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Imagine Yourself in the Product: Mental Simulation, Narrative Transportation, and Persuasion Author(s): Jennifer Edson Escalas Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of Advertising, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer, 2004), pp. 37-48 Published by: M.E. Sharpe, Inc. Stable URL: . Accessed: 04/09/2012 06:48 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

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Narrative Jennifer





Edson Escalas

ABSTRACT: Mental simulation has been defined as the cognitive construction of hypothetical scenarios, which are usually in the form of stories or narratives. The experiment in this paper examines the favorable effect of ad-encouraged mental simulation on ad attitudes and brand evaluations. A model is developed wherein mental simulation persuades via narrative transportation, defined as immersion into a story (Gerrig 1994; Green and Brock 2000). Transportation includes strong affective responses and low levels of critical thought, which, in turn, affect ad attitudes and brand evaluations.

A recent television

ad for a Lexus?


was filmed

from the driver's seat. The car is stopped at an intersection with a car next to it. The announcer says, "Imagine this is What type of imyour only chance to make an impression. would like to leave?" ads pression you Lottery encourage consumers to "dream a little dream" of how they would spend their millions, were they to win. Mercury? automobile ads invite

to "imagine yourself in a Mercury." A recent ad Whirlpool? campaign asks viewers to "imagine treating clothes so well they look new longer." In these ads and others,


in a print advertising

conclusions, managerial ture research.



use the advertising tactic of encouraging viewers to imagine positive scenarios involving themselves and the products advertised. The main question addressed by this paper does mental simulation enhance is, By what mechanism(s) persuasion? Mental simulation struction 1989),

First, we review the relevant literature on mental simulation and narrative transportation; then we develop hypotheses. Next, an experiment examines the effects of mental

can be thought scenarios

of hypothetical which are usually

of as the cognitive con(Taylor and Schneider

in the form of stories

or narratives

(Fiske 1993). When we simulate events, we frequently think about our own actual or potential behaviors, creating behavioral scenarios, similar to stories, in which we are the main character. Therefore, we propose that the mechanism through which mental simulation persuades is the same as the mechanism through which stories persuade. Green and Brock (2000) have shown that stories persuade via transportation, which is defined as "immersion into a text," that is, the extent to which individuals




The paper ends with and directions for fu-



is the imitative mental representation simulation of some event or series of events (Taylor and Schneider 1989). It can be thought of as the cognitive construction of hypothetical scenarios, including rehearsals of likely future events, fanabout


future events, likely realistically or events, reexperiencing past reconstructing past events, elements. Mental simulations are usumixing in hypothetical in the form of stories or narratives (Fiske 1993; ally tasizing

1991). When we simulate events, we frequently Polkinghorne think about our own actual or potential behaviors, creating behavioral episodes (i.e., stories) in which we are the main character. Taylor and Schneider's (1989) definition of mental simulation


been defined

memories, which have autobiographical as the recollection of earlier events from one s

life (Baddeley 1990). The capacity to simulate events may be one of the most distinctive and important features of cognition (Taylor and Schneider 1989). It enables people to rerun

become "lost" in a story (Gerrig 1994; Green and leads to persuasion 2000, p. 702). Transportation reduced realism of through negative cognitive responding, and affective and Brock experience, strong responses (Green

past events, possibly altering them, and to project multiple versions of future events. Consequently, mental simulation is


have examined the consequences of psychologists simulation. To summarize, this stream of research has demonstrated that mental simulation can lead to higher as-


for preparing important past events.

for future


and interpreting



Jennifer Edson Escalas (Ph.D. in business administration, Duke University) is an assistant professor of marketing in the Eller School of Business and Public Administration, University of Arizona.

sessed probability estimates of simulated events and positive and actual behavior, changes in attitudes, brand evaluations, if the simulation is self-relevant and repeated (e.g., particularly vol.33, no.2 (Summer 2004),pp.37-48. Journal cfAdvertising, O 2004American of Advertising. All rightsreserved. Academy / 2004$950 ? 0.00. ISSN0091-3367


? heJournal of Advertising


1983; Carroll 1978; Gregory, Cialdini, and CarThe predominant 1982). penter explanation for these effects is based on Tversky and Kahneman's (1982) availability heu-

diate the effects of mental simulation

ristic: To the extent that an idea or event is cognitively availand able, it will be perceived as likely (see also Kahnemann for a discussion of simulation the heuristic). Tversky 1982 The process by which availability affects attitudes and behav-


ior has not been empirically tested, however. In this paper, we proargue that the narrative structure of mental simulation

and related concepts, such as imagery in advertising in consumer decision making. Maclnnis ease of imagining and Price (1987) define imagery as "a process (not a structure) by which sensory information is represented in working

vides a potential intentions.


