The Effect of Affect: An Appraisal Theory Perspective on Emotional Engagement in Narrative Persuasion

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Most recent research examining the influence of story-based advertisements on persuasion leverages theories of narrative and character involvement. These theories emphasize emotional engagement as key to stories’ persuasive influence. Researchers who build on these theories tend to assume that an audience will experience the emotions depicted by a focal character and examine emotional engagement with respect to intensity (i.e., amount of emotion experienced). The current work integrates insights from the appraisal theory of emotion to develop a framework of audience emotional engagement in stories. We expand the current conceptualization of emotional engagement in narratives to include the discrete emotion experienced while involved in the story as well as the event appraisals that elicit the emotions. We highlight antecedents of an audience’s emotional response to a story and ways in which the appraisal theme associated with the discrete emotion experienced while emotionally engaged in a narrative ad explains variance in outcomes of importance to advertisers.