Theory suggests that information encountered prior to a story affects the actual experience of the story due to elicited expectations. In two experiments (N = 100; N = 167) short movies that were introduced with a positive review yielded higher transportation scores than the same movies introduced with a more negative (or neutral) review. Mediation analyses indicate that the reviews had an influence on recipients’ expectations, which in turn predicted the experience of the movie. Using the more fine-grained narrative engagement scale, we found evidence for a consistent effect on narrative presence, whereas the influence on emotional engagement, narrative understanding, and attentional focus varied between experiments. Moderation analyses (moderated mediation) showed that recipient’s opinion seeking and need for cognitive closure were unrelated to the influence of reviews on expectations and the link between expectations and narrative experience. Our findings add to the theory of story processing and they are of practical relevance for everyone who intends to influence recipients’ experience of narrative worlds.
Preprint version available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332650450_Reviews_expectations_and_the_experience_of_stories
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