for its effects

on attitudes



on persuasion,

based on





there is a long history of mental simulation research in psychology, consumer research has recently begun to examine some

to imagine (similar to what (p. 473). Instructions have studied as mental simulation) are just one psychologists and Ellen (1992) find antecedent of Bone imagery. possible memory"



are usually in the above, mental simulations form of stories or narratives (Fiske 1993; Polkinghorne 1991). on to simulate tend behaviors, events, focusing goals, People and therefore creating stories. The narrative and outcomes, structure of stories consists of two important elements: chroAs mentioned

that imagery


when radio advertisements

encourage to imagine themselves using a product (versus someone else) and that imagery affects attitude imagining toward the ad (measured with emotion terms), but not attitude toward the brand or purchase intentions. Our article does


nology and causality. First, narrative thought organizes events in terms of a temporal dimension: things occur over time Fiske Time is (Bruner 1990; 1993). configured in narratives as episodes, each with a beginning, middle, and end. Second,

that falls under the rubric of imageverything itself to ads that evoke mental simulation, restricts but ery, narrative structure and thus can lead has which, by definition, to narrative transportation (see Table 1 for a clarification of

narrative thought structures story elements into an organized that establishes relationships between the elements

terms). While one can mentally simulate an episode involving other the self. involves mental simulation typically people,


for causal

and allows





not consider

story organization incorporates general knowledge about human goal-oriented action episodes that consist of a goal, acand Hastie 1986; Stein an outcome and tion, (Pennington

and Sujan (1999) have studied self-focused Krishnamurthy mental simulation (which they label "anticipatory self-referauthors find that the persuasive effects of These encing").

and Albro

by ads with high degrees of contextual detail. Contextual detail helps create the setting as opposed to the case of for the forward-looking simulation,

1997). Green and Brock (2000) find that stories persuade via transportation, which is defined as "immersion into a text," that is, the extent to which individuals become "lost" in a story (p. is contrasted with analytical processing 702). Transportation traditionally studied in dual-process models of persuasion (e.g., Model {ELM], Petty, Cacioppo, and Elaboration Likelihood "elaboration leads to attitude Analytical change via logical consideration and evaluation of arguments," leads to persuasion through reduced whereas transportation Schumann


and realism of experience, cognitive responding, Brock and affective 702). 2000, p. responses (Green strong has narrative structure; therefore, people Mental simulation in simulating by their selfmay be transported engaged negative

stories. This should

generated ad arguments,

result in less critical analysis of and strong affective thoughts,

fewer negative which in turn, should


are facilitated


(which they label "retrowhich is more persuasive with low spective self-referencing"), detail because memories already have degrees of contextual detailed information associated with them. While our studies autobiographical



mental simulation, we do not believe that is necessary for narrative transportation to ocself-referencing cur in the context of advertising. For example, Escalas, Moore, and Edell (2003) find that the degree to which a television ad examine self-focused

story affects the degree to which the ad These authors compare their "being to that of narrative transportation, since both

tells a well-developed "hooks" the viewer.

hooked" concept reflect being drawn in by, or lost in, a story or dramatic vision advertisement.


persuasion (when are positive). (It may also be the case that negative emotions could enhance persuasion, if the negative events being simulated could be lessened or resolved by the product

decision making, Phillips, Olson, assert that "consumption and Baumgartner visions," (1995) mental simulations of future consumpthat is, self-constructed behavior because these tion situations, motivate consumption

or brand being advertised. We do not address these types of scenarios in this research.) Thus, the objective of this paper is that meto examine the cognitive and affective mechanisms


responses, the emotions


In terms

of consumer

the self-enacting, detailed, product-related visions are a subset of some In behaviors. sense, consumption possible mental simulation stories and are those most relevant involve

Summer 2004 TABLE Definitional Narrative

I Issues Analytical

processing Discursive




processing Discursive

Self-referencing Post

Autobiographical memory retrieval with vivid images.6

Autobiographical memory retrieval without much visualization.0

Thinking about the self in the past without goalaction-outcome sequences (e.g., remembering oneself lying on the beach on a previous vacation, without much action occurring).


On-line imposition of story structure to interpret lived experience with vivid images.

On-line imposition of story structure to interpret lived experience without much visual input


Mental simulation with vivid images.

Mental simulation without much visualization.

Evaluating past behavior or situations without goal-action-outcome sequences or vivid images (e.g., deciding that in the past your approach to an analytical problem was incorrect).

Evaluating alternatives and attributes in relation to the self with vivid images (e.g., visualizing oneself in a house, but not doing

Evaluating alternatives and attributes in relation to the self without any visualization (e.g., I can use the functions of a

anything there).


Evaluating a future decision option without goal-action-outcome sequences (e.g., imagining oneself in a house, but not

Planning for the future, but without goal-actionoutcome sequences or visualization (e.g., creating a list for the grocery

doing anything there).


Non-seK-referencing/ other focus Past

Recalling a story, movie, etc., about others with vivid images.

Recalling a story, movie, etc., about others without much visualization.

Recall of places or objects with vivid images.

Recall of memory for facts.


Reading a story, watching a movie, etc., about others with vivid images.

Reading a story, watching a movie, etc., about others without much visualization.

Forming a mental image of a place or object.

Many types of mental operations (e.g., categorization, mathematical operations).


Imagining a story about others in the future with vivid images.

Imagining a story about others without much visualization.

Evaluatinga future decision option without goalaction-outcome sequences for someone else (e.g., imagininga friend in a house, but not doing

Planning for the future for someone else, but without behavior or visualization (e.g., creating a list for a friend for the grocery store).

anything there).

' Under conditions of narrative processing, degree of imagery processing depends on stimulus factors and individual differences (e.g., visualizer versus verbalizer, etc.). b Can also include mental simulation as one redoes past events, mixing in hypothetical elements.


TheJournal of Advertising

to an advertising setting, where marketers hope consumers will imagine themselves one using their product. Although could argue that ad-evoked mental simulation is not enon how much detail is "self-constructed," depending by the ad, much of the thought process will be



self-generated. Keller and McGill



Hl ??-?



