Investigating the Dynamics of Identity Formation, and Narrative Information Comprehension – Final Report


  1. Upal, A.
  2. Packer, D.J.
  3. Moskowitz, G.B.
  4. Kugler, M.B.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto, Toronto ONT (CAN)
This program of research sought to address two overarching questions. First, what effect do narrative forms of discourse have on persuasion in response to messages of change? Second, how do narratives exert persuasive effects in this context, and more specifically, what type(s) of cognitive processes are involved? Over the course of a year, we conducted four pilot studies and nine full experiments designed to provide preliminary insights into these questions. There is evidence from these studies that narratives that link messages of change to a group’s past or that utilize an arcing narrative structure are sometimes effective at increasing persuasion. However, when they work (particularly to persuade strongly identified group members) narrative structures exert their persuasive power through a heuristic route, involving intuitive or low effort thought processes. Elaborative processes in which people think deeply or logically about a message of change appear to trigger reactance and counter-arguing, which have a strongly negative effect on the persuasive power of narratives. The current studies do not shed a great deal of light on what triggers elaborative vs. heuristic processing of narrative structures, and suggest that effects of narrative structures are driven by highly sensitive processes, not yet fully understood.

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Report Number
DRDC-TORONTO-TR-2011-061 — Technical Report (Final Report)
Date of publication
01 Apr 2011
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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