Whose Story is This?: Source Reveal as a Communication Tactic to Increase Consumers’ Advocacy for Social Causes

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Episodes of discrimination and marketplace injustice go viral frequently. Sometimes, people hear these stories from someone who was not the actual victim featured in the story. The current work examines how exposure to a story told by one person, that is subsequently revealed to have happened to another person, influences the audience’s persuasion-related responses. Across three studies conducted in the context of race and injustice in the marketplace (plus two in the web appendix), we demonstrate that the group membership (from a dominant vs. vulnerable group) of both the storyteller and the victim interact to influence an audience’s willingness to advocate for social causes. Examination of the process demonstrates that judgments of victim trustworthiness and perceived moral violation underlie the effects. In further support of process, the effect of victim race is attenuated when it is revealed at the beginning (vs. the end) of the message. The current work contributes to research on source effects, narrative persuasion, and advocacy-related word of mouth.