Ad Attitudes Brand

Strength and McGill




and Anand

(1994) (1989) find that more easily imagined attributes have a disproportionate influence on consumer decision making when particiMental

to use imagery in their evaluation. pants are encouraged Instructions to imagine also lead to more processing by alternative. Keller and McGill (1994) hypothesize an "imagery heuristic" wherein consumers imagine the actual experience with

an alternative

and then assess that alternative

s desir-

based on the affective

ability don't examine


response to imagining. They reactions in their studies, however.

(See also Shiv and Huber [2000], who examine mental simulation in the context of imagining satisfaction.) Keller and Block (1997) examine a related imagery confrom a resource-matching Inicept, vividness, perspective: tially, vividness but eventually, leading

increases elaboration, which helps persuasion, too much elaboration hurts persuasion, thus to an inverted U relationship between elaboration and

persuasion. These results are different from the generally favorable effects of mental simulation found by research in psychology. Similarly, Meyers-Levy and Peracchio (1996) find an inverted U relationship for self-referencing, which is also relevant here, since ad-evoked mental simulation typically involves the self. However, narrative transportation findings show no such inverted U relationship (Green and Brock It appears, 2000). and self-referencing

therefore, that high levels of vividness in the context of a narrative do not harm

For this reason, persuasion. verted U relationship when the next section.


we do not hypothesize an inwe develop our hypotheses in



strong or weak rationale for buying the product. When individuals are not engaged in narrative transportation, however, analytical cognitive processes should dominate (Green and Brock 2000), creating an environment where strong arguments are likely to be more persuasive than weak arguments (conof course, on the level of involvement; see Petty, tingent, 1983). Cacioppo, and Schumann ship is shown in Figure 1.

and consumer ad attitudes

research, mental simuand brand evaluations.

Based on narrative transportation theory, we propose that the reason for this improvement is that when conunderlying sumers are engaged in mental simulations that are in the form of a story, they become lost in or absorbed by their thoughts. This distracts them from thinking critically about the advertisement and its arguments, and also evokes positive feelings is favorable) that may be associated with (if the simulation the brand being advertised. The transportation for how conprocess has implications will sumers respond to strong versus weak ad arguments. Specifically, when consumers are transported by their simulations, they will

not notice


in whether

the ad presents


HI: Ad argument strength will not have a differential effect on ad attitudes and brand evaluations under conditions of mental simulation, but will have such effects when mental simulation is absent. The distraction

effect proposed in HI is based on the idea which are in engaged in mental simulations, the form of a narrative, become transported by their simula-

that consumers

2 through 4 examine this underlying transin more detail. Specifically, we test whether portation process distracts consumers from thinking transportation critically tions. Hypotheses

about the advertisement

and whether it evokes positive feelThis in Figure 2. The first step in the is shown ings. process is that of where consumers become process transportation, in absorbed their simulations. We propose that transportation is the mechanism fects ad attitudes

In both social psychology lation leads to improved

This moderation

through which mental and brand evaluations.



H2: Narrative transportation will mediate the favorable effect of mental simulation on ad attitudes and brand evaluations. By encouraging participants to mentally simulate using a an via we hope to encourage the strong advertisement, product affective Mental

responses simulation


to evoke




transportation. the self has been involving (Taylor and responses in feelings

of episodes

strong 1989). In the context of our studies, positive feelsimulate positive usage ings should arise when participants for what would scenarios. We do not make any predictions Schneider

happen were a subject to mentally simulate negative product usage outcomes, thereby generating negative affect, because research mental simulation has shown a positivity previous

Summer 2004 2



We also manot encouraged). encouraged versus simulation nipulate two levels of argument strength (strong versus weak) to examine the potential effects of narrative transportation

Narrative Simulation, Transportation Mediation Framework

where we would expect to find differing levels cognitive ad responses. The result is a 2 X 2 be-

across contexts of negative





bias (i.e., people tend to imagine favorable outcomes; see Maclnnis and Price 1987). If the ad is able to generate a simulation about using the brand being advertised, positive feelings may become linked to the ad and brand. That is, the positive affect generated through narrative transportation may affect ad and brand attitudes when the good feelings from the simulation become associated with the brand being advertised

ern university

in this study in exchange for participated experimental credit toward the fulfillment of a course requireThere were no signifiment, for a total of 168 participants. cant differences between the two groups on any of the variables of interest,

so the data were merged

into one set for analysis.

and Brock


2000; Sujan, Bettman, and Baumgartner This assertion is consistent with Keller and McGill's




students undergraduate introductory Forty-two marketing from a private Northeastern and 126 university undergraduate introductory marketing students from a public Southwest-



as well. Our stimulus

H3: An increase in positive affective responses will mediate the favorable effect of narrative transportation on ad attitudes and brand evaluations. As participants imagine themselves using a product, they in future scenarios, linking personal think about themselves and the product, and are "transported" by these experience thoughts. This process precludes them from critically evaluating the ad. On the other hand, when not engaged in mental simulation, participants' thought processes tend to be more

ad consisted

of a one-page, color ad for a runof the running shoe had been altered

ning shoe. The picture via computer so that it appeared to be an unknown brand. The ad showed a slightly out of focus picture of a man jogging through a park. A close-up of the shoes and the ficti-

tious brand name, Westerly, were superimposed on top of the trees. The text of the ad, placed at the bottom, either presented shoe attributes (either strong or weak) or encouraged to imagine in the shoes themselves participants running the same attributes dethrough the park (while mentioning scribed in the shoe attribute condition; see the Appendix).

