• Article

Ending as intended


Cohen, E. L., Alward, D., Zajicek, D., Edwards, S., & Hutson, R. (2017). Ending as intended: The educational effects of an epilogue to a TV show episode about bipolar disorder. Health Communication, 1-8. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2017.1331308

Entertainment persuasion theory was applied to investigate how an epilogue to a dramatic episode with an educational subtext about bipolar disorder affected viewer processing and response. In an experiment, viewers (N = 89) were randomly assigned to watch the episode either with or without an epilogue. Exposure to the epilogue increased recognition of the subtext. It also increased counterarguing against the subtext, but only among viewers less involved with the episode's story. The epilogue decreased social distance for people with bipolar disorder and decreased their belief that bipolar disorder is not treatable. These findings speak to the utility of epilogues as a tool to both reinforce intended entertainment-education messages and to combat misinformation. This function is particularly useful for entertainment portrayals of stigmatized conditions, which are at greater risk of being misunderstood. To avoid viewer reactance, epilogues should be paired with highly involving narratives.