Title Can Comedy Be Convincing?
Post date 09/30/2017
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale

One of the canonical questions in social psychology, political science, and political communication is how persuasion operates. Since the original studies on the effectiveness of mass propaganda (e.g., Lasswell 1938; Smith, Lasswell and Casey 1946), scholars have sought to understand the components of successful persuasive appeals: the identity of the messenger, the contents of the message, and how it is delivered. In the latter category reside all of the classical tools of rhetoric -- figurative language, logical structure, satire -- as well as more recent factors such as the type of medium employed. In this study, we hope to inaugurate a new line of research that returns to these fundamental concerns using cutting-edge methods.

Our observation is that one of the most commonly used rhetorical tools, both in political discourse and in everyday discussion, has hardly ever been studied in a systematic manner. That tool is humor. "Humor is the affectionate communication of insight," said Leo Rosten, and anyone who has sought to convince others of their point of view has likely stumbled upon the disarming power of a well-delivered joke. Yet this proverbial arrow in the rhetorical quiver has rarely been subjected to the sort of rigorous scrutiny that other components of the persuasive process have undergone in the research literature. We seek to remedy this oversight with a research program that merges the concerns of political theorists in the deliberative tradition and more recent quantitative research in political communication.

C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested?

H1: The humorous treatment video will cause subjects to be more supportive of gun control, on average, than the serious treatment video.
H2: The serious treatment video will cause subjects to be more supportive of gun control, on average, than the placebo video.
H3: We are agnostic as to whether the effect of the videos will vary significantly between those initially supportive of or opposed to gun control.
H4: The original humorous video will have a greater persuasive effect, and last longer, than the humorous treatment video.
H5: The effects of the humorous treatment video will be more likely to persist than the effects of the serious treatment video.

C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? *

Our design is modeled on experimental studies of media effects and persuasion. First, we gather a sample using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. After asking a standard set of demographic and political questions --
including pre-treatment attitudes toward gun control -- we randomly assign subjects to be shown one of four different videos, each approximately 5-6 minutes in length. Two of the videos contain humorous pro-gun-control content, one is a more straightforward, non-humorous version of the gun-control arguments, and finally there is a placebo video about recycling. To measure the dependent variables, subjects are then asked a series of questions about their views on gun policy. We will return to the same set of subjects approximately one week later to test for the persistence of any persuasive effects.

C4 Country United States of America
C5 Scale (# of Units) 2000
C6 Was a power analysis conducted prior to data collection? Yes
C7 Has this research received Insitutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee approval? Yes
C8 IRB Number IRB-AAAR2028
C9 Date of IRB Approval 02/21/2017
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Researchers
C11 Did any of the research team receive remuneration from the implementing agency for taking part in this research? not provided by authors
C12 If relevant, is there an advance agreement with the implementation group that all results can be published? not provided by authors
C13 JEL Classification(s) not provided by authors