in nature. Green and Brock (2000) demonstrate that dominate one when is not enanalytical cognitive responses gaged in narrative transportation in the context of written sto-

We selected

ries. In terms of advertising research, Wright (1973) finds that cognitive responses mediate message acceptance: counterarguing and source derogations are important mediators of attitudinal

they are used in a repeated fashion and worn on the body. Running shoes are also a relevant and well-used product category for college student participants.

acceptance. Thus, narrative transportation should reduce critical thoughts when consumers are captivated by their simula-



tions, which




and intentions.

H4: A reduction in critical thoughts will mediate the favorable effect of narrative transportation on ad attitudes and brand evaluations. We test these four hypotheses described next.



running shoes as the product for the stimulus ad because running shoes lend themselves to mental simulation?

in a print advertising



In this study, we manipulate two levels of mental simulation within the text of a print ad for running shoes (simulation

This experiment is based on the presentation of stimuli and the of questionnaire collection responses via computer. Student the participants complete study by going to the university computer lab, where an experimental program written in Visual Basic? has been installed on the network. The program presents participants with a study introduction, followed by the print ad stimulus on the computer screen. There are four versions of ad text, manipulating mental simulation and argument strength (see the Appendix). The ad is followed by a series of scale questions answered on a sliding scale ranging from 1 to 100. These questions include the study's manipulation checks,


TheJournal of Advertising

dependent variables, and potential covariates, including demographic information. The study ends with a debriefing statement. The entire study takes approximately one-half hour. Dependent Variables After viewing the print ad, participants were first asked to type in what they were thinking about while they were looking at the ad. Participants then filled out a reduced set of the Edell, and Moore (1990) feelings scale to measure usfeelings that may arise in response to simulating

Goodstein, upbeat

were instructed to indicate ing running shoes (participants how well the following words describe how they felt while looking at the ad, on 1 to 100 scales, anchored by extremely well/not well at all; active, alive, cheerful, delighted, energetic, happy, pleased, stimulated; a = .95). Next, respondents answered two scale items ranging from 1 to 100 assessing their attitude toward the print ad, anchored by very favorable/very unfavorable and very good/very bad (A^, a = .95). Two scale items ranging from 1 to 100 assessed brand attitudes, again anchored by very favorable/very unfavorable and very good/very bad, while two additional scale items ranging from 1 to 100 measured behavioral intentions

toward the brand

ment or thought protocols have the structural elements identified above as being indicative of narratives (Escalas, 2003; see Table 2). Two items appraise the causal relationships explored by narratives (items 1 and 4). One item captures the chronology of narrative; that is, whether the ad has a beginning, middle, and end (item 5). Another important element of narratives is character development (item 3). Narratives are higher quality when viewers/readers are made aware of the psychological state of the protagonist, that is, what he or she is thinking and feeling (item 2). Finally, one item addresses the characteristic focus of narrative thought on particular events rather than generalities or abstractions (item 6). The six items, measured on scales ranging from 1 to 5, were averaged to form one narrative structure score for each respondent {a = 79).


To check the argument strength manipulation, two scale items ranging from 1 to 100 assessed the perceived strength of the reasons given in the ad for why one should buy the shoes (as a set). These scales were anchored convincing/very convincing ing from 1 to 100 measured

to try on the shoe in a store and by willingness of purchase). These four brand-related items were to form one brand evaluation measure (BE, a = .87); averaged as the stimulus ad was for a fictitious brand, it is unlikely

of mental

that brand attitudes


(measured likelihood

and behavioral


truly measure in the (All analyses presented paper have also been run on brand attitudes and behavioral intentions as distinct

ery case.)


The results are virtually


in ev-

three scale items

Finally, participants completed from 1 to 100 measuring the degree

to which


felt transported participant by the ad ("I was mentally involved in the ad," "while thinking about the ad, I could easily picture the events in it taking place," and "I could picture myself in the scene shown in the ad," a = .82, adapted from Green and Brock 2000).

Thought-Coding The thought listings were coded by an independent coder blind to the experimental hypotheses into the following catsource deroegories: counterarguments, support arguments, gations, source support arguments, and "other," according to Wright's (1973) advertising response taxonomy (source supare an addition to this coding scheme). An port arguments index of negative responses was created for the proportion of critical

by weak/strong and not at all = {a .88). Two scale items rangparticipants' self-assessed degree

simulation ("While viewing the ad, I simulated in the shoes" and "while looking at the ad, I imagrunning ined myself running in the shoes," a = .84).





thoughts to be used in the analyses. The thought protocols were also coded by a different independent coder (also blind to the hypotheses), using a six-item scale developed to measure the degree to which an advertise-

A series of questions concerned potential covariates: attitude toward running, attitude toward running shoes, amount run (times per week, miles per week), how often participants buy running shoes, how much they typically pay for running shoes, a measure of brand loyalty, and demographic information (gender, ethnicity, and year in school). Only running shoe attiin any of the models and is tude proved to be significant therefore used as a covariate

throughout all subsequent analy(the average of two scale items (ANCOVA) 1 to 100, anchored by very unfavorable/very ranging from favorable and very negative/very positive, a - .95). ses of covariance

Results This study is a 2 X 2 between-subjects design, crossing mental simulation not and argument (encouraged, encouraged) versus We test our weak). strength (strong hypotheses with either ANCOVA models that include the running shoe attitude covariate, simulation condition, argument strength conand the interaction of simulation and argument


strength, or with regression models in those cases where the model only contains continuous variables. We report standardized regression coefficients throughout.

