Media literacy and attitude change


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Media literacy and attitude change assessing the effectiveness of media literacy training on children's responses to persuasive messages within the framework of the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion
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xi, 173 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Yates, Bradford L., 1967-
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Journalism and Communications thesis, Ph.D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Journalism and Communications -- UF   ( lcsh )
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2000.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 159-172).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Bradford L. Yates.
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Copyright 2000


Bradford L. Yates

This dissertation is dedicated to the memory of my father, Alvin L. Yates, and to my

mother. Jean F. Yates. Mama and Daddy, I love you so very dearly.


Many times during this journey I thought I would never reach the goal I had set

for myself over ten years ago. However, the unending support of those around me is the

reason I survived the most difficult task in my life to date. I would like to thank those

who have helped me make my dream come true.

First and foremost, I must thank my advisor, Dr. Debbie Treise, for her constant

guidance, support, and motivation over the past four and a half years. Whether I came to

her laughing or crying, Debbie was always available with the right words to rebalance my

emotions and insightful comments that helped me understand and focus my work. There

were many times I told her I was not going to make it, but she reassured me that I could

and would survive. I was fortunate to have such a wonderful chair. Thank you does not

fully express my gratitude.

I, too, owe a debt of gratitude to the other members of my committee. Thanks to

Dr. Michael Weigold for teaching me the foundations of experimental design and for

offering useful advice that will be applied throughout my career. Thank you to Dr. John

Wright for being a source of support and knowledge throughout my entire doctoral

experience, whether it was during a meeting in his office or on the basketball court.

Many thanks to Dr. Julie Dodd for sharing her expertise in media education and for

offering encouragement during the good and bad times. Thank you also to Dr. Colleen

Swain for challenging me to find my passion and for bringing a practical perspective to

the process. I was fortunate to work with this group of outstanding scholars.

This dissertation would not have been completed without the help of my cousin.

Phyllis Jackson. She willingly and graciously assisted me in securing subjects for the

experiment. She was instrumental in obtaining permission for me to conduct my study at

Statham Elementary School and in garnering support from the fourth and fifth grade

teachers. In addition, her persistence is the reason nearly all of the fourth and fifth grade

students returned their parental permission forms. She has my deepest appreciation and


I also want to thank Statham Elementary School, principal Mike Mize, and the

fourth and fifth grade teachers: Lorey Baggett, Teresa Huggins, Kristie McHugh, Barbara

Morris, Pamela Royster, Janie Williams, and Roslyn Williams. Their cooperation and

participation helped make this study possible. I also must thank the children who

participated in my experiment. Without them, this study would not have been completed.

Thanks to Jerry Lane and the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County for

allowing me to conduct my pretest with the children at the Boys and Girls Club's facility.

I appreciate Wes Corbett, director of research, and teachers Suzanne Legare and Lawson

Brown of P. K. Yonge Research and Developmental School, for allowing me to run my

protests with their fourth and fifth grade students. I also am grateful to the students of P.

K. Yonge for their participation. Thank you to Robyn Purvis for taking an interest in my

study and for helping me carry out my protests at P. K. Yonge. I truly appreciate her

encouraging words and constant support during this ordeal. Many thanks to my fellow

Ph.D. student colleagues and friends Lori Boyer, Brigitta Brunner, Naeemah Clark,

Michelle O'Malley, and Janas Sinclair for helping me with my study and for supporting

me throughout the entire process. A special thank you is extended to Brigitta Brunner

and Tony Fargo for being there during the lowest and highest points in this process. I

thank them for being my friend, for keeping me sane, for listening to me vent my

frustrations, for making me laugh, and for never wavering in their support of my efforts.

I never would have pursued a Ph.D. if it had not been for Rex Mix, my late

undergraduate advisor and friend. Rex's encouragement, advice, and love pushed me to

strive for excellence in my academic pursuits. He was like a second father to me. I thank

him for his guidance and counsel, which continue to guide me. I miss him very much.

