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Communication Quarterly

ISSN: 0146-3373 (Print) 1746-4102 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcqu20

Working Through Political Entertainment: How


Negative Emotion and Narrative Engagement
Encourage Political Discussion Intent in Young
Americans

Kristen D. Landreville & Heather L. LaMarre

To cite this article: Kristen D. Landreville & Heather L. LaMarre (2011) Working Through
Political Entertainment: How Negative Emotion and Narrative Engagement Encourage Political
Discussion Intent in Young Americans, Communication Quarterly, 59:2, 200-220, DOI:
10.1080/01463373.2011.563441

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01463373.2011.563441

Published online: 21 Apr 2011.

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Communication Quarterly
Vol. 59, No. 2, AprilJune 2011, pp. 200220

Working Through Political


Entertainment: How Negative
Emotion and Narrative Engagement
Encourage Political Discussion Intent
in Young Americans
Kristen D. Landreville & Heather L. LaMarre

This study examines how a political entertainment film (Man of the Year) can impact
an individuals political discussion intent after the same political topic is made salient in
a subsequent news story. In addition, a process of communication influence is assessed
when the roles of negative emotion and narrative engagement are considered as potential
mediators of the relationship between political entertainment film viewing and political
discussion intent. Seven hypotheses serve as the foundation for this experimental study,
and structural equation modeling was used to test these hypotheses. Results reveal there
was no direct influence of political entertainment film viewing on political discussion
intent, but there was an indirect effect through negative emotion. Furthermore, narrative
engagement emerged as a predictor of political discussion intent and a mediator of the
association between negative emotion and political discussion intent.

Keywords: Emotion; Engagement; Narrative; Political Communication; Political


Discussion; Political Entertainment

Kristen D. Landreville (Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2010) is an assistant professor in the Department of
Communication & Journalism at the University of Wyoming. Heather L. LaMarre (Ph.D., The Ohio State
University, 2009) is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University
of Minnesota. An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the annual conference of the National
Communication Association, Chicago, IL, 2009. Correspondence: Kristen D. Landreville, Department of
Communication & Journalism, University of Wyoming, 425 Ross Hall, 1000 E. University Ave., Laramie,
WY 82070; E-mail: klandrev@uwyo.edu

ISSN 0146-3373 print/1746-4102 online # 2011 Eastern Communication Association


DOI: 10.1080/01463373.2011.563441
Communication Quarterly 201

For centuries, political discourse has been regarded as essential for a healthy,
well-functioning democracy. Political theorists from Aristotle to James Bryce to
Jurgen Habermas have argued that political discourse is particularly important for
political engagement (Price, 1992). Interpersonal political discussion has been
regarded as a central feature of democratic life (e.g., Dewey, 1927; Fishkin, 1992).
From formal deliberation, where each contributor is valued equally and the process
is fair, public, and with reason (see Burkhalter, Gastil, & Kelshaw, 2002), to more cas-
ual forms of political conversation (see Kim, Wyatt, & Katz, 1999; Walsh, 2004;
Wyatt, Katz, & Kim, 2000), all types of political discussion are an important area
of study for political communication scholars.
In terms of media, political communication scholarship has started to expand
beyond the study of news to include many different types of political entertainment
television, from late-night comedy (e.g., Baumgartner & Morris, 2006; Baym, 2005;
Hollander, 2005; Moy, Xenos, & Hess, 2006; Young & Tisinger, 2006) to prime-time
dramas (e.g., Holbert et al., 2003). Moreover, the study of political entertainment
film in the form of documentary film is becoming a well-structured area of
research in the sub-field (e.g., Holbert & Hansen, 2006; Holbert, Hansen, Caplan,
& Mortensen, 2006). When taken as a whole, this body of literature demonstrates
a reliable influence of this one type of film (i.e., documentary) on a host of demo-
cratic outcome variables (e.g., political knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors). How-
ever, we know far less about the empirical effects fictional political entertainment
film. In fact, there has been no empirical research completed to date concerning
the potential democratic outcomes generated by the consumption of political enter-
tainment films. This study seeks to fill a void in the literature by examining a fictional
political entertainment film (Man of the Year, Produced by J. G. Robinson &
D. Robinson; Directed by B. Levinson, 2006) and its impact on political discussion
intent. More specifically, the primary research question driving this study is as fol-
lows: To what extent does a political entertainment film directly and indirectly influ-
ence political discussion intent after exposure to a topic-relevant political news story?
In addition to the recent interest in the intersection of entertainment and politics
has been a concerted effort to better understand emotion in the context of politics.
Traditionally, cognition, logic, and reason have dominated theory building and
empirical research on political discourse as it relates to basic democratic processes
(e.g., Arkes, 1993; Hilgard, 1980). Recent political theory consistently and thoroughly
debates the role of emotion in politics and communication (e.g., Richards, 2004),
extending the ideas from historical political thinkers, such as Artistotle, Plato,
Descartes, and Hume, who have considered the role of emotion in persuasion and poli-
tics (Marcus, 2000). Studies in political science and communication (e.g., Marcus &
MacKuen, 1993; Marcus, Neuman, & MacKuen, 2000) have argued that negative
emotions (e.g., anger, disgust, fear, and anxiety) about political candidates, the polit-
ical environment, or political stimuli in general contribute to higher levels of political
engagement. Negative emotions are thought to arouse increased interest, attention,
and engagement with the relevant political issue at hand. With these perspectives
on emotion in mind, this study investigates how negative emotions contribute to
202 K. D. Landreville & H. L. LaMarre
political discussion intent. More specifically, this work examines if negative emotion
is a mediator of the relationship between the direct effect of political entertainment
film exposure on political discussion intent.
This study also looks at narrative engagement in a process of influence leading
from the consumption of a politically oriented entertainment film and ending in
political discussion intent. Previous research has found that narrative engagement
contributes to higher intensity of transportation, absorption, and immersion in the
film world (Green & Brock, 2000). At its core, the narrative engagement process is
about forgetting oneself and becoming immersed in the world created for you by
the narrative. In the case of viewing a political entertainment film, more narrative
engagement with the film should increase the audiences intention to discuss politics
after subsequent exposure to a topic-relevant news story. This is because narrative
engagement is heightened attention, interest, and concern for the topics in the nar-
rative. Finally, this work explores another mediation processthe possibility that
narrative engagement mediates the relationship between political entertainment film,
negative emotion, and political discussion intent.
This study is a contribution to both political entertainment research and research
at the junction of emotion, narrative engagement, and politics. It sheds light on the
extent to which a political entertainment film impacts political discussion intent, as
well as the degree to which negative emotion and narrative engagement encourage
political discussion intent and serve as mediators of the films direct effect. Experi-
mental data are used to investigate these questions. In particular, the influences of
negative emotion and narrative engagement on political discussion intent after sub-
sequent political news exposure are compared between an audience that viewed a
political film (Man of the Year) and an audience that viewed a control film (RV,
Produced by L. Fisher and D. Wick; Directed by B. Sonnenfeld, 2006). Seven hypoth-
eses serve as the foundation for this study, and structural equation modeling (SEM)
was used to test these hypotheses. Results are presented in line with the hypotheses
and discussion ensues as to the implications of this studys findings.