Summer 2004 TABLE Narrative






3 Ad Attitude and Brand Evaluation Interaction Results (Hl)


i. To what extent do these thoughts consist of actors engaged in actions to achieve goals? 2. To what extent do these thoughts let you know what the actors are thinking and feeling? 1 To what extent do these thoughts provide you with insight about the personal evolution or change in the life of a character? 4 To what extent do these thoughts explain why things happen, that is, what caused things to happen? 5 To what extent do these thoughts have a well-delineated beginning (initial event), middle (crisis or turning point), and ending


Ad Attitudes 55 50 45

??-Weak Arguments *?StrongArguments

40 35-i 30

(conclusion)? 6t To what extent do these thoughts focus on specific, particular events rather than on generalizations or abstractions?

MentalSimulation Not Encouraged

MentalSimulation Encouraged

Brand Evaluations

Source:Escalas (2003). Note: These items are measured on five-point scales, anchored by not at all (1), and very much so (5). The participant is considered to be an actor if the thoughts are in the first person.

55 50 45

-WeakArguments -StrongArguments

40 Manipulation




30 in the mental simulation (MS) encouraged conParticipants dition reported having significantly more simulation thoughts than those in the not-encouraged MS not encourcondition, = = MS 35.16, 163) = 3.82, 44.88, F(l, aged encouraged p = .05. The argument

check shows a strength manipulation marginally significant interaction of simulation by argument strength, MS not encouraged: strong = 44.99, weak = 41.21; MS encouraged: strong = 49.94, weak = 52.25; F(l, 163) = 2.19,

p = .07, one-tailed. Consistent with our hypotheses, only the participants in the simulation not-encouraged condition recognized a difference in the strength of the arguments, contrast: F(l, 163) = 4.07,/> < .05.

MentalSimulation Not Encouraged

gument condition, which is consistent with the idea that narrative transportation is occurring, suppressing critical thoughts about ad arguments. We find no interaction effect in the model of BE (see Figure 2). However, examination of the pattern of the means reveals that simulation has a favorable effect on brand evaluations, and there is no difference whether arguments are weak or strong, which supports HI. The lack of interaction effect is due to the fact that respondents in the simulation


the Westerly

Hypothesis I

MentalSimulation Encouraged




universally did not like even when ad arguments were

strong. This hypothesis predicts an interaction, such that argument will have effect on an ad attitudes and brand strength only evaluations


the simulation



(and no effect under the simulation-encouraged condition). This interaction is marginally in the model for significant = 3.15,p = .08; see Figure 3. The interaction A^, F(l, 163) results are driven by the simple main effect of argument condition, strength within the simulation not-encouraged where strong arguments lead to significantly more favorable = than weak 163) F(l, arguments, 3.93,/> < .05. In addiA^ is a there main effect of mental simution, significant simple lation within weak arguments, where the simulation condition is significantly more favorable than the simulation notencouraged condition, F(l, 163) = 9.93,p < .01. Thus, we find mental simulation enhances A^ in the weak arsignificantly

Hypothesis 2 This hypothesis states that narrative transportation will mediate the effect of mental simulation on ad attitudes and brand evaluations.

To demonstrate four relationships mediation, must hold (Baron and Kenny 1986). First, mental simulation must have a significant positive effect on A^ and BE. We find this to be the case for both A^, MS not encouraged = 37.26, MS < .01, and BE, MS not encouraged = 46.90, F(l, 63) = lAl,p

= 5.12, encouraged = 40.84, MS encouraged = 51.42,F(1,163) < .05. Next, mental simulation must have a significant posip tive effect on transportation. Because consumers cannot be if their thoughts are transported by their storied simulations not in the form of a story, we have two measures

of narrative


TheJournal of Advertising the three-item


scale and the transportation structure. There is a significant on both measures of narrative trans-

for narrative

thought coding effect of mental simulation

portation: the three-item scale, MS not encouraged = 44.52, = 53.82, F(l, 163) = 534, p < .05, and the MS encouraged = 1.29, MS narrative thought coding, MS not encouraged = = < .01. (The narrative 1.37, F(l, 163) 6.89,/> encouraged scores are low, which works against our hypotheses, in part because this scale was developed for narrative televias well as thought protocols; see Escalas sion commercials structure


Transportation scale

and/or structure has a significant transportation and BE (see Table 3). Finally, when the on effect positive Aad scale is included in the ad attitude and brand transportation effect of mental models, the formerly significant in both modon A^ and BE becomes insignificant = = BE: F(l, 162) = 2.24, .10; 2.70, p els, A^. F(l, 162) = .14. The three-item narrative transportation scale remains p in each model, Agd: F(l, 162) = 94.35, p < .001, significant = .45. Similarly, = BE: F(l, 162) = 13.61,/> < .001,? .57; ? variable is added when the narrative structure thought-coding evaluation


and brand evaluation models, the formerly mental simulation on BE becomes insigeffect of significant BE: F(l, 160) = 2.24,/? = .14, and in the case of A^ nificant, = 6.43, p = .01, is significantly reduced, Aad: F(l, 60) ? = 2.12, p < .05 (Kenny, Kashy, and Bolger 1998), while to the ad attitude

