Motion pictures are said to stimulate emotion more than any other form of art available for consumption (Prochaska, Norcross, & DiClemente, 1994). Furthermore, it is postulated that “[i]f you make the effort to obtain, view, and consider dramatic video messages, they can help you make a firm decision to change” (Prochaska et al., 1994, p. 117).
In the context of strategic planning in the organization, change is said to be an inherent part of the process (Thomas, 1985), and its need may stem from a lack of ability to adapt, or involve existing change methods that never end (Weick & Quinn, 1999), creating a deep structure of equilibrium where resistance is made easy (Gersick, 1991), thereby reinforcing pre-existing, individual schemas (George & Jones, 2001).
This research blog intends to set forth some recommendations for utilizing narrative persuasion to facilitate lasting change efforts in the organization.
We begin by comparing the historical perspectives of gradualist paradigms with punctuated equilibrium (Gersick, 1991) versus the temporal fluctuations of episodic and continuous change efforts (Weick & Quinn, 1999), followed with a look into the roles cognition and affect play on individual change (George & Jones, 2001), and ending with the use of force field analysis (Thomas, 1985) as it pertains to the implementation of motion picture interventions for lasting human betterment .
Episodic and Continuous Change Versus Gradualist and Punctuated Equilibrium Paradigms
Understanding the historical frameworks offered in scientific research can help in broadening perspectives and distinguishing change efforts, thus becoming the impetus for successfully altering behavior in organizations and beyond.
Episodic change usually takes place on an intermittent, macro-level, whereas continuous change efforts reflect an incremental, micro-level effort (Weick & Quinn, 1999).
Comparatively, the paradigm of punctuated equilibrium emphasizes deep structure, periods of equilibrium, and periods of revolution as its three main components (Gersick, 1991), which may be considered analogous to continuous change efforts punctuated with episodic disruption.
Additionally, a gradualist paradigm implies a continuous flow of incremental change efforts that eventually snowball into major change (Gersick, 1991). The social cognitive theory (SCT) of mass communication states the codeterminants of human change to include personal agency as it operates in the larger social structure, which have a bidirectional influence on human behavior (Bandura, 2002).
The causal model of SCT offers the triadic determinants of personal, behavioral, and environmental reciprocation that operates in generating and regulating experiential meaning through symbols (Bandura, 2002).
This sociocognitive perspective suggests that individuals can learn vicariously from the narrative models offered in motion pictures (Moyer-Gusé, 2008), when the following four cognitive subprocesses are intact: (1) attention, (2) retention, (3) behavioral production, and (4) motivation (Bandura, 2002).
Media messages that utilize the constructs of SCT find ways to create successful characters that strongly resonate with the viewer, perceived as similar others (Moyer-Gusé, 2008).
Organizational leaders, who recognize a lack of existing individuals who can champion change within the firm, can turn to the use of narrative persuasion through motion pictures as a viable means of influencing self-efficacy and outcome expectancies for change, in both continuous and episodic atmospheres.
One way this can be done is by understanding how preexisting schemas influence motivational efforts.
Individual Change and Cognitive Schemas
Similar to the admonishment in SCT, additional researchers have encouraged the examination of individual change efforts as it pertains to the larger organizational effort, framing collective change as a unification of individual activities within the firm (George & Jones, 2001).
Cognitive schemas are said to be the driving force for reality construction that fits with an individual’s prior expectations (George & Jones, 2001), and these “…preexisting values, norms, and attitudes… influence their motivation” (Moyer-Gusé, 2008, p. 412).
In the realm of motion pictures, schemas exist independent of a story, which become the foundation for constructing mental models for the duration of the narrative (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2008).
Separate mental models, with separate expectations, are posited to exist for the characters and the world of the story, using the audience members’ actual worldview as a default for baseline expectations (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2008).
Inconsistencies with existing schemas are said to trigger emotional reactions, which can eventually lead to change (George & Jones, 2001; Prochaska et al., 1994), if the logic of the story world and its character models create an atmosphere for deep engagement with the narrative (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2008; Gesser-Edelsburg & Singhal, 2013), which might be effectively developed through the use of force field analysis (Thomas, 1985).