Political Entertainment and Political Discussion


Political discussion can be stimulated by many sources, including media. Lazarsfelds
two-step flow suggests that discussion between citizens and their opinion leaders
arises from media exposure (see Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955). For example, news media
use is closely associated with the amount of daily political discussion at general and
issue-specific levels (Kim et al., 1999). Furthermore, political discussion is a building
block for other democratic outcomes, such as campaign participation, and should
been seen as part of the system of participation itself (McLeod et al., 1999). In
addition to general informational sources, entertainment media sources can also
influence political discussion. For example, Delli Carpini and Williams (1994) found
that focus-group participants used both informational and entertainment television
sources as stimuli for political talk. They argued that television plays a central role
Communication Quarterly 203

in creating an ongoing discourse about public issues because, . . . although indivi-


duals may not regularly talk with each other about political issues, television is
engaged in an ongoing political conversation; when we turn the set on, we dip into
this conversation (Delli Carpini & Williams, 1994, p. 799).
Considering research on political media and political discussion, we suggest that
political entertainment film viewing should positively impact an individuals polit-
ical discussion intent following subsequent exposure to a politically relevant news
storythat is, exposure to a political news story that is topic-relevant to a political
entertainment film should result in higher political discussion intentions compared
to a control group who did not view a political entertainment film. In light of the
research and arguments noted earlier, and in light of Chaffees (1982) notion that
the study of complementary relationships (opposed to competitive relationships)
should dominate research on the intersection of media and interpersonal outlets,
this study suggests that political entertainment film enhances intentions for political
discussion after exposure to a subsequent topic-relevant political news story. Thus,
the following hypothesis is posited:

H1: Participants who view a political entertainment film will report higher levels of
political discussion intent about the political issue that is the centerpiece of the
political entertainment film than participants who view a control film that does
not address the political issue that is the focus of the entertainment film.

Political Entertainment and Negative Emotion


The examination of emotion and entertainment is common in communication (e.g.,
Choi, 2003; David, Horton, & German, 2008; Holbert & Hansen, 2006; Oatley, 1994;
Oliver, 1993, 2008). Numerous studies demonstrate that mass media can affect our
emotions (e.g., political communication, Holbert & Hansen, 2006; sports entertain-
ment, Knobloch-Westerwick, David, Eastin, Tamborini, & Greenwood, 2009; per-
suasive messages, Nabi, 2002; and news media, Newhagen, 1998). Specifically,
Vorderer, Klimmt, & Ritterfeld (2004) argued that entertainment is essentially a
physiological, cognitive, and affective experience. They offered a conceptual model
that includes emotional experiences as one manifestation of the entertainment
experience. This phenomenon is not limited to positive emotions or feelings of
pleasantness. Negative emotions, such as sadness and anxiety, can play an important
role in this experience (Vorderer et al., 2004).
Negative emotions also have been the target of communication scholars because of
the connection of negative emotion to behavior. It is important to note here that
negative emotion, as opposed to positive emotion, is the focus of this study due to
its relationship to behavior change. Therefore, a political entertainment film that
had the potential to arouse negative emotion was chosen. To be sure, we are not sug-
gesting that all political entertainment incites negative emotion; rather, we are exam-
ining how an exemplar of a fictional political entertainment film can lead to negative
emotion. In sum, the plausibility of the negative events portrayed in a fictional film
204 K. D. Landreville & H. L. LaMarre
coming to fruition in the real world, of course in less drastic, but still nonetheless
harmful ways, is made salient as a result of viewing the film. This should generate
negative emotion arousal in the viewer. Thus, the following is posited:

H2: Participants who viewed a political entertainment film about a potentially negative
democratic event will report higher levels of negative emotion than participants
who viewed a control film that did not depict a negative democratic event.

