BRIDGES Working paper nº 28

Report on the influence of narratives on attitudes towards immigrants. Narrative framing effects on intergroup attitudes and prosocial behaviors

Publication date:
José J. Pizarro Carrasco, Juan-José Igartua, and Verónica Benet-Martínez

BRIDGES Working paper 28 (December 2023)

Despite its ubiquity in human life, narrative exposure has only recently begun to receive more theoretical and empirical attention, with the aim to unravel how narratives shape our thoughts and actions. In this report, we focus on testimonial narratives to explain what their effects are, how narratives produce these effects, and who are those with a greater probability of being immersed in this form of narratives. We conducted a pre-registered online experiment in Spain (N = 1502) and replicated it in Hungary (N = 960), where participants had to read diverse immigrant work-life stories, manipulated in terms of narrative frame (immigrant as a Profiteer vs Victim vs Hero), origin of the immigrant (higher vs lower stigma), and narrative voice used (1st vs 3rd person). Then, we measured participants’ attitudes and helping intentions towards immigrants, along with a series of mechanisms that evaluates participants’ psychological experience with the testimony. The results show a cascade of effects triggered by narrative frames, and notably heightened identification with the protagonist. This emotional connection sets off a series of positive psychological responses, fostering meaningful affect and deep cognitive reflection while reducing counterarguing, and subsequently, more positive attitudes and helping intentions towards immigrants in general. Additionally, person-centered analyses reveal that these effects are even stronger among participants who are in greater contact with people from social minorities, those who are less suspicious about immigrants, and those who are more extroverted, more curious, and orientated to cooperation. Beyond the experimental setting, these findings hold significance for understanding narrative persuasion models and emphasize the potential of testimonial messages in addressing societal issues.

Keywords: Narrative Persuasion, Testimonial Narratives, Immigration, Intergroup Relations, Frame, Narrative Voice.