? = .62 F(I,I65) = 102.89 fX.001

? = .54 F(l, 165) = 69.38 p < .001

? = .28 F(l, 163)= 13.94 p<.00l

? = .30 F(l, 163)= 16.16 p< .001

models, the effect of the threescale on Aad and BE remains transportation 164) = 4.54,/? < .05; significant in both the model for A^FQ, = 7.37, p < .01, ? = .23. How? = .14, and BE, F(l, 164) reduced, Aad: ever, in each case the effect is significantly ? = 9.41,/? < .001; BE: ? = 7.38,/? < .001. Upbeat feelings tude and brand evaluation



in each model, Aad: F(l, 164) = 105.32, significant = .45. = .68; BE: F(l, 164) = 28*.71,/? < .001,? p < .001,? In the case of narrative structure thought coding, the results remain

The formerly significant effect of narare more encouraging. when rative structure on A and BE becomes insignificant upbeat feelings are added to the ad attitude and brand evaluBE: ation 162) < 1.0, models, p = .70; Aad: F(l, = = remain of while the effects .23, F(l, 162) feelings 1.45,/? = 228.42, ? < .001, ? = .79; BE: significant, Aad: F(l, 162) = .58. Thus, H3 is supported 162) = 74.82,/? < .001,? in the case of the narrawith mediation the data, partial by full mediation in the case and scale results tive transportation

the effect of narrative

in each structure remains significant = = BE: < 19.04; .001, ? 9.87, p model, Aad: F(l, 160) = = H2 is 20.51. Thus, F(l, 160) supported 13.61,/? < .001,0


by the data.

of the narrative structure

Hypothesis 3

Hypothesis 4

This hypothesis proposes that positive feelings will mediate the effect of narrative transportation on ad attitudes and brand



We saw in H2 above that narrative

transportaeffect on Agd and BE, whether measured scale or the narrative structure thought it must be established that narrative transpor-

tion has a significant with the three-item

coding. Next, Both narrative affects upbeat feelings. tation significantly a have narrative and structure significant positransportation scale: tive effect on upbeat feelings, three-item transportation F(l, 165) = 156.20, p < .001, ? = .70; narrative structure < .001, ? = .38. Upbeat feelcoding: F(l, 165) = 27.34,/> a in have turn, positive effect on both Aad, significant ings, = = < 165) = 98.56, .78,andBE,F(l, F(l, 165) 263.07,/? .001,0 = .61. ? < .001,0 Finally,

when upbeat


are included

in the ad atti-

Brand evaluations

Narrative structure

it must be established



Ad attitudes

Mediating variable

that narrative transportation BE. To test this, we estimated a and affects significantly A^ and series of regression models on the effect of transportation narrative thought structure on A^ and BE. In all four models, Third,





TABLE 3 2 Mediation



states that reduced negative cognitive hypothesis sponses will mediate the effect of narrative transportation ad attitudes

and brand evaluations.


We coded

participants' and used the propor-

thought protocols for critical thoughts tion over overall thoughts in our analyses. First, we saw in scale and the narrative ?2 that the narrative transportation thought coding have a significant and positive effect on Aad and BE. Next, it must be established that narraThe affects critical thoughts. tive transportation/structure scale has a significant negative effect narrative transportation on critical thoughts, F(l, 163) = 6.97,/? < .01,? = ? .21 y as does narrative structure thought coding, F(l, 163) = 6.97, structure

/? < .01,/? = ?.20. Critical thoughts, in turn, have a significant negative effect on both Aad, F(l, 163) = 16.03,/> < .001, = -.39. and BE, F(l, 163) = 30.15,/? < .001,? ? = -.30,

Summer 2004 thought responses are included in the ad attitude and brand evaluation models, the significant effect of the narrative transportation scale on Aad and BE does not =* 92.83, become p < .001, insignificant, Aad: F(l, 162) = = = .48. In each case, .59;BE:F(1,162) 57*.89,/? < .001,0 0 = 2.52, the indirect effect is significant, however, A^: ? = < < ? In BE: the model for .05. .05; 2.82,/? p A^, critical = = remain F(l, 162) 8.42,/? < .01,0 thoughts significant, ? .18. reSimilarly, in the model for BE, critical thoughts = -.30. main significant, In F(l, 162) = 21.75,/? < .001,0 When


the models

that include

when critical

the narrative structure of thoughts, are added to the ad and brand evalua-

thoughts tion models, the significant effect of narrative structure on = 9.52, and BE also remains significant, A^ A^: F(l, 162) = = = < < BE: .23. As .23; F(l, 162) /? .01,0 10.34,/? .01,0 was the case with the narrative transportation scale analysis, the levels of the indirect effects are encouraging, A^: < .05; BE: ? = 2.24,/? < .05. Finally, the effects of in each model, A^: cognitive responses remain significant = = < F(l, 162) -.25; BE: F(l, 162) = 23.80, 11.54,/? .001,0 /? < .001,0 = ?.35. Together, these results indicate that there significance ? = 2.07,/?

is both a direct

effect of narrative transportation and structure on A^ and BE, as well as an indirect effect through reduced critical thoughts, providing some support for H4. Discussion

of Experimental

The favorable the moderation



for our hypotheses provide support for and mediation models proposed in this paper.

