Embodiment of narrative engagement: Connecting self-reported narrative engagement to psychophysiological measures

Freya Sukalla, Helena Bilandzic, Paul D. Bolls, Rick W. Busselle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


This study investigated the validity of the narrative engagement scale (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2009) by grounding the dimensions of the scale in relationships between self-reported narrative engagement and embodied mental processes occurring during exposure. Psychophysiological measures were used to observe real-time variation in mental processes activated when individuals viewed narrative content that was manipulated in two fundamental content characteristics: cohesion and emotional content. The results of a 2 (low vs. high cohesion) ×2 (low vs. high emotional content) ×3 (video clips) mixed model repeated measures experiment showed consistent influences of cohesion and emotional content on self-reported narrative engagement as well as psychophysiological indicators (heart rate, skin conductance, corrugator activity). Confirming the hypotheses, self-reported attentional focus was related to lower levels of heart rate, while self-reported emotional engagement was positively related to corrugator activity. Both attentional focus and emotional engagement were related to increases of skin conductance levels over time. The results support the validity of the dimensional concept of narrative engagement and open further avenues for clarifying mechanisms of narrative persuasion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-186
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Media Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2016


  • Emotions
  • Narrative engagement
  • Narrative processing
  • Psychophysiological processes


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