I am grateful to Mary Dziuba, my Cookie Mommy, for her unconditional love and

support. She was always a ray of sunshine that brightened my life when things were

dark. I thank her for being by my side along this difficult journey. Her encouragement.

understanding, and loyalty are beyond compare. I appreciate her warm heart and loving

spirit. To her I give all my love.

I cannot begin to express my gratitude to my mother and father for their

unwavering support and endless love. Although I am filled with happiness that this

project has come to fruition, I am saddened that my father was not alive to see its

completion. I miss him terribly. On many occasions my mother would offer

encouragement by quoting my father's favorite Bible verses from Proverbs, which

reminded me of his infinite wisdom through God and that he was still by my side. My

mother's constant prayers, daily messages of support, and regular supply of inspirational

cards were just what I needed to keep me pressing toward the goal I set for myself.

During the times I wanted to give up, I heard my mother and father's voices saying to

stay positive and keep going. My mother was my rock and inspiration, and I never would

have completed this project without her. I am truly blessed to have the most wonderful

and loving parents anyone could ask for. They taught me the most important thing in life.

how to love and be loved. I love and thank them for always being there, physically and

spiritually, without fail. I praise the Lord for blessing my life with a mother and a father

that are the epitome of love. I love them both so very dearly. I, too, praise the Lord for

carrying me to the end of this journey. Even though I am unworthy of His love, He has

truly blessed my life.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................. iv

ABSTRACT............................... ... .... ................................... x


1 INTRODUCTION.................... .. ............................. 1

Empirical Studies Focusing on Media Literacy............................ 2
ELM as a Framework................................. .. .................. 5

2 LITERATURE REVIEW........................ ....................... 9

Media Literacy............................ ............................. 9
Critical Viewing Skills Programs........................... ........... 11
The Current Media Literacy Movement...................................... 17
Evolution of Persuasion Research....................... .................. 24
Elaboration Likelihood Model........................................... 26
Child Development Literature....................... ... ......... ... 39
Children and Advertising.................. ..................... 47
Attitude Toward Advertisements.................... .................. 53
Research Questions.................................................................. 57
The Hypotheses................... ........ ................. 58

3 METHODS...................................................... 60

A n Overview ..................................... ..................... .... 60
Operational Definitions of Key Variables................................... 66
Path for Analysis ...................................................... 78

4 RESULTS............................ ............. 79

Descriptive Analysis.............................. ..................... 79
The Scales................... .................................. 79
Manipulation Checks................................................... 83
Tests of Hypotheses......................... ................. 87


5 DISCUSSION............................ ......... ................. 92

Summary of Results........................................ ................. 93
Post-Hoc Analysis........................... ................. ... 94
Study Limitations........................................... ......... 98
Implications ....................... ....... ................ 101
Future Research............................................ ...... ........ ...... 103


A PARENTAL CONSENT FORM.................................... 105


C MEDIA LITERACY TRAINING LESSON....................... 108

D POSTTEST QUESTIONNAIRE................................... 115

IN TE RE ST .............................................................. 127

F ARGUMENT QUALITY PRETEST............................... 150

REFERENCES..................................................... 159

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH................. ....... .................. 173

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Bradford L. Yates
August 2000

Chair: Deborah M. Treise
Major Department: Journalism and Communications

The average American child sees in excess of 30,000 television commercials for

various products each year. Most commercials are constructions of reality that attempt to

sell a product or advocate an idea. Children need to understand how to evaluate and

analyze critically the values and ideologies that accompany commercial messages. In

short, children need to be media literate.

This dissertation adds to the small but growing body of literature that examines

the effectiveness of media literacy training on children's responses to persuasive

messages. Within the framework of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of

persuasion, this research investigates whether media literacy training is a moderating

variable in the persuasion process and whether such training affects children's attitudes

toward a product of high personal relevance. A posttest-only experimental design with

random assignment was used to test five independent variables: Active cognitive

processing; attitude toward product; attitude toward advertisement; attitude toward TV

advertising in general; and attention to peripheral cues. It was hypothesized that subjects

exposed to media literacy training would follow the central route to persuasion, as

opposed to the peripheral route, and have more positive attitudes toward an advertised

product when exposed to many and few strong quality arguments.

