Exemplification theory: a review and meta-analysis of exemplar messages

Elisabeth Bigsby, Cabral A. Bigman, Andrea Martinez Gonzalez

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Exemplification theory has been used to explain media and message effects across a variety of domains. However, the theory has been critiqued for lacking empirical support for many of its predictions and underlying assumptions. In this paper, we review exemplification theory, contrast exemplars with narratives, and report the results of a meta-analytical test of one of exemplification theory’s predictions. We found that individuals exposed to messages featuring exemplars reported stronger persuasion outcomes than individuals exposed to base-rate or non-exemplar messages ((Formula presented.) = 0.26, k = 26, N = 5480). Our results provide additional evidence for one of the predictions of exemplification theory, support for the use of exemplars in persuasive messages, and suggest directions for future exemplification research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-296
Number of pages24
JournalAnnals of the International Communication Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 22 2019


  • attitudes
  • behavioral intentions
  • behaviors
  • exemplar
  • Exemplification theory
  • message effects
  • meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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