Skip to main content

Exploring the potential of emotions in storytelling to improve the accuracy of affective forecasts in health decision-making: Findings from a narrative intervention in cancer genetics

Kerstin Kalke

PhD Candidate
Media, Technology, and Society

Department of Communication Studies
Northwestern University

When faced with health and medical decisions, people often engage in affective forecasting, which is the process of simulating in their minds how a certain health decision will make them feel in the future. Unfortunately, these forecasts are prone to several biases that can lead to sub-optimal decision-making and adverse health behaviors. Storytelling has recently been identified as a promising tool to increase the accuracy of affective forecasts, but the mechanisms through which narrative messages engage affective forecasting remain unclear. In this talk, Mrs. Kalke presents findings from a study that examined the ability of narratives to illustrate shifts in emotions over time – known as emotional flow – as a key mechanism to enhance the potential of testimonials to reduce affective forecasting errors in the context of genetic testing. In a pretest-posttest experiment with 336 women, a narrative intervention was designed that mirrored the expected shifts in intensity of fear throughout the genetic testing process to examine whether these shifts would increase the accuracy of predicted emotional reactions in people who have to prepare for genetic testing and increase their intent to undergo genetic testing. Results and their implications for future research are discussed.

Presentation date: November 17, 2020.