Test results suggested that media literacy training was not a moderating variable

in the ELM. Additionally, no evidence was found to support the prediction that media

literacy, argument quality, and number of arguments influence children's attitudes.

However, results indicated that media literacy training did produce differences in

attitudes among subjects. Subjects exposed to the training had more negative attitudes

toward the product, the advertisement, TV advertising in general, and certain peripheral


The findings suggest that media literacy training makes subjects more skeptical of

commercial messages because they are more aware of the techniques used by advertisers

to try and persuade viewers. If children can become more aware of the persuasive

techniques used by advertisers, then they will be better equipped to analyze commercials

more critically and hopefully make better decisions about products. Moreover, media

literacy training built into existing school curricula could be very effective at creating

critical viewers.


Children are exposed to persuasive messages in the media every day. The

average American child sees in excess of 30,000 television commercials for various

products each year (Condry, Bence, & Scheibe, 1988). By the time a student graduates

high school "he or she will have spent twice as much time in front of the television set as

in the classroom" (Pungente, 1996, p. 9). The influence and pervasiveness of television

is evident in children's basic values, clothing choices, and interpersonal interactions

(Pungente, 1996).

Since most commercials and other media messages are constructions of reality

that have a specific purpose--usually to sell a product or advocate an idea--children need

to understand how to evaluate and analyze critically the values and ideologies that

accompany these products and ideas (Melamed, 1989). In short, children need to be

media literate. Through media education students learn how to identify such ideological

messages and analyze the underlying values that are communicated.

Although several researchers have argued that media literacy training will

improve students' evaluation of media messages (Considine, 1990; Duncan, 1989; Kahn

& Master, 1992; Melamed, 1989; Wulfemeyer, Sneed, Ommeren, & Riffe, 1990), few

studies have tested the effectiveness of such training empirically. Therefore, the purpose

of this investigation is to assess the effectiveness of media literacy training on children's

evaluation of persuasive media messages.

Empirical Studies Focusing on Media Literacy

Scholarly research suggests that media portrayals--particularly in advertising--are

linked to children's attitudes and behaviors toward health issues such as alcohol

consumption (Aiken, Leathar, & O'Hagan, 1985; Austin & Johnson, 1997a; Austin &

Johnson, 1997b; Austin & Nach-Ferguson, 1995). Recent work by Austin and her

colleagues (Austin, 1995; Austin & Freeman, 1996; Austin & Johnson, 1997a; Austin &

Johnson, 1997b; Austin & Meili, 1994; Austin & Nach-Ferguson, 1995; Austin, Roberts,

& Nass, 1990) suggests that more effective health-related interventions should target

children's decision-making strategies rather than inform or persuade based on campaign

priorities. Austin and colleagues developed the Message Interpretation Process (MIP)

model based on work in decision-making theory, social-cognitive development and

media effects research. The MIP model views children as active decision-makers who

make decisions based on their skills, needs, goals, and environment. The model posits a

theory of media decision-making and identifies logical and emotional decision-making

processes of children. Message designers can use the model to identify the most effective

point of intervention. Austin and Johnson (1997a, 1997b) found that children's

understanding of persuasive content is a key variable in the decision-making process. In

their studies, media literacy training was identified as an effective means of improving

children's understanding of persuasive media content.

Austin and Johnson (1997b) tested the immediate and delayed effectiveness of

media literacy training on third-graders' "perceptions of alcohol advertising, alcohol

norms, expectancies for drinking, and behaviors toward alcohol" (p. 323) using a

Solomon four-group style experiment (N=246). Third-graders in three schools were

randomly assigned to four groups (each with an n=60). A fourth school was split into

four groups by classroom. Two groups of children were pretested. A month after the

pretest, children in the experimental groups received media literacy training. The

children watched Buy Me That! A Kids' Survival Guide to TVAdvertising, a half-hour

