Not Whodunit but Whydunit: Story Characters’ Motivations Influence Audience Interest in Services

52 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2019 Last revised: 22 Jul 2020

See all articles by Anne Hamby

Anne Hamby

Boise State University - College of Business & Economics

Tom van Laer

The University of Sydney

Date Written: January 8, 2020

Abstract

Service providers often share stories to illustrate how their services can improve consumer well-being, and promote audience interest in their services. This research examines how characters’ motivations for engaging in service-related behavior in such stories influence consumers’ interest in services. Across five studies, we show that audiences are more interested in services after reading about a character who acts for intrinsically (vs. extrinsically) motivated reasons. We show that this effect occurs because the audience identifies more with intrinsically motivated characters. We also examine how consequences of characters’ actions (both for others, and for themselves when they make miscalibrated decisions) shape an audience’s service interest in targeted ways, specifically encouraging interest in services that help people while avoiding unintended negative consequences. The results of this work suggest that stories can be an effective way to encourage consumers’ interest in services that enhance personal and societal well-being, and identify critical story elements that influence their success in doing so.

Keywords: Character motivation, narrative persuasion, Self-Determination Theory, Transformative Services Research

JEL Classification: M31

Suggested Citation

Hamby, Anne and van Laer, Tom, Not Whodunit but Whydunit: Story Characters’ Motivations Influence Audience Interest in Services (January 8, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3429433 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3429433

Anne Hamby

Boise State University - College of Business & Economics ( email )

United States

Tom Van Laer (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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