How do we successfully communicate one message to many people?
This question lies at the heart of communication research, as nicely stated by a dominant influence in communication science, Claude Shannon.
Over 70 years later, this remains a fundamental problem in human communication- one that feels increasingly salient as our mass communication technologies rapidly proliferate. Information is everywhere. What can we do to ensure the important messages rise above the noise?
Here's how I'm tackling the problem:
Narratives are powerful tools for engaging large audiences. They elicit strong emotional and cognitive responses that motivate behavior and connect us socially. Consider Game of Thrones. Despite an eclectic media market with more original content than ever before, the season 8 premiere pulled in 17 million viewers plus an estimated 54 million pirated views in a 24-hour period (Clark, 2019). Game of Thrones has become the common ground for a large, disparate audience of viewers who continue to share their thoughts and feelings with friends and develop active online communities.
To learn how messages can successfully engage an audience, narratives present a perfect experimental model. Narratives unlock a host of dynamic affective and cognitive processes that keep us invested in the story. The ability of narratives to drive states of motivated attention are key to understanding the successful communication of messages. Furthermore, they allow us to study complex brain function as it occurs in everyday life in response to our communication-driven world.