Negative Emotion and Political Discussion Intent


Of particular interest to communication scholars is how messages incite emotions
and how emotions, in turn, influence behaviors. The impact of negative emotions,
especially on subsequent behavior, has caught the attention of communication scho-
lars and political scientists (e.g., Marcus, Sullivan, Theiss-Morse, & Stevens, 2005;
Nabi, 2002; Newhagen, 1998; Witte, 1992). These studies have found a relatively con-
sistent connection between negative emotion and behavioral tendencies. Behavioral
tendencies are actions that are likely to result from the arousal of a particular emotion
or set of emotions (Frijda, Kuipers, & ter Schure, 1989). For example, high levels of
fear, combined with strong feelings of efficacy, are most effective for encouraging
the behavior change advocated in persuasive messages (Witte, 1992). Anxiety, anger,
and disgust from news reports impact our desire to approach or avoid the message
(Newhagen, 1998). Nonetheless, in general, negative emotion (no matter the specific
emotion) tends to yield strong behavioral tendencies (Frijda et al., 1989; Lazarus,
1991). This is due, in part, because negative emotions result from harms, losses,
and threats, which encourage us to adjust our behavior (Lazarus, 1991). Negative
emotions are one focus of this study due to the ability of negative political events
to generate negative emotions, which, in turn, can encourage civic behavior (e.g.,
interpersonal discussion of politics).
Specifically, recent research and theorizing in political science by George Marcus
and colleagues suggests that there is a link between negative emotion and political
behavior (see Marcus & MacKuen, 1993; Marcus et al., 2000; Marcus et al., 2005).
Marcus et al. (2000) described that people think about politics when their emotions
tell them to. They argued that emotion and reasoned intelligence are not as incom-
patible as traditionally believed. In fact, they believed that emotion and reason inter-
act to influence political decision making. The authors proposed a disposition system
that provides people with an understanding, an emotional report card, about
actions that are already in their repertoire of habits and learned behaviors and a sur-
veillance system that acts to scan the environment for novelty and sudden intrusion
of threat (Marcus et al., 2000, p. 10).1 The surveillance system is inactive and gen-
erates a sense of calm until an unexpected event occurs, which will then create
negative emotion about the unexpected stimuli (Marcus et al., 2000). In sum, the dis-
position system tells us to be unreflective and rely on our habits until the surveillance
system indicates that we must adjust our behavior to the novel stimuli (Marcus et al.,
2000; Marcus et al., 2005).
Communication Quarterly 205

Political entertainment films can be considered novel stimuli that focus on polit-
ical events (e.g., election fraud or allegations of a cover-up). These political events as
portrayed in a fictional film have the potential to provoke negative emotion, initiat-
ing the surveillance system. In turn, behavior adjustment to this negative event
should follow. We suggest that higher levels of discussion intent of the political issue
(i.e., the behavior adjustment) may result from this process. In light of the previously
mentioned arguments regarding the role of negative emotion and behavioral implica-
tions, the third hypothesis is offered:

H3: Negative emotion positively predicts political discussion intent.

Negative Emotion as Mediator of Political Entertainment and Political


Discussion Intent
In addition to the direct effects outlined in H1, H2, and H3, this study examines
negative emotion as a mediator of the influence of political entertainment film on
political discussion intent. Holbert and Stephenson (2003) outlined the importance
of testing for indirect media effects (i.e., an examination of a decomposition of
effects). The combination of hypotheses offered earlier establishes the basic criteria
for negative emotion functioning as a mediator of the relationship between the polit-
ical entertainment film and political discussion intent (Kenny, Kashy, & Bolger,
1998). Thus, the following hypothesis is offered:

H4: Negative emotion is a mediator of the relationship between political entertain-


ment film viewing and political discussion intent.

