Toward Narrative Disruptors and Inductors: Mapping the Narrative Comprehension Network and its Persuasive Effects

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

This project investigates cognitive activity and narrative in the context of persuasive rhetoric in a multidisciplinary manner that significantly advances the knowledge base of neuroscience, narrative studies, and social and cognitive psychology. A critical goal of the project is to come to a greater understanding of the role narrative plays in encouraging individuals to support or participate in political violence and be subject to extremist recruitment. One key advantage of this proposal is the testing of the vertical integration paradigm that can be used to investigate neural networks. This addresses TA 1 Sub-goal One, to develop new and extend existing narrative theories. It also addresses TA 2 Sub-goal Two, Three, and Five, understanding narrative impact on neurobiology of learning, memory, and identity; narrative impact on neurobiology of emotion; and narrative impacts on neurobiological bases of theory of mind. Generally, participants will view a series of video vignettes that either map or do not map local narratives onto a master narrative framework drawn from their religious affiliation (Christian or Muslim). After viewing the video (i.e., local narrative), participants will either engage in cognitive activity to identify with the narrative (i.e., self imagery designed to invite participants to cast themselves in personal narrative, which engages theory of mind) or to evaluate the message of narrative (i.e., semantic processing but not personal narrative mapping). Finally, participants attitudes and behaviors will be measured to assess how vertical integration influences beliefs and persuasion. This experimental paradigm can be implemented both inside and outside of a multimodal neuroimaging environment to assess the effects of narrative on attitudes and behavior and on brain functioning with high temporal (EEG) and spatial resolution (fMRI). In Phase 1, we will quantitatively validate our narrative paradigm, record multi-modal neuroimaging responses to narrative, and quantify behavioral outcomes. Using this multi-modal imaging techniques will allow us to identify the network of brain regions (Narrative Comprehension Network) as well as allow us to specify how it operates. This is necessary because of confirmation bias that is inherent in brain imaging studies To accomplish this outcome, we will employ neuroimaging techniques with high spatial (fMRI) and temporal (EEG) resolution. In Phase 2, we will manipulate theoretically and empirically (from Phase 1) derived aspects of narrative validity and transportation to influence vertical integration and persuasion, with directed tests of the effects on neuropsychological processing. In Phase 3, we will selectively alter aspects of narrative structure and brain functioning via Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to induce or disrupt selective features of narrative processing, to provide the strongest possible inferences about the operation of the narrative comprehension network. Nodes selected will be those that (a) can be accessed and safely manipulated via Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, and (b) occupy the most critical positions in the network, and (c) are associated with the strongest effects in Phases I and II. This will help establish causal effects of the regions identified. Overall, this research program will provide important insights into the emergence or support of political violence and help clarify the role of strategic communication in mitigating it (addressing TA 1 Sub-goal Two, to determine how narratives influence political violence). We will accomplish these goals by integrating insights from a number of disciplines represented by our research team.

Description

This request is for additional funding to support changes in the project discussed with the Program Officer subsequent to the N2 project kickoff meeting in April 2012. First, it includes additional salary to upgrade the neuropsychology postdoc to an Assistant Research Professor position in order to attract a more qualified and experience candidate. Second, it includes funding for travel to additional PI meetings not anticipated in the original proposal. Third it includes funds for an EEG system that is better suited to operation in an fMRI environment. Fourth, it includes funding to support adding 20 additional subjects, to add a condition (an additional religious group) to our design to provide better experimental control.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date6/27/1212/26/13

Funding

  • US Department of the Interior (DOI): $2,057,390.00

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