Consumer Reports (Consumers Union of United States, 1989) video focusing on

advertising techniques. After the video the youngsters discussed the techniques with the

experimenter. Materials produced by Consumer Reports to complement the video guided

the discussion. Following the discussion, the children were shown a randomized-order

series of soda and beer ads. There were two soda ads and two beer ads that were shown

to each group in a different order. After each ad, the tape was stopped and the skills

learned in the Consumer Reports video were discussed in terms of the specific

advertisement. The discussion followed Messaris' (1982) theoretical principles of

mediation, focusing on the extent to which the ad showed "(a) what was real, (b) what

was right or wrong, and (c) how what was shown relates to real life" (Austin & Johnson,

1997b, p. 323). After training, children received bookmark style handouts to reinforce

the "Three R's" of critical viewing (Austin, 1993), which include "(a) Realism, (b) Right

and Wrong, and (c) Relating the information source to what other sources say" (Austin &

Johnson, 1997b, p. 332). Control groups engaged in a different activity planned by the


All groups (control and experimental) took a posttest immediately after the media

literacy lesson and the teacher-planned activity. A delayed posttest was administered

three months later. Pretest and posttest were nearly identical with the posttest containing

several critical viewing knowledge questions as a manipulation check. The delayed

posttest, which was administered by the teacher without assistance from the researcher,

was identical to the posttest except for the behavioral question, which asked subjects to

indicate their level of desire for selected products (e.g., "How much would you want to

own item A?").

Short-term effects were found for understanding of persuasive intent, perceptions
of realism, desirability, social norms for alcohol use, and predrinking behavior.
Results retained significance at delayed posttest for perceived realism and
identification. Some gender differences existed. (Austin & Johnson, 1997b, p.

Austin and Johnson (1997a) also examined the immediate and delayed effects of

general and specific media literacy training on third-graders' decision-making processes

about alcohol. Areas of examination included children's perceptions of alcohol ads,

alcohol norms, expectancies for drinking, and behaviors toward alcohol. A Solomon

four-group style experiment with two treatment levels (general and specific) assessed the

effectiveness of in-school media literacy training. Both treatments involved a general

purpose media literacy videotape about television advertising; however, one treatment

showed alcohol specific television ads followed by discussion of alcohol specific

advertising while the other showed clips of non-alcohol advertisements followed by

discussion of advertising in general. Results indicated immediate and delayed effects of

media literacy training.


Immediate effects included the children's increased understanding of persuasive

intent, viewing of characters as less similar to people they knew in real life and less

desirable, decreased desire to be like the characters, decreased expectation of positive

consequences from drinking alcohol, and decreased likelihood to choose an alcohol-

related product. Indirect effects also were found on their perceptions of television's

realism and their views of social norms related to alcohol. Delayed effects were

examined and confirmed on expectancies and behavior. The treatment was more

effective when alcohol-specific, and it also was more effective among girls than boys

(Austin & Johnson, 1997a, p. 17).

These two empirical studies identified media literacy as an effective means of

improving children's understanding of persuasive media content within a decision-

making framework. The present study, which builds on Austin and Johnson's research,

attempts to understand how media literacy helps to improve children's understanding of

persuasive media content by examining media literacy within the framework of an

established model of persuasion.

ELM as a Framework

In order to measure effectively the impact of media literacy training on children's

responses to persuasive messages the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion (ELM)

(Petty & Cacioppo, 1986a, 1986b) will be used to provide a framework for this

investigation. The rationale for choosing the ELM as a framework lies in the desire to

determine if media literacy skills of a message recipient are a moderator of persuasion.

Petty and his colleagues (Cacioppo & Petty, 1979; Petty, Cacioppo, & Goldman, 1981a;

Petty, Harkins, & Williams, 1980; Petty, Wells, & Brock, 1976) noted several variables

could play a moderating role in the persuasion process. These include personal

involvement, forewarning of persuasive intent, argument quality, number of arguments,

source attractiveness, source expertise, mood, message repetition, and distraction. This

researcher believes that media literacy skills can have a moderating effect on the

persuasion process. Therefore, this study aims to test the moderating effect of media

literacy training on children's attitude toward the persuasive messages) contained in

product advertisements.