Negative Emotion and Narrative Engagement


Narrative engagement has been conceptualized in many waysinvolvement
(Vorderer, 1992, 1993), transportation (Green & Brock, 2000), flow (e.g.,
Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), and presence (for a concept explication, see Lombard &
Ditton, 1997) are just a few examples. Although these conceptualizations are slightly
different (e.g., presence is focused on virtual worlds, whereas transportation is
focused on text-based narratives), in general, narrative engagement can be considered
the amount of immersion and absorption experienced by an individual in a mediated
environment. Attention and interest to the narrative are what define narrative
engagement. Likewise, when an individual is in a mediated environment, but experi-
ences the perceptual illusion of nonmediation, then the individual is described as
being present (Lombard & Ditton, 1997). At its core, the narrative engagement
process is about forgetting yourself, getting lost, and becoming wrapped-up in the
world created for you by the narrative. This study regards narrative engagement as
a feeling of presence and transportation into the film.
Turning to the relationship between negative emotion and narrative engagement,
there is evidence that the two concepts are linked. Specifically, negative events in film
206 K. D. Landreville & H. L. LaMarre
and negative-valence films have been associated with higher levels of narrative
engagement and involvement (Sinclair & Marks, 1992). Moreover, the theorizing
and research by Marcus et al. (2000) can also be applied here. In an illustration of
the link between negative emotion and attention=interest, Marcus et al. (2000) noted
that negative emotions (e.g., fear, anxiety, uneasiness, and disgust) and negative
events capture our interest more often than positive emotions and events. In
addition, novel, unusual, and unexpected events trigger high surveillance and inter-
est. In light of Marcus et al.s (2000) theorizing on the relationship between negative
emotion and attention=interest, we argue that it is reasonable to suggest that negative
emotion from political film can lead to higher levels of narrative engagement.
To clarify, Marcus et al. (2000) were connecting negative emotion with greater
levels of attention=interest. The authors explained that the American National Elec-
tion Study data reveal respondents who felt more negative emotions (i.e., anxiety,
disgust, fear, and anger) about presidential candidates were more interested in the
campaign than respondents complacent about the candidates (Marcus et al., 2000).
To draw a connection to our focus here, participants who view a negative-valence
film about politics should experience more negative emotion and, therefore, should
experience more narrative engagement (a type of attention=interest construct). This
is consistent with literature that suggests narrative engagement includes attention=
interest to the narrative (e.g., Green & Brock, 2000). If the narrative conveys negative
events and the participants experience negative emotion, then the link between nega-
tive emotion and narrative engagement (similar to the link between negative emotion
and attention=interest) should be apparent. In other words, a perceived negative
event is considered threatening and unique, thus inciting interest and attention to
the event in the form of narrative engagement with the film. More narrative engage-
ment should result from more negative emotions because more attention is paid to
the film. Thus, the following hypothesis is offered:

H5: Negative emotion positively predicts narrative engagement.

Narrative Engagement and Political Discussion Intent


In the case of viewing a political entertainment film, more narrative engagement with
the film should increase the audiences intention to discuss politics after subsequent
exposure to a topic-relevant news story. This is because narrative engagement is
heightened attention, interest, and concern for the topics in the narrative. Narrative
engagement is cognitive and affective immersion in the text, which creates vested
interest, concern, and urgency regarding the issues in the narrative. Losing oneself
in the narrative should encourage the individual to be more concerned with
topic-relevant issues presented to him or her after that narrative experience. In other
words, when presented with the same issue in a news story (i.e., electronic voting
fraud), then the individual should want to discuss those topic-relevant issues more
because he or she was engaged with the narrative.
Communication Quarterly 207

In addition, the literature on presence sheds light on the potential impact of nar-
rative engagement on discussion intent. To reiterate, presence is generally regarded as
the perceptual illusion of nonmediation (Lombard & Ditton, 1997), and research is
typically focused on virtual reality experiences. However, Klimmt and Vorderer
(2003) noted the many similarities between presence and media entertainment
theories, such as involvement (Vorderer, 1992, 1993), affective disposition theory
(Zillmann, 1994, 1996), and simulation theory (Oatley, 1994, 1999). All of these
theories focus on emotional and cognitive engagement in the mediated environment,
whether a book, television show, or video game. The narrative engagement experi-
enced by the individual discourages disruption of that experience with concerns
in the real world outside of the mediated experience (Klimmt & Vorderer, 2003).
Narrative engagement should stimulate higher intentions to discuss politics after
exposure to a topic-relevant news story.
In the case of this study, if the audience is engaged, highly involved, and feels present
with the mediated environment of the political entertainment film that deals with a spe-
cific democratic issue, then they will be more likely to intend to discuss that democratic
issue after subsequent exposure to a news story that is reporting on that issue:

H6: Narrative engagement positively predicts political discussion intent.

Narrative Engagement as Mediator of Negative Emotion and Political


Discussion Intent
In addition to the direct effects outlined in H3, H4, and H5, this study examines nar-
rative engagement in the production of an indirect effect of negative emotion on
political discussion intent. The combination of hypotheses offered earlier establishes
the basic criteria for narrative engagement functioning as a mediator of the relation-
ship between negative emotion and political discussion intent (Kenny et al., 1998).
Thus, the following hypothesis is offered:

H7: Narrative engagement is a mediator of the relationship between negative


emotion and political discussion intent.

Hypothesized Model
This study examines the extent to which exposure to Man of the Year, a
Hollywood-produced fictional film about voter fraud, impacts political discussion
intent after subsequent exposure to a topic-relevant news story (H1). Second, the
political entertainment film, Man of the Year, should encourage negative emotion
due to the negative events in the narrative about fraudulent election activities and
electronic voting malfunctions (H2). Third, negative emotions should positively
influence political discussion intent (H3). The first hypothesized mediating relation-
ship is between the influence of political entertainment and political discussion intent
(H4). In addition, negative emotion is predicted to positively impact narrative
208 K. D. Landreville & H. L. LaMarre

Figure 1 Hypothesized structural model. Endogenous variables are depicted. Latent variables are represented
by ovals, and observable variables are represented by rectangles. Indicators, error terms, and exogenous variables
are excluded from the figure. The two mediation hypotheses are a combination of H2 and H3, and H5 and H6,
respectively. The mediation hypotheses are not explicitly depicted in the figure.

engagement (H5), and narrative engagement is expected to positively predict dis-


cussion intent (H6). Last, narrative engagement is expected to mediate the relation-
ship between negative emotion and discussion intent (H7). Figure 1 depicts the
hypothesized structural model.

