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Transportation

Definition

Transportation is a multidimensional concept defined as "the extent that individuals are absorbed into a story" (Green & Brock, 2000, p. 701). The concept is based on the metaphor of a traveler being transported from one place to another (Gerrig,1993). Transportation refers to the degree to which an individual is immersed in a narrative. The relevance of transportation to health communication research is it is a primary mechanism that underlies the impact of narrative messages. It also is hypothesized to mediate the relationship between message exposure and persuasion, especially within a health context (Green & Brock, 2000, 2002).

Transportation into a story can impact an individual's beliefs and attitudes. The degree to which a person is transported into a narrative world can create and change attitudes. Such outcomes may be useful when trying to improve individuals' beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors about a particular health issue through narrative messages (Green, 2006; Kreuter, et al., 2007; Slater, 2002; Slater & Rouner, 1996).

Transportation as it is currently conceptualized and measured integrates several processes, such as attention, imagery, and emotion. Specifically, transportive stories can focus attention on story attributes and away from real-world awareness while increasing emotional identification and responding to characters in the narrative (Green, 2006; Green & Brock, 2000). In doing so, transportive stories can reduce message scrutiny, reduce counteragruments to healthy behaviors portrayed in the story, encourage mental simulation of behaviors, and provide models for behavior change.

Transportation can be distinguished from effortful processing in dual-process theories of persuasion, such as the Elaboration Likelihood Model {ELM}(Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) and the Heuristic Systematic Model {HSM} (Chaiken, 1980). Both the ELM and HSM focus largely on the amount of thought, or mental effort, a person gives the issue-relevant portion of the message (e.g., central arguments), which presents explicit arguments and lists of facts. Narratives rely on characters rather than external sources and often are presented as entertainment rather than education. Thus, the attentional effort involved in a narrative focuses on following story elements rather than on explicit arguments. In turn, the persuasion resulting from transportive stories occurs via mechanisms that differ from information processing models of persuasion.

Green & Brock (2000) liken transportation to "flow" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) because it includes emotional involvement in the story, cognitive attention to the story, feelings of suspense, lack of awareness of surroundings, and mental imagery. Transportation is a pleasurable state that contributes to media enjoyment (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004).

Green & Brock (2000) found highly transported participants appeared to be likely to accept a story and increased their likelihood to believe in a story's authenticity. The latter finding buttressed the idea that transported individuals are less likely to doubt, to question, or engage in disbelieving processing.

Conceptually but not operationally, transportation is similar to concepts of self-reference, self-enhancement, and play espoused by Stephenson (1967). Glasser (1982) and Carey (1989) suggest Stephenson's play theory was one of the more significant and underutilized conceptual ideas in the history of mass communication research.

Suggested Measure

Green and Brock (2000) developed and validated a transportation index.

Transportation Scale Items (7 point scale; anchored by not at all and very much; R=reverse coded; α = .76)

  1. While I was reading the narrative, I could easily picture the events in it taking place.
  2. While I was reading the narrative, activity going on in the room around me was on my mind. (R)
  3. I could picture myself in the scene of the events described in the narrative.
  4. I was mentally involved in the narrative while reading it.
  5. After finishing the narrative, I found it easy to put it out of my mind. (R)
  6. I wanted to learn how the narrative ended.
  7. The narrative affected me emotionally.
  8. I found myself thinking of ways the narrative could have turned out differently.
  9. I found my mind wandering while reading the narrative. (R)
  10. The events in the narrative are relevant to my everyday life.
  11. The events in the narrative have changed my life.
  12. Through 15. Green and Brock (2000) included four measures specific to the stories they used as stimuli in their study. Each item asked the participant to rate a specific character in the narrative on the following stem: "While reading the narrative I had a vivid image of [character]." The alpha reported above includes the narrative-specific measures.

Braverman (2008) used a reduced, 10-item transportation index adapted from the Green & Brock (2000) measure. However, she neglected to identify the item she removed. She obtained an α = .87 for the 10-item index.

Rationale for Selection

Green and Brock's development and validation of the transportation index (Green & Brock, 2000) represents the more comprehensive work on this variable to date. While little additional scale development work has been conducted, a recent article incorporated transportation items into a multidimensional index of narrative engagement (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2008).

Green and Brock (2000) argued transportation is a different concept than a need for cognition but transportation is similar to absorption. Green and Brock (2000) assessed both propositions in order to test the discriminant and convergent validities of transportation. They adapted a narrative ("Murder at the Mall"; Nuland, 1994, pp. 123-128) and measured transportation, Need for Cognition (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982), and the Tellegen Absorption Scale (1982; 34 true-false items) with 272 undergraduate students. While the correlation between need for cognition and transportation was not significant, transportation was moderately positively correlated with the absorption scale (r = .24, p<.05). Both results support the discriminant (need for cognition) and convergent (absorption) validity for transportation.

Reliability

The 15-item transportation scale developed by Green & Brock (2000) produced an α = .76. Four of those items were specific to the narrative used while the other 11 could be used to assess any narrative. While it is not clear how much the four narrative-specific items added to the reliability of the scale, Green and Brock found the elimination of any item did not increase alpha. In a later study, Green (2004) reported the 15-item transportation scale obtained α = .77. Braverman (2008) used a 10-item index adapted from the Green and Brock index and reported an α = .87. However, they did not report which of the 15 items they used.

