Persuasive Effects of Point of View, Protagonist Competence, and Similarity in a Health Narrative About Type 2 Diabetes

Meng Chen, Robert A Bell, Laramie D. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We examined the persuasive effects of three narrative features in a message about type 2 diabetes: narrative point of view (first- vs. third-person perspective), protagonist competence (positive role model who prevents diabetes vs. negative role model who develops diabetes), and protagonist-reader similarity (demographically similar vs. dissimilar). We posited that a first-person point of view would elevate people’s identification levels more than a third-person point of view, especially when the protagonist was depicted as a positive role model. We also expected a similar protagonist to foster greater levels of identification than a dissimilar one. In addition, the positive effect of a competent role model on identification was expected to be enhanced under the condition of reader-protagonist similarity. Finally, we hypothesized that the effects of identification on persuasion would be mediated by self-referencing. Participants 30 years of age or younger (N = 489) were randomly assigned to read a story about a person with a family history of type 2 diabetes that was altered with regard to the experimental factors. Thereafter they completed a questionnaire incorporating measures of study variables. Greater levels of identification were found to foster self-referencing, leading to persuasion. Identification was strongest with a first-person point of view and when the narrator was a positive role model. The effect of identification on persuasion was mediated by self-referencing. Contrary to expectations, protagonist-reader demographic similarity did not affect identification or self-referencing. There was no support for the two moderation hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-712
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 3 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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