a recipient sees the story. The word “similarity” can be confusing especially referring to fictional narratives. But it is important to say that this has nothing to do with whether the story is fictional or non-fictional. The character’s situation is the key for the possibility of the story’s reality. So, if the information seems reasonable readers label them as fact (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 329). Dahlstrom (2013) calls these similarity of aspects in the real world external realism. This can be settings like living rooms or New York City, actions like driving a car or characters like a parent or a postal worker (Dahlstrom, 2013, p. 5). The other side of it is narrative realism. With this term Dahlstrom (2013) describes the “similarity of aspects in the narrative world” (Dahlstrom, 2013, p. 5). This could be a mixed-alien-race character fighting giant insects, for example (Dahlstrom, 2013, p. 5). When a story includes too many unrealistic elements, the parts of narrative realism, the perceived realism and therefore the narrative engagement is interfered (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2009, p. 326).

Consequences of transportation

Now, the causes of transportation are clear. But there are also some consequences of this transportation. One is, as already mentioned in the beginning, the deficit of the perception of the reader´s physical surrounding. “While the person is immersed in the story, she may not be thinking of real-world facts that contradict the assertions made in the narrative” (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 325). This means that the person also forgets about stress, personal concerns and problems. So, an outcome of transportation is a kind of relaxation. The next important consequence is that people are somewhat changed by the experience. At a minimum, the readers have a memory of what they read (Green & Brock, 2002, p. 325). One step further is actively thinking about the story and what could have happened (Green & Brock, 2000, p. 702). So, the reader’s thoughts are still with the story even when he/she already finished it hours or days before. But not only the thoughts itself change – the change may be also more profound and evokes a whole change of belief. So, it might be possible that reading changes the behavior of the recipient and performs some kind of persuasion. For this point the narrative meaning also plays an important role. As already told in the beginning, different readers have varied perceptions of a story. Narrative meaning is the way how a reader understands the story. While reading the recipient creates mental models of the story, so he/she “becomes the writer of his or her own version of the story” (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2008, p. 257). These mental models are cognitive structures which are dependent on preexisting knowledge (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2008, p. 260), for example schemas and stereotypes. By reading a story with new content the individual´s mental models are influenced. Therefore, the narrative meaning is also a kind of an outcome of the reading experience and transportation.

Study objectives

In the past, narratives were analyzed from the start to the middle-parts until the end (Labov, 2006, S. 222) in many ways and there were a lot of studies about narrative engagement, transportation, persuasion and belief change. Dahlstrom, for example, carried out a study about perceived and narrative realism and its influence on the acceptance of information from a narrative (Dahlstrom, 2013, p. 6). He found out that “specifically external realism increased the acceptance of narrative information” (Dahlstrom, 2013, S. 1). Another major research subject is the topic of transportation. Green and Brock focused on the coherence between transportation and belief-change (Green & Brock, 2000) and came up with the transportation-imagery-model (Green & Brock, 2002), whereas the scientists Busselle and Bilandzic considered transportation more as an outcome or component of narrative engagement (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2009). But after all these results there was never a study about the “perhaps most important element” (Labov, 2006, S. 222) - the story point and its influence to the reader´s perception of the story. The purpose of this study is to prove that the story point has an impact on the reader´s perception. That is why the main hypothesis of this study is:

The manipulation of the story point has an effect on the overall perception of the story.

To carry out the study, different stories were created. In order to see if the story point has an influence on the reader´s perception at all and to measure the different facets of it, the story points of the stories in this study were manipulated. The reason, why the research was focused on stories rather than rhetorical materials is that first, it is easier for the measuring and the recruitment of people and second, because there is always a difference between the narrators. Some would write stirring and some somnifacient. And this could be caused for the audience to perceive stories different. However, it is difficult to consider every aspect of this hypothesis because of its complexity. So, it is divided into six further hypothesis to examine every facet. The first topic which is needed to find out is whether the manipulated story point even has an influence on the reader’s perception of the story end in general. Therefore the following hypothesis was created:

H1: There are differences in the perception of the Story Ending between the Point-Stories and No Point-Stories.

This research report also tries to explicate the effects of story points in the reader´s mind. To understand what the story point is, it is important to understand the structure of a narrative. An entire story begins with an orientation which answers the questions about the “who”, “when”, “what”, and “where”. After that, it proceeds with the complicating action where the question “Then what happened?” is answered. The next parts are the evaluation answering the “So what?” and the result which is about the question “What finally happened?” (Labov, 2006, p. 224). The story point of a narrative is composed of the last two parts, the evaluation and the result. This is the reason “why the story was told in the first place” (Labov, 2006, p. 224). Here is the point where the story´s content and statement come together with the reader’s previous experience of reading. As mentioned before, these experiences might change the reader´s perception of the narrative meaning. Now, it is important to find out how the story point correlates with the perception of narrative meaning. This topic leads to the next hypothesis:

H2: There are differences in the perception of the Narrative Meaning between the Point-Stories and No Point-Stories.

For the narrative meaning, the reader´s perception of the story itself plays an important role. The story point has an influence on how realistic a story is told and therefore perceived. Hypothesis H3 is concerned with this topic.

H3: There are differences in the perception of the Perceived Realism between the Point-Stories and No Point-Stories.

If there is an impact for the perceived realism it seems possible that also the narrative realism has an impact. That is why the fourth hypothesis got constructed.

H4: There are differences in the perception of the Narrative Realism between the Point-Stories and No Point-Stories.

To understand the whole meaning of the study and its hypothesis it is necessary to get back to the definition of story point: The evaluation and the result are the point where the reader agrees or disagrees with the proceeding of the narrative. The most important aspect is the morality of the story which is the sense behind a story. If there is no moral at the end, most people would say the story has no sense or no point. For the purpose of this study, story point is defined as the moral sense behind a story which makes the reader agree or disagree with the end of a narrative. There is no story point if the story ends without any moral aspect and without any consequence. To find out which role morality for story points plays the next hypothesis was created:

H5: There are differences in the perception of the Morality of the stories between the Point-Stories and No Point-Stories.

Because of the story point´s definition by morality it is important to measure the perceived morality of the whole story on the one side and on the other side the perceived morality at the end of the story. Probably the results for the perceived morality at the story end are significant. Therefore, it is interesting to see if the readers also have a different perception of morality in the whole story. That is why hypothesis H5 got divided into two under-hypothesis.

H5a: There are differences in the perception of the General Morality of the stories between the Point-Stories and No Point-Stories.

H5b: There are differences in the perception of the Morality at the story end of the stories between the Point-Stories and No Point-Stories.

After examining all these different aspects of the story point´s influence there is one more question left. Does changing the story point have an influence on narrative engagement? As explained before, there is no transportation without this engagement. So, it is also not possible to evoke a belief change. The story point plays an important role for the perception of the story. Therefore, engagement does it, too. H6 is concerned with this topic:

H6: There are differences in the perception of the Narrative Engagement between the Point-Stories and No Point-Stories!

As the theory and the hypothesis for this study are clear, the next chapter will address the method. The central aspects of the following chapter are the explanation of the study design and the materials, especially stimuli and scales which were used in order to test the hypothesis.


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The effect of manipulating a story point on the perception of the story
University of Augsburg
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Story Point, Reading Experience, Transportation, narrative engagement, enjoyment, cognitive involvement, perceived realism, narrative realism
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Anonymous, 2015, The effect of manipulating a story point on the perception of the story, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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