Every holiday season, many of us find ourselves with more than enough time to enjoy reading a good book or two, listening to newly released podcasts, and watching films and TV shows that we may have been too busy for prior to the holiday season. With these different forms of entertainment, we can break away from the frenzy of everyday life, and journey into other possible worlds. As with any kind of travel, the journey affects us all, individually in many different ways. However, the degree to which we as individuals become engaged with a story is known as narrative transportation.
Narrative transportation is an effect that causes feelings and thoughts consistent with the narrative world you’ve become part of. The more a story transports you, the more likely you are persuaded to adopt the beliefs espoused within it. Along with that, a number of deeper changes can occur too. Previous research shows that changes of attitudes and intentions are part of the narrative transportation effect.
Meta-analyses aggregate the results of a large number of published empirical studies, which can greatly increase confidence in a phenomenon. No meta-analysis had been performed on narrative transportation for five years, so we investigated all the published research since.
When new research averaged the results of 64 different papers, reporting 138 separate effects, based on results from more than 20,000 participants. The study discovered that three factors reliably influence the narrative transportation effect: whether a story is commercial or noncommercial, whether it is user-generated or created by professionals, and whether there are other people present while you are engaging with the story. A transporting story is 16% more likely to affect you if it has commercial profit, rather than an artistic or other value, as its primary aim.
Many films and TV series are primarily made for commercial purposes with the intention of making a profit. If you are not aware of this profit motive, the effect of narrative transportation is strengthened. As a result, you will be inclined to buy products – and even animals – featured in films and TV series. Interestingly, a transporting story is 11% more likely to change you if it is made publicly available, reflects a certain amount of creative effort, and is created outside of professional routines and practices.
Many books and podcasts are user generated, which indicated that hey are self-published at their authors’ own expense. A creator’s emotional participation in the story strengthens the narrative transportation effect.
For example, in Andy Weir’s book The Martian was first originated in 2011, after a long search for a professional agent, he gave up on big publishing and instead published the book to Amazon. It was soon climbing the charts and he attracted a dedicated, worldwide following. It was later made into a feature film starring Matt Damon. Other examples of this kind of creator influence include teenagers like Charlotte D’Alessio, who became an overnight Instagram fashion sensation, or big-name YouTubers like Shane Dawson who have created internet-based entertainment for over a decade, ranging from YouTube videos to movies, and even music and writing his own book. All examples that make a transporting story 10% less likely to influence you if you are with others, rather than alone, when you are consuming it.
Additionally, social groups weaken the narrative transportation effect. As a result, you are less likely to be persuaded if you share the experience with family or groups of friends.
Social meetings such as LARP’s or Live-action role playing games are a common practice that fits perfectly with the discovery. These increasingly popular fan meetings are now more than ever before encouraging you to experience beloved films and TV series, mystical creatures and more with others.