Narrative persuasion within competitive belief environments: An interpretivist take on persuasion

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Purpose of the study The aim of this study is to expand our understanding of how narrative persuasion attempts compete with other narratives in the cultural discourse. It is clear that we understand stories and evaluate them, their legitimacy, their cultural value etc. significantly based on the social contexts we are in and the social contexts we have experienced. Yet, the social contexts in which narrative persuasion occur are poorly understood in the literature and there has been a significant critique emerging in recent years of the removal of these social contexts in most persuasion research. In this thesis, I present that these social contexts involving narrative persuasion are competitive in nature and that the involved competitive dynamics define what these stories are and how people respond to them. In this thesis, I specifically answer two research questions in order to fill the gap in the literature. The first being, how different narrative persuasion attempts compete in competitive belief environments, and the second being, how people interact around narrative persuasion attempts in competitive belief environments. Methotology I investigate pro-vegan and anti-vegan narratives on YouTube through a passive netnography, taking an interpretivist perspective to a typically positivist field, observing the conflicts between the narratives that arise through the cause-and-effect relationships that are presented, as well as the conflicts within the communities found in the video comment sections that arise amongst supporting and opposing commenters. These observations are analysed and interpreted through the lens of a narrative meaning framework as well as a vast array of both narrative persuasion research and competitive belief environment research. Findings I will argue that the persuasion links, the cause-and-effect relationships in the narratives which persuade in favour of or against something, reveal how the persuasive narratives compete in the competitive belief environment. I will present how the pro-vegan and anti-vegan narrative persuasion attempts create a chain of persuasion links that build on one another and that this chain defines the competition amongst the beliefs between the opposing narratives and the opposing belief communities as well. Based on these findings, I will present potential managerial implications, limitations to the study, as well as avenues for future research.
Thesis advisor
Arnould, Eric
narrative persuasion, competitive beliefs, interpretivism, persuasion links
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