Publication Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

2-2015

Abstract

This study tests whether policy narratives designed to increase support for obesity-reducing public policies should explicitly acknowledge individual responsibility while emphasizing social, physical, and economic (social) determinants of obesity. We use a web-based, randomized experiment with a nationally representative sample of American adults (n = 718) to test hypotheses derived from theory and research on narrative persuasion. Respondents exposed to narratives that acknowledged individual responsibility while emphasizing obesity’s social determinants were less likely to engage in counterargument and felt more empathy for the story’s main character than those exposed to a message that did not acknowledge individual responsibility. Counterarguing and affective empathy fully mediated the relationship between message condition and support for policies to reduce rates of obesity. Failure to acknowledge individual responsibility in narratives emphasizing social determinants of obesity may undermine the persuasiveness of policy narratives. Omitting information about individual responsibility, a strongly-held American value, invites the public to engage in counterargument about the narratives and reduces feelings of empathy for a character that experiences the challenges and benefits of social determinants of obesity.

Discipline

Business and Corporate Communications | Health Policy | Social Influence and Political Communication

Research Areas

Corporate Communication

Publication

PLoS ONE

Volume

10

Issue

2

ISSN

1932-6203

Identifier

10.1371/journal.pone.0117565

Publisher

Public Library of Science

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Additional URL

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0117565