First, our results indicate that ad viewers ignore argument (HI). When not simulatstrength when they are simulating our consider ing, participants only argument strength when their attitudes toward the ad, but not their brand It may be that participants were not involved in the task, and therefore paid attention to peripheral cues in the ad, such as the appearance of the photograph of the stimu-

determining evaluations.

lus shoe, which would be consistent with the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion (Petty, Cacioppo, and Schumann did not like the 1983). Regardless of why the nonstimulators was able to shoe, ad text that encouraged mental simulation overcome this negative tendency toward the stimulus brand, to a much more persuasive ad appeal. contributing the positive Next, we explore the mechanisms underlying effect of mental simulation. We find that simulation leads to narrative

structure and narrative transportation, thought which, in turn, have a positive effect on ad attitudes and brand evaluations (H2). Examining the effect of narrative transportation on ad attitudes and brand evaluations in even greater affects ad attitudes and detail, it appears that transportation brand evaluations by evoking positive feelings (H3) and reit continues ducing critical cognitive responses, although to have a direct effect on ad attitudes and brand evaluations

over and above

its effect


the reduction


in critical

(H4). the results of this experiment support our proposed framework, with the addition of a direct effect of narrative



transportation on ad attitudes and brand evaluations, over and above the indirect effect of narrative transportation on A^ and BE through upbeat feelings and reduced critical thoughts. The empirical results are consistent with the premise that as a form of narrative

mental simulation processing, persuades via transportation. To examine the model in Figure 2 further, we ran one final series of mediation tests, here with narrative transportation/structure, upbeat feelings, and critical thoughts all included as mediators of the effect of mental simulation on Aad and BE. In the model of Agd that includes upbeat feelings, critical thoughts, and the three-item narrative transportation simulation becomes scale, the effect of mental F(l, 158) < 1.0,/? = .52, while all three mediainsignificant, tors


in the case of critical significant, marginal narrative F(l, 158) = 4.36,/? < .05, thoughts, transportation: = = = .77; .13; upbeat feelings: F(l, 158) ? 99.47,/? < .001,? critical thoughts: F(l, 158) = 3.29,/> = .07,? = -.09. Simiin the model for the effect of mental simulation BE, larly, becomes insignificant, F(l, 158) = 1.87, p = .17, while the of the three mediators remain significant, narrative = < 158) F(l, .18; transportation: 6.62,/? .01,? upbeat feel= = < critical 158) .41; ings: F(l, 21.95,p .001,/J thoughts: We are able to repli-.23. F(l,158)= 15.55,p< .001,0=


cate these findings using the narrative structure of thoughtcoding variable, where in both the model for A^ and BE, the effect

of narrative becomes structure insignificant, Aftd: = = F(l, 158) 158) < 1.0,/? = .46,asdoes .24;BE:F(1, 1.36,/? = .41; the effect of mental simulation, A^, F(l, 158) < 1.0,/? BE:F(1, 158) = 2.03, p = .16, while the effects of upbeat feeland critical thoughts remain significant, A^ upbeat: = 218.30, /? < .001, ? = .90; A^ critical thoughts: F(l, 158) F(l, 158) = 3.90,/? < .05,0 = -10;BEupbeat:F(l, 158) = 60.61, = = 14.90, < BE critical .001, .55; F(l, 158) ? ? thoughts: -.23. /?<.001,0= ings

These final narrative dication

of the sequence tal simulation appears

structure in which


tests give an inoccur. Men-

the constructs

to evoke narrative processing, as scholars Fiske 1993; Polkinghorne predicted by many (e.g., occurs. Whether narra1991). Next, narrative transportation tive transportation evokes positive feelings and reduced critical thinking or whether they all act simultaneously is still unclear at this point, but what we do know is that these are three highly correlated text, which is consistent

in our experimental conwith narrative transportation theory (Green and Brock 2000). The three narrative transportation processes result in a more persuasive ad appeal than one based constructs

as evidenced primarily on analytical processing, tudes and brand evaluations in our study. Thus,

by ad attiwe present

? heJournal of Advertising


2 as a conceptual model that is consistent results. However, an obvious limitation empirical Figure



of this re-


search is the correlational

Price 1987)

empirical they do not prove that this is the definitive events.


nature of our data. Although our results are consistent with the model in Figure 2, causal sequence


scenarios, which is good news for marketers emthis type of advertising strategy. Nevertheless, it on barking is theoretically for consumers to possible generate negative

affect when they are transported by their simulations. If this is likely for a given product class, then advertisers should make


certain In conclusion, mental simulation involving a target product leads to a higher evaluation of that product, as well as the that elicits


the simulation.