Using Force Field Analysis to Create Narrative Change Efforts
Force field analysis illustrates the development of change strategies to include a comprehensive look at the forces that both drive and restrain organizational change, where the optimal level of tension would include the forces of change exceeding the forces of resistance (Thomas, 1985).
In considering the implementation of a motion picture narrative for persuasive change efforts, media producers can work as change agents with the client organization to create a story that helps to reduce the forces wishing to protect the status quo.
One particular empirical framework provides four narrative mechanisms that can influence change efforts, including (1) dialogue, (2) emotional involvement, (3) trust, and (4) transformation through catharsis (Gesser-Edelsburg & Singhal, 2013).
Additionally, three models of change, including (1) reinforcement of existing schemas, (2) entrenchment in existing positions, and (3) change of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are said to occur based on these narrative mechanisms (Gesser-Edelsburg & Singhal, 2013).
Change agents utilizing motion pictures should focus on the change model (3), where chosen dialogue is cognitively familiar, yet different; involvement with the narrative creates an identification fostering emotional engrossment; and trust is invoked to free the mind and clear away doubts, thus creating the impetus for a meaningful, and lasting, transformation (Gesser-Edelsburg & Singhal, 2013).
Using Motion Pictures to Create Lasting Change
The trick to helping others with narrative persuasion is to seek out films that focus on the problem at hand in an effort to stimulate powerful emotions that can used to advance through the stages of change (Prochaska et al., 1994; George & Jones, 2001).
In the event that a firm has the capability to manufacture a motion picture intervention, or outsource one, efforts can be made to coincide with the organization’s current culture of episodic change, continuous change (Weick & Quinn, 1999), or the evolutionary ideology of punctuated equilibrium (Gersick, 1991).
Also, understanding the cognitive and affective roles that influence individual change can help to gauge how these collective efforts influence change efforts at the organizational level (George & Jones, 2001).
Comprehending this foundational knowledge of change can help in developing powerful narrative interventions with the aid of tools, such as force field analysis (Thomas, 1985), to create an engaging and transformative motion picture experience for organizational members, as well as those outside the workplace.
In this way, the change agent creates motivational incentive through vicarious learning initiatives that foster emulation, and a lasting diffusion that permeates the firm’s culture, generating adaptive performance improvements (Bandura, 2002).
Bandura, A. (2002). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J. Bryant, D. Zillmann (Eds.) , Media effects: Advances in theory and research (2nd ed.) (pp. 121-153). Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
Busselle, R., & Bilandzic, H. (2008). Fictionality and perceived realism in experiencing stories: A model of narrative comprehension and engagement. Communication Theory, 18, 255-280.
Gersick, C. J. G. (1991). Revolutionary change theories: A multilevel exploration of the punctuated equilibrium paradigm. Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 10-36.
George, J. M., & Jones, G. R. (2001). Towards a process model of individual change in organizations. Human Relations, 54(4), 419-444.
Gesser-Edelsburg, A., & Singhal, A. (2013). Enhancing the persuasive influence of entertainment-education events: Rhetorical and aesthetic strategies for constructing narratives. Critical Arts: A South-North Journal of Cultural & Media Studies, 27(1), 56-74. doi: 10.1080/02560046.2013.766973
Moyer-Gusé, E. (2008). Toward a theory of entertainment persuasion: Explaining the persuasive effects of entertainment-education messages. Communication Theory, 18(3), 407-425. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2008.00328.x
Prochaska, J. O., Norcross, J. C., & DiClemente, C. C. (1994). Changing for good: A revolutionary six-stage program for overcoming bad habits and moving your life positively forward. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Thomas, J. (1985). Force field analysis: A new way to evaluate your strategy. Long Range Planning, 18(6), 54-59.
Weick, K. E., & Quinn, R. E. (1999). Organizational change and development. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 361-386.