  • Advantages

    • Short
    • Easily answered items
    • Adaptable to any narrative
  • Disadvantages

    • Combines concepts (attention, emotional involvement, imagery, unawareness of surroundings) that may be better separated, depending on the research context.

Use of Measure (with examples)

Aside from the Green and Brock (2000) study in which transportation was measured and validated, few other studies have measured the concept in a research context, and there are even fewer studies grounded in health contexts.

Green (2004) found transportation was positively correlated with the perceived realism of a narrative. Perceived realism is the extent readers of a narrative evaluate the plausibility of the story and its characters. Perceived realism also has been shown to impact changes in beliefs (e.g., Busselle & Greenberg, 2000; Potter, 1988). Braverman (2008) tested two kinds of persuasive messages (testimonial vs. informational) that advocated restrained alcohol drinking during college parties. Braverman (2008) found alcohol-moderation testimonials were more transportive than informational ads. In addition, she found subject transportation was positively correlated with persuasion.

Additional Commentary

One less addressed aspect of the transportation measure is the extent it may represent several conceptually similar concepts (no factor analysis results were reported in the work reported by Green and her colleagues). For example, Busselle and Bilandzic (2009) developed a scale of narrative engagement, based on a mental models theoretical approach, which has a conceptual and measurement overlap with transportation. They tested and validated a four-factor (12-item) narrative engagement scale. The four factors (each measured by three items) were:

  1. Narrative understanding (e.g., "At points, I had a hard time making sense of what was going on thin the program." Reversed scored)
  2. Attentional focus (e.g., "I found my mind wandering while the program was on." Reversed scored)
  3. Narrative presence (e.g., "During the program, my body was in the room, but my mind was inside the world created by the story.")
  4. Emotional engagement (e.g., "The story affected me emotionally.").

The alphas for each dimension ranged from .70 to .79. The alpha for the entire index was .80.

The latter approach represents a promising area of research about how individuals respond to narratives. Neither transportation nor narrative engagement currently exhibits significant empirical support across narrative contexts. Research incorporating either of these measures should consider the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the project.

References

Braverman, J. (2008).

Testimonials versus informational persuasive messages. The moderating effect of delivery mode and personal involvement. Communication Research, 35(5), 666-694.

Busselle, R., & Bilandzic, H. (2008).

Measuring narrative engagement. Media Psychology, 12(4), 321-347.

Busselle, R.W., & Greenberg, B.S. (2000).

The nature of television realism judgments: A reevaluation of their conceptualization and measurement. Mass Communication and Society, 3, 249-268.

Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1982).

The need for cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 116-131.

Carey, J.W. (1989).

Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society. Boston: Unwin Hyman, p. 35.

Chaiken, S. (1980).

Heuristic versus systematic information processing and the use of source versus message cues in persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 752-766.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990).

Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper and Row.

Gerrig, R. J. (1993).

Experiencing narrative worlds. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Glasser, T.R. (1982).

Play, Pleasure and the Value of Newsreading. Communication Quarterly. 30 (2): 101-107.

Green, M. C. (2006).

Narratives and cancer communication. Journal of Communication 56, 163-183.

Green, M. C., & Brock. T. C. (2000).

The role of transportation in the persuasiveness of public narratives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 701-721.

Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2002).

In the mind's eye: Transportation-imagery model of narrative persuasion. In M. C. Green, J. J. Strange, & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Narrative impact: Social and cognitive foundations (pp. 315341). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Green, M. C., Brock, T. C., & Kaufman, G. F. (2004).

Understanding media enjoyment: The role of transportation into narrative worlds. Communication Theory, 14, 311327.

Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2002).

In the mind's eye: Transportation-imagery model of narrative persuasion. In M. C. Green, J. J. Strange, & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Narrative impact: Social and cognitive foundations (pp. 315341). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Green, M. C., Garst, J., & Brock, T. C. (2004).

The power of fiction: Determinants and boundaries. In L. J. Shrum (Ed.), The psychology of entertainment media: Blurring the lines between entertainment and persuasion (pp. 161176). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Kreuter, M.W., Green, M.C., Cappella, J.N., et al. (2007).

Narrative communication in cancer prevention and control: A framework to guide research and application. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 33(3), 221235.

Nuland, S. (1994).

How we die. New York: Knopf.

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986).

Communication and persuasion: Classic and contemporary approaches. Dubuque, IA: Brown.

Potter, W.J. (1988).

Perceived reality in television effects research. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 32, 23-41.

Slater, M. D. (2002).

Entertainment education and the persuasive impact of narratives. In M. C. Green, J. J. Strange, & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Narrative impact: Social and cognitive foundations (pp. 157181). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Slater, M. D., & Rouner, D. (1996).

Value-affirmative and value-protective processing of alcohol education messages that include statistical evidence or anecdotes. Communication Research, 23, 210235.

Stephenson, W. (1967).

The play theory of mass communication. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Tellegen, A. (1982).

Brief manual for the Differential Personality Questionnaire. Unpublished manuscript, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.