TAI Assistant Professor Yan Huang Shares Research on Narrative Persuasion and Attitude Resistance

TAI Research Brown Bag by TAI Assistant Professor, Yan Huang.

On Friday, April 13, Yan Huang, Assistant Professor of Advertising in TAI at SMU, shared her research titled “Persuasion and Counter Persuasion: The Impact of Narratives in Health Promotion,” at the TAI Research Brown Bag.

Professor Huang’s research examines the effects and mechanisms of strategic media messages and technologies in shaping consumer psychology, especially as they relate to health and socially responsible advertising. Through her studies, she addresses a series of questions including,

  • Is attitude induced by narratives able to resist the influence of competing messages?
  • What are the psychological mechanisms underlying narratives’ influence on resistance?
  • Can narratives effectively persuade individuals when used for counter persuasion?
  • How do we use storytelling to help the public make better decisions?

Health public service advertising (PSA) is not processed in a vacuum. An effective health PSA must not only produce an immediate persuasive impact but also compete with counter messages from different interest groups. Prior literature supports narrative benefits in eliciting immediate health attitude change. However, its influence in a competitive scenario has yet to be tested.

When individuals are exposed to a campaign message, they think about it, but they don’t typically engage in actions immediately. There is a time lag, in which individuals can encounter other information, which may contradict with what they were previously exposed to – these are competing messages. Professor Yan Huang performed a series of studies in which attitudes were assessed after exposure to pro- and anti-radiotherapy messages, in both the conventional rhetoric and storytelling formats. Immediate reactions and the responses after counter persuasion were assessed and analyzed.

Major findings of Professor Huang’s studies include,

  • Campaign messages in story formats can lead to better retention of information, which could enhance audience resistance to counter persuasion.
  • The experiential processes associated with narrative exposure, such as identification with story characters and the feeling of “being transported” into the story world, can increase counter-arguing with competing messages.
  • Narrative messages are much more effective than rhetorical messages in communicating counter-attitudinal information.

After sharing her research Professor Huang discussed various theoretical and practical implications including,

  • Narrative persuasion research may benefit from focusing attention beyond the change in attitude intensity to other properties of attitude strength.
  • The mechanisms underlying the carryover effect of narratives in the face of a competing message are both cognitive and experiential.
  • The applicability of narrative persuasion theories in a competitive situation.
  • The strong potential of narrative campaign messages in altering attitude.

Temerlin Advertising Institute was honored to have Yan Huang for a lecture on her research. TAI is passionate about staying informed on all current topics in the advertising industry, hosting speakers periodically throughout the year.

Yan Huang holds a Ph.D. in mass communication from Pennsylvania State University. She teaches Consumer Behavior (ADV 2301) at SMU. Her work has appeared in such journals as American Behavioral Scientist, Health Communication, Journal of Communication, among others. Moreover, her research has been recognized with Top Paper Awards from the International Communication Association (ICA), the Association for the Education of Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) and the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC).

Meet New TAI Professor Dr. Yan Huang

Dr. Yan Huang

What made you want to become a professor?

I am curious. I always want to figure out a few things. I collect information to feed my curiosity. When I meet people with the same questions, I feel excited to share what I have learned with them. The whole process makes me happy. Luckily, these are exactly what professors do.

What class are you teaching this semester?

I am teaching ADV2301 Consumer Behavior this semester. In this class, we discuss theories and concepts of psychology and persuasion as they relate to how and why consumers make certain judgments and decisions. To me, the purpose of the class is two-fold. First, I hope to motivate students to think about the applications of these theories and concepts in advertising/marketing communications. Second, I hope students themselves can become better consumers and make informed decisions with knowledge gained from this class.

What is your area of expertise?

Broadly speaking, my background and expertise are in the area of strategic communication. My research gives special attention to the effects and mechanisms of strategic media messages and technologies in shaping consumer psychology, especially as they relate to health and socially responsible advertising. I am a quantitative researcher. I explore my research questions mostly by doing experiments, surveys, and meta-analyses.

What has been your favorite memory from teaching for TAI so far?

I’ve already had many good experiences with SMU students. Every week I gain something new. It is hard to choose…but if I have to…the favorite memory is when a group of five students came to my office on a Friday afternoon to talk about the different ways to approach their group project. I remember seeing the spark of curiosity and enthusiasm in their eyes.

What is your favorite part about being a professor?

My favorite part is that I get to meet different students every semester, know their stories, share what I’ve learned with them, and help them when they are in need. I hope I can make a valuable contribution to knowledge with my research and use the knowledge to cultivate young minds.

Have you taught before? 

I had taught at Penn State for two years before I came to SMU. I taught a research method class for advertising/public relations majors and also an online course on research analytics in strategic communication.

Are you currently doing any research? 

Yes, I have a few ongoing projects. One important theme is about the effectiveness of narrative advertising. While past research focuses on the immediate impact of stories, my research has revealed that messages telling stories are also more persuasive than argument-based messages in the long term. This is because narrative exposure can trigger more self-related thoughts on the advocated issue by engaging individuals experientially. Moreover, individuals who have read narrative messages will show greater resistance to counterarguments they encounter at a later time.

What is one interesting fact about you?

I used to play a video game named BombSquad with my husband. We had kept the doubles world record for quite a while.

To find out more about Dr. Huang, check out her page on the TAI website.