The contribution

that this result of this research is that our study demonstrates of different types of processing occurs due to the engagement who engage in mental simulaby participants. Participants

tion that mental


provides a clear resolution in their simulations. The second

that can guide consumers is especially important mediator, reduced critical thinking, in the context of weak arguments. We consider argument the degree to which strength to be one way to operationalize an advertised


is relevant

one considers



the target market is doubtful

tests is supportive of the asserevokes narrative transportation,

persuades via positive feelings and reduced critical thinking (Green and Brock 2000). Both mediators are consistent with transportation theory, although Green and Brock measure variables separately from the not do these (2000) which

transportation concept in their studies. bution of our research is the inclusion

that their advertisement

to the target audience. If as a proxy for a wider range then a simulation-based ad

of ad appropriateness variables, campaign may be especially well suited

tion engage in narrative processing, which transports attenand tion away from critical thoughts generates positive affect, in more favorable ad attitudes and brand evaluaresulting tions. The series of mediation

ad campaign should almost always be mindbias (Maclnnis and responses. The positivity implies that consumers will generally simulate

ful of affective

Thus, another contriof of the components

for products where or critical of the relevance of the

product. Directions

for Future


This paper has explored how mental simulation persuades, This based on narrative transportation theory also has theory. of narrative for other advertising implications many types

than narrative

Many types of drama ads (Deighton, Romer, and including advertising, ads transformational Stern (Puto and 1994), 1989; McQueen ads (Mick 1987), elicit narraWells 1984), and slice-of-life tive thought and are therefore likely to persuade via narrative

The end result of this type of processing is less favorable ad attitudes and brand evaluations, compared with the narrative processing evoked via mental simulation.

memories are For example, autobiographical transportation. often narratives (Fiske 1993). The findings of Sujan, Bettman, and Baumgartner, and Baumgartner (1993) Sujan, and memoBettman (1992) that ads that evoke autobiographical

transportation theory in our empirical analyses. On the other hand, we find that participants

who do not

in analytical thought processes rather reprocessing thought processes. Analytical sults in more critical thoughts and fewer positive emotions. simulate

tend to engage


those that evoke



positive feelings and reduce the impact of weak of brand attiad arguments, thus leading to the enhancement model with the narrative is consistent tudes, transportation developed in this paper. Across the many different types of ries enhance



This paper provides insight into the underlying mechanisms mediating the effect of mental simulation on ad attitudes and brand evaluations.

As an advertising strategy, that putting the consumer

the findings in "in the driver's

this paper indicate seat" and asking her to "feel the driving experience" may be an effective way to advertise an automobile. People who imagine winning the lottery in response to an ad may feel luckier and may buy more lottery tickets. In essence, by imagining conthemselves using a product with favorable consequences, and fewer critical sumers may generate positive emotions thoughts

consistent result

which may with narrative transportation, more than if the product liking

in their

potentially they were to evaluate

The two mediators portation

it in a more analytical manner. that occur along with narrative

also have managerial


ads that may evoke narrative thought, there may be differences in the degree to which they elicit narrative thought and their subsequent effects. In addiand/or transportation tion, further research could examine the degree to which difThe print ferent advertising media can elicit transportation. ad used in this study is perhaps the least likely medium to with both audio and video advertising evoke transportation, media much better suited to absorbing the consumer into the of narrative transstory in the ad. Hence, further investigation portation and its effects is warranted in order to understand varied role in a number of different types of its potentially advertising.


For example,


Finally, while the studies in this paper reveal that the narrative structure of mental simulation is important to persua-

Summer 2004 sion, the content cial psychological

of simulation

is also of interest.

research demonstrates


that the content


simulation affects the degree to which simulations are reach the future they envision useful for helping individuals (e.g., Taylor et al. 1998). More specifically, Taylor's research mental


that the most



focus on the

process of reaching a goal rather than on the outcomes or attainment of the goal. The mental simulation instructions we use in this paper focus on the process of using the running shoe. One could also imagine an ad that focused on the outcome of using running shoes (e.g., being fit, thin, strong, etc.). One idea for future research would be to examine differences that emerge from a focus on process versus a focus on outcome when simulating in response to an advertisement. Extendet al.'s ad con(1998) findings, a process-focused ing Taylor dition may be more persuasive than an outcome-focused ad condition.

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Ad Text


Not Encouraged, Strong Arguments Ad Text

Introducing Westerly running shoes. These shoes are remarkably light. They weigh only 10 oz. Westerly running shoes put a spring in one's step. They also provide strong support, with their advanced stability system. Westerly's cushioning system spreads shock, reducing injury. Westerly running shoes improve the comfort and quality of a morning run. . . . Simulation

Not Encouraged, Weak Arguments Ad Text

Introducing Westerly running shoes. These shoes are remarkably secure. They have advanced, reinforced shoelaces. Westerly running shoes have water-resistant uppers that keep one's feet dry, even in the rain. And Westerly running shoes have never been tested on laboratory animals. Westerly running shoes improve the comfort and quality of a morning run. . . . Simulation

Encouraged, Strong Arguments Ad Text

Imagine yourself running through this park. Your feet feel remarkably light. You look down and see a pair of Westerly running shoes on your feet. They weigh only 10 oz. You notice a spring in your step. Westerly running shoes provide strong support with their advanced stability system. Westerly's cushioning system spreads shock, reducing injury. Imagine yourself in Westerly running shoes to improve the comfort and quality of your morning run. . . . Simulation

Encouraged, Weak Arguments Ad Text

Imagine yourself running through this park. Your feet feel remarkably secure. You look down and see a pair of Westerly running shoes on your feet. They have advanced, reinforced shoelaces. You notice your feet are dry. Westerly running shoes have water-resistant uppers to keep your feet dry, even in the rain. And Westerly running shoes have never been tested on laboratory animals. Imagine yourself in Westerly running shoes to improve the comfort and quality of your morning run. . . .


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