Method
Participants
To investigate the proposed hypotheses, an experiment with random assignment was
conducted. Three hundred-two participants from several large communication
courses offered at a large Midwestern university completed all phases of the study.
Course extra credit was given in exchange for participation. Women comprised
63% (n 189) of the total sample. The majority of participants were White
(n 246; 82%), followed by African American (n 20; 7%), Asian American
(n 15; 5%), other (n 12; 4%), and Hispanic (n 7; 2%); two participants did
not respond to the race question. The average age of the participants was 20.46 years
(SD 3.56), with a range from 18 to 56 years old. The mean family income was
between $50,001 to $75,000 and over $75,000. Thirty-three percent (n 98) of the
sample were Democrats, 32% (n 95) were Republicans, 34% (n 102) were Inde-
pendents or not affiliated with a political party, and 2% (n 6) belonged to another
political party; one participant did not respond. To ensure random assignment, sev-
eral independent-samples t tests were used to compare the conditions on the demo-
graphic variables, and no significant differences were found.

Procedure
A hyperlink to an online pretest was e-mailed to interested participants one week
before the experimental stimuli was presented. The purpose of the pretest was to
Communication Quarterly 209

gather demographic information and let participants know about the three dates,
times, and locations the films were to be screened. A total of 416 individuals com-
pleted the pretest. Participants were free to attend any of the screenings, but could
only attend once.
Upon arrival to the screening location, participants were randomly assigned to the
stimulus or control film. To reduce participant-related validity threats, there was no
interaction between groups from the time of random assignment to the end of the
experiment. In addition, both films were shown in rooms of equal audience size,
comfort level, and sound quality to control for context effects. After the film, both
groups then read a short news article about H.R. 811, real federal-level legislation
about implementing a paper-receipt requirement for all electronic voting machines.
After reading the article, the participants completed a pencil-and-paper posttest ques-
tionnaire. Posttest measures included emotional response about the film, narrative
engagement with the film, and political discussion intent about the H.R. 811 Con-
gressional bill. A total of 302 participants completed both the pretest and posttest,
with 173 participants in the political film condition and 129 in the non-political film
condition.

Design and Stimuli


The political entertainment film chosen was Man of the Year, with Robin Williams.
This film was chosen because of its focus on how an electronic voting glitch leads to a
political satirist television host becoming President Elect of the United States. RV, a
comedy with Robin Williams as the lead actor, was chosen as the control film. RV is
about a family who rent an RV for a road trip to the Colorado Rockies. The purpose
of using the control film, RV, was to ensure that any effects of the political entertain-
ment film could not be attributed to the film experiencemerely watching any com-
edy entertainment film for approximately 100 min with Robin Williams playing the
main character. It was used to illustrate that a topic-irrelevant film does not impact
discussion intent like a topic-relevant film.
The second stimulus was the fake news story read by both groups. This story
detailed the Electronic Voting Accountability Act (H.R. 811) being debated in Con-
gress (note that at the time of the experiment, H.R. 811 was pending in the U.S.
House of Representatives), as well as evidence of electronic voting machine hacking
that has been accumulated by academic and policy researchers. The main focus of the
article was to provide arguments both in favor and against requiring a paper trail for
electronic voting machines used in national elections, with specific attention to H.R.
811 that was currently being debated in Congress.

Measures
The main independent variable was experimental condition (viewing Man of the Year
or RV). The endogenous and exogenous variables are detailed later. In addition, a
210 K. D. Landreville & H. L. LaMarre
zero-order correlation matrix for all endogenous observable variables used in the
model can be found in the Appendix.
Negative emotion. Participants rated intensity of six negative emotionsWhile
thinking about the film you watched, how did it make you feel?immediately fol-
lowing the film, on a scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 7 (very much). The scale items,
means, standard deviations, and reliability estimates are as follows: anger (frustration,
aggravated, mad, anger, irritated, and annoyed), M 1.65, SD 1.53 (a .91);
disgust (disgust, revolted, repulsed, and sickened), M 1.13, SD 1.41 (a .89);
sadness (despair, misery, gloomy, and sadness), M 0.93, SD 1.06 (a .75); guilt
(shame, guilt, humiliated, and regretful), M 0.68, SD 0.96 (a .75); fear (fearful,
afraid, scared, and frightened), M 1.08, SD 1.38 (a .87); and anxiety (anxious,
nervousness, tense, and worried), M 1.68, SD 1.53 (a 83).
Narrative engagement. Narrative engagement was operationalized using four items
adapted from Kim and Bioccas (1997) telepresence scale (a .82). Participants rated
how intense their engagement was on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 7 (very much):
Item 1 When the program ended, I felt like I came back to reality after a jour-
ney (M 3.00, SD 2.12); Item 2 The film came to me and created a new world
for me, and the world suddenly disappeared when the film ended (M 1.51,
SD 1.61); Item 3 My body was in the room, but my mind was in the world cre-
ated by the film (M 2.61, SD 1.86); and Item 4 I felt I was in the world the
film created. (M 2.31, SD 1.92).
Political discussion intent. Participants circled how strongly they agreed or dis-
agreed on a 5-point scale with three statements about their plans to discuss electronic
voting legislation, which was the focus of the news article they read, with friends
(M 2.59, SD 1.05), family (M 2.69, SD 1.08), and coworkers (M 2.47,
SD 1.00; a .68).
Prior viewing and biological gender as exogenous variables. Prior viewing of the
stimuli was measured because both Man of the Year and RV were popular films;
and when using real-world stimuli, it is important to account for prior viewing
42 of the 173 participants (24%) had previously seen Man of the Year, and 18 of
the 129 participants (14%) had previously seen RV. In addition, biological gender
was considered as an exogenous variable in the model, for reasons outlined later
in the structural model analysis.