The ELM has developed into a general framework for the study of persuasion in

the field of social psychology, but it also has been applied effectively to advertising

communications (Petty & Cacioppo, 1983; Petty, Cacioppo, & Schumann, 1983) and

become popular in the field of consumer behavior (Scholten, 1996). Petty and his

colleagues have tested the ELM in terms of issues (e.g., comprehensive exams) (Petty &

Cacioppo, 1979a; Petty et al., 1981a) as well as advertised products (Petty et al., 1983).

Others have used the ELM to explain advertising effectiveness and tested the influence of

attitude toward the ad within the framework of the ELM.

Scholten (1996) argued that the ELM is useful for advertising research because of

its heuristic advantages rather than its integrative merits.

The ELM overcomes a critical limitation of traditional hierarchy-of-effects
models by relaxing the assumption that cognitively complex changes in consumer
attitudes are necessary for effective advertising. By identifying two distinct
routes to attitude change, the model generates valuable suggestions concerning
advertising effectiveness. (Scholten, 1996, p. 100)

Other researchers have found the ELM useful for analyzing comparative

advertising ((Droge, 1989), "while accounting for the potential influence of attitude

toward the ad" (MacKenzie & Lutz, 1983, cited in James & Hensel, 1991, p. 60). Lutz.

MacKenzie, and Belch (1983) found that attitude toward the ad may serve as a positive or

negative peripheral cue within the ELM framework. Petty and Cacioppo (1983) reported

that attitude toward the ad had stronger effects on attitude change than brand cognitions

under low involvement and low knowledge conditions. Additionally, attitude toward the

ad was found to have a greater impact on attitude than brand cognitions under high

elaboration likelihood conditions (Petty & Cacioppo, 1983). In other words, the findings

revealed that subjects' attitudes toward an advertised product were influenced more by

their attitude toward the ad than their thoughts about the actual product.

Lord, Lee, and Sauer (1995), tested two competing hypotheses relative to the

formation of attitude toward the ad and found that "results supported the combined-

influence hypothesis across varying levels of processing motivation and opportunity with

differences in the relative magnitude of argument and cue effects consistent with the

Elaboration Likelihood Model" (p. 73). The ELM is an excellent framework to

adequately explain the effectiveness of advertising; however, "the influence of attitude

toward the ad as a negative cue within this framework is not fully understood in the

context of negative advertising" (James & Hensel, 1991, p. 62). More specifically, the

ELM explains the effectiveness of advertising well, but it is unclear what effect attitude

toward the ad has when it is considered a negative influence within a negative


Over time, the ELM has developed into one of the most comprehensive models of

persuasion in the media effects research. However, much of the ELM research has

focused on college-age students, and no studies have examined the moderating role of


media literacy skills. This study attempts to apply the ELM to a younger population and

determine the role of media literacy within the persuasion process.

The average American child will spend twice as much time in front of the

television as in the classroom by the time he/she graduates high school (Pungente, 1996).

It is evident that children need to be equipped with skills that help them evaluate the

enormous number of persuasive media messages. In order to be sure that media literacy

is an effective means of inoculating children against persuasive messages, a closer look at

the impact of media literacy skills on the persuasion process is necessary.


The following review of literature will highlight the evolution of the media

literacy movement and provide a formal definition of media literacy. The discussion also

will address the evolution of persuasion research and key components of the Elaboration

Likelihood Model of persuasion through a review of relevant experiments and

commentaries. In addition, literature relating to television and child development and

attitudes toward advertisements will be reviewed. Finally, research questions and

hypotheses based on the relevant literature will be advanced.

Media Literacy

What individuals know about the world beyond their immediate surroundings

comes via the media (Ontario Ministry of Education, 1989). Unfortunately, the media do

not present their messages in a neutral and value-free way; they shape and distort reality

(Considine, 1990; Melamed, 1989). These value-laden messages and constructions of

reality pose a problem for society because individuals, especially children, are unable to

distinguish between truthful and misleading messages sent by the media. It is through

media literacy that they can be taught to be informed and responsible consumers of the


Several researchers made calls for the inclusion of media education within

existing U.S. school curricula in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Considine, 1990;

Duncan, 1989; Kahn & Master, