Skip to main content

Entertainment-Education: In Theory and In Practice

John J. Brooks

PhD Candidate
Media, Technology, and Society

Department of Communication Studies
Northwestern University

In recent decades, a growing number of entertainment-education initiatives have been deployed to effect change in the realm of public health. By developing media programs that pair engaging narratives with educational content, practitioners have been able to improve health knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors for their audience in regard to issues such as HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, and contraceptive methods. In order to explore the theoretical foundations of entertainment-education as well its practical impact, Mr. Brooks will present the findings of two recent studies on abortion-centered storylines. Using a natural experiment, the first study examines how viewers of Grey’s Anatomy learn about medication-abortion and how these effects can be enhanced or attenuated as a result of viewing habits, political ideology, and even state of residence. The second study complements these findings by introducing the concept of Narrative Resonance Events (NREs) to explore how message designers can achieve greater impact through the use of perceived similarity. The utility and potential of NREs to entertainment-education is investigated in the context of an abortion storyline from 13 Reasons Why . The talk concludes with a short discussion on how health-related storylines can be optimized to minimize resistance and leverage the power of entertainment.

Presentation date:  May 07,  2020.