Analyses
Measurement model analysis. This study uses covariance-based SEM with
maximum likelihood estimation in AMOS 16.0 (SPSS, Inc., Chicago, IL) to evaluate
the hypotheses offered. Before the hypothesized structural model was tested, a con-
firmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted using all 302 participants, allowing
all of the endogenous latent variables in the model to covary with one another
(i.e., negative emotion, film engagement, and discussion intent). This two-step
Communication Quarterly 211

approach provides the advantage of establishing unidimensionality of constructs


before testing the structural paths among constructs (Anderson & Gerbing, 1988).
The results of the CFA are reported first in the Results section.

Structural model analysis. In regard to the structural model, a hybrid model is


the dominant modeling technique. Hybrid modeling is ideal for this study because
it better corrects for attenuation compared to observable and latent-composite mod-
els (Holbert & Stephenson, 2002). For the latent variable negative emotion, item
parceling was selected for its ability to correct for attenuation and deal with multiple
item indexes (Little, Cunningham, Shahar, & Widaman, 2002). This was necessary for
the large number of negative emotion items; the negative emotions were parceled
conceptually into six distinct emotions (i.e., anger, disgust, sadness, guilt, fear, and
anxiety).
The first exogenous variable in the model was prior viewing of the film the par-
ticipant watched, which may have an influence on the intensity of negative emotion
felt and engagement with the film; however, prior viewing of the film should not
impact discussion intent because this was measured as intention to discuss the news
article in the posttest and did not refer to the film at all. Therefore, free paths from
prior viewing to negative emotion and narrative engagement were included in the
model. The second exogenous variable in the model was biological sex, which may
have an influence on negative emotion and narrative engagement due to prior
research that has found differences in media engagement, enjoyment, and involve-
ment according to biological sex (Green, 2004; Harris et al., 2000; Konijn & Hoorn,
2005). Also, it is important to note that the hypothesized model was first tested with-
out negative emotion or narrative engagement to assess the direct relationship of
political entertainment film viewing to political discussion intent. After this assess-
ment, then negative emotion and narrative engagement were added to the model
and evaluated.

Mediation analysis. Mediated indirect effects are hypothesized in the model where
the political entertainment films direct effect on political discussion intent about
electronic voting is mediated through negative emotion, and negative emotions
direct effect on political discussion intent is mediated through narrative engagement.
Following Holbert and Stephensons (2003) suggestion for systematically decompos-
ing the total and specific indirect effects in the model, mediation was tested using the
MacKinnon, Lockwood, and Hoffman (1998) distribution of products test. This test
has been shown in MacKinnon, Lockwood, Hoffman, West, and Sheetss (2002)
Monte Carlo simulation to outperform other products of coefficient mediation tests.
According to MacKinnon et al. (1998), a cutoff value of 2.18 indicates significant
mediation at the p < .05 alpha level.

Model fit. The fit statistics used to evaluate overall model fit are the comparative
fit index (CFI) as an incremental fit statistic and the root mean square error of
approximation (RMSEA) as an absolute fit statistic. The cutoff for good fit with
the CFI statistic is .95 (Hu & Bentler, 1999), and the cutoff for good fit with the
212 K. D. Landreville & H. L. LaMarre
RMSEA statistic is .06 (Browne & Cudeck, 1993). Moreover, the chi-square statistic
with degrees of freedom noted is reported for purposes of model comparison. Last,
missing data were not a problem for the dataset (i.e., out of 302 participants, no more
than two participants skipped any one item); therefore, single imputation (mean
replacement) was used for the few missing values.

Respecification procedures. Ideally, the CFA and hypothesized structural model will
yield a satisfactory fit and respecification will not be necessary. However, if the CFA
or hypothesized model does not fit well, the model will be respecified in a path-by-
path manner, using the modification indexes (MIs) and theoretical reasoning to
ensure that the respecified model does not over-fit the data (MacCallum, 1995). After
each modification to the model, estimates will be recalculated and model fit
reassessed.

Results
Measurement Model
The measurement model using all 302 participants, which included the three latent
variables (i.e., negative emotion, narrative engagement, and political discussion
intent), revealed v2(62, N 302) 176.4, p < .001; and model fit statistics of
CFI .95 and RMSEA .078 (90% confidence interval [CI] 0.0650.092). This
model fit was not fully satisfactory (i.e., RMSEA was over .06), so the MIs were exam-
ined. The MIs showed that the fear and anxiety parcels under the latent variable nega-
tive emotion had strongly covaried error terms. Therefore, for the respecified model,
the eight observable variables in the fear and anxiety parcels were combined to form a
single parcel: fear=anxiety. Once the fear and anxiety scales were combined, the
measurement model offered the following statistics: v2(51, N 302) 104.6,
p < .001 (CFI .979 and RMSEA .059; 90% CI 0.0430.075). This fit is satisfac-
tory and unidimensionality of the constructs was established. Next, the hypothesized
structural model was tested.

Hypothesized Model
Results showed that the hypothesized model, which only included the direct relation-
ship from political entertainment film viewing to political discussion intent, was sat-
isfactoryv2(2, N 302) 2.70, p .26according to the fit statistics (CFI .999
and RMSEA .034; 90% CI 0.0000.125). H1 predicted a positive direct path from
political entertainment film viewing to political discussion intent. Results show this
path was not significant (B .163, SE .121, p .178). H1 was not supported.
To analyze H2 and H3, negative emotion was added to the model with hypothe-
sized paths from political entertainment film viewing to negative emotion (H2) and
negative emotion to political discussion intent (H3). Again, the fit statistics were sat-
isfactory, v2(41, N 302) 73.0, p .002 (CFI .981 and RMSEA .051; 90%
Communication Quarterly 213

CI 0.0310.070). H2 posited a positive relationship from political entertainment


film viewing to negative emotion. This was supported. Indeed, viewing Man of the
Year led to more negative emotion than viewing the control film (B .765,
SE .135, p < .001). The relationship from negative emotion to political discussion
intent was also significant, which supported H3 (B .158, SE .057, p .006).
H4 posited a mediating role of negative emotion on the relationship between
political entertainment film viewing and political discussion intent. This was sup-
ported using the z score product (P 5.580  2.748 15.609) and according to
MacKinnon et al.s (1998) recommendation of a 2.18 cutoff for the distribution
of products tests for mediation analysis. In other words, this indicates evidence of
a statistically significant positive indirect effect of political entertainment film viewing
on political discussion intent through negative emotion.
Next, narrative engagement was added to the model in order to assess H5, H6, and
H7, v2(83, N 302) 160.90, p < .001; and the model fit was again satisfactory
(CFI .964 and RMSEA .056; 90% CI 0.0430.069). H5 proposed a positive
relationship between negative emotion and narrative engagement, and this statement
was supported (B .462, SE .083, p < .001). In addition, H6 was supported, which
hypothesized a positive relationship between narrative engagement and political dis-
cussion intent (B .118, SE .053, p .027). Last, the second mediation analysis was
performed. This referred to the potential of narrative engagement mediating the
relationship between negative emotion and political discussion intent (H7). Results
revealed this was supported using the z score product (P 5.550  2.216 12.299).
Thus, in addition to the direct effect of negative emotion on political discussion
intent, the mediation analysis indicates evidence of a positive indirect effect of nega-
tive emotion on political discussion intent through narrative engagement.
In sum, the hypothesized model exhibited satisfactory model fit (see Figure 2 for
the final model with unstandardized coefficients and variance accounted for). There
was no direct effect of political entertainment film viewing on political discussion
intent (H1 was not supported). However, there was evidence of an indirect effect
through negative emotion (H4 was supported). This supports the notion that the

Figure 2 Structural model. The upon-entry unstandardized regression coefficients are reported first, followed
by upon-entry standard errors in parentheses. Variance accounted for is reported in parentheses in the latent
variable. Latent variables are represented by ovals, and observable variables are represented by rectangles.

p < .05.  p < .01.  p < .001.
214 K. D. Landreville & H. L. LaMarre
political entertainment film by itself did not influence the audience; rather, the influ-
ence of political entertainment film viewing on political discussion intent (after
exposure to a topic-relevant news story) occurred through experiencing negative
emotion. Moreover, negative emotion positively predicted both narrative engage-
ment (H5 was supported) and political discussion intent (H3 was supported). Nar-
rative engagement also served as a mediator of the relationship between negative
emotion and political discussion intent (H7 was supported). This analysis reveals that
narrative engagement has a significant influence on political discussion intent over
and above negative emotion. Thus, negative emotion leads individuals to have higher
discussion intention levels, and this process indirectly occurs through narrative
engagement.

Discussion
We examined how a political entertainment film impacts an individuals political dis-
cussion intent after the same political topic is made salient in a subsequent news
story. In addition, the process of communication was assessed when the roles of
negative emotion and narrative engagement were considered as mediators. Although
there was no direct influence of political entertainment film viewing on political dis-
cussion intent, there were two indirect effectsthrough negative emotion and narra-
tive engagement. This indicates that there are two avenues for political entertainment
film viewing to exert its influence, through negative emotion and through narrative
engagement.
First, negative emotion had to be present for the films influence to be apparent.
This shows that the study of negative emotion relative to the influence of mass media
on political engagement outcomes should be a focus of more research. Furthermore,
narrative engagement emerged as a predictor of political discussion intent and
emerged as a second mediator of the process. These results reveal the importance
of narrative engagement. Recall that, at its core, the narrative engagement process
is about forgetting yourself, getting lost, and becoming wrapped-up in the world cre-
ated for you by the narrative. In the case of viewing a political entertainment film,
more narrative engagement with the film increased the audiences intention to dis-
cuss politics after subsequent exposure to a topic-relevant news story. This is, in part,
because narrative engagement is heightened attention, interest, and concern for the
topics in the narrative. In sum, the process of narrative engagement with the film
world is an important factor to encouraging political discussion intention. Specifi-
cally, the political film raised questions about electronic voting, and if individuals felt
more narrative engagement with the film, then individuals had higher intentions of
discussing an actual congressional bill about electronic voting and paper trails.
In terms of real-world consequences, this study contributes to understanding the
process of complementary media effectsthat is, politics can become salient and
accessible by viewing political entertainment and after subsequent exposure to a
topic-relevant political news story an individuals political discussion intent can
increase through feeling negative emotion. Considering the popularity and ambiguity
Communication Quarterly 215

of political entertainment shows, such as The Colbert Report (LaMarre, Landreville, &
Beam, 2009), this finding is particularly relevant. For example, if an individual is a
frequent viewer of a political entertainment or satirical show and experienced nega-
tive emotion and narrative engagement with the show, then that individual may have
a greater motivation and intention to discuss politics after consuming subsequent
political communication (e.g., a political news article). Again, although direct
effects of political entertainment may not always emerge, as in this study, efforts
to examine potential mediators of political entertainment, such as emotion and
narrative engagement, should continue.
Future research should also investigate actual political discussion, in addition to
behavioral intent. Although behavioral intent is typically a strong predictor of beha-
vior (e.g., Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980), research in political communication and com-
munication, in general, should move beyond intent and measure behavior itself.
Of course, this requires significantly more resources, time, and effort, but it is a
necessary step in the right direction. For example, in future studies similar to this
one, we can contact participants 1 week after the experiment and ask them to
self-report political discussion since the experimentthat would go beyond intent
and to behavior. In addition, future endeavors may want to expand the study of emo-
tion and examine positive emotion in addition to negative emotion. Moreover, this
study is limited in that Man of the Year is the single exemplar political entertainment
film used. That is why further research in the area of political entertainment,
emotion, narrative engagement, and democratic outcomes is necessary.

Note
[1] This argument seems to assume that emotions arise before cognition, which is a contro-
versial topic in psychology. There are two approaches to the role of cognition in the
emotion-development process: cognitive theories and perceptual theories (also known as
biosocial theories). The fundamental disagreement is based on when cognition occurs in
the emotion development process (Charland, 1997). Cognitive theories claim that cognition
occurs before emotion, and perceptual theories claim that cognition occurs after emotion
(Charland, 1997). Although these theories are different, they both assume that emotions
are not reflexes (reflexes are sensory-motor driven and physiological), and reflexes can
stimulate emotions (Smith & Lazarus, 1990). In addition, both agree that emotions are
the feeling-states that result from a personenvironment interaction (Izard, 1992).
In regard to this study, Marcus, Neuman, and MacKuen (2000) took a perceptual
approach. This perspective relies on neurobiology and does not require cognitive appraisal
or judgment (Charland, 1997). Affect is argued to be an entirely independent information
processing system (LeDoux, 1989; Panskepp, 1982; Zajonc, 1980). Mental imaging has been
used to reinforce the idea that when exposed to stimuli, the affective area of the brain is acti-
vated before the cognitive area of the brain (Marcus et al., 2000). In the end, the debate
between cognitive and perceptual theories may boil down to how cognition is defined.
Lazarus (1982) argued that deliberative, rational, reasoned, or conscious thought is not
necessary in the emotion development process; rather, cognition can be preconscious,
unconscious, and completely automatic categorization of stimuli. Nevertheless, Marcus
et al. (2000) took a perceptual approach, and so does this study.
216 K. D. Landreville & H. L. LaMarre
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Appendix 1 Zero-Order Correlations for All Observable Variables in the Structural Model
Variable Anger Disgust Sadness Guilt Anxiety Fear Eng. 1 Eng. 2 Eng. 3 Eng. 4 Disc. 1 Disc. 2

Anger Scale 1.000


Disgust Scale 0.628 1.000
Sadness Scale 0.688 0.645 1.000
Guilt Scale 0.532 0.541 0.644 1.000
Anxiety Scale 0.626 0.567 0.684 0.528 1.000
Fear Scale 0.596 0.633 0.728 0.561 0.812 1.000
Eng. Item 1 0.189 0.169 0.161 0.100 0.303 0.233 1.000
Eng. Item 2 0.229 0.287 0.261 0.297 0.342 0.292 0.535 1.000
Eng. Item 3 0.186 0.228 0.150 0.215 0.294 0.284 0.461 0.565 1.000
Eng. Item 4 0.229 0.304 0.244 0.246 0.309 0.275 0.500 0.570 0.617 1.000
Disc. friends 0.225 0.171 0.113 .080 0.118 0.119 0.133 0.046 0.057 0.202 1.000
Disc. family 0.160 0.151 0.105 0.116 0.138 0.195 0.117 0.079 0.087 0.184 0.415 1.000
Disc. coworker 0.151 0.100 0.106 0.052 0.046 0.069 0.147 0.047 0.083 0.215 0.738 0.376

Note. Anger, disgust, sadness, guilt, anxiety, and fear are indexes. Engagement (Eng.) items are labeled according to the measures section. N ranges from 296302. Dis.
discussion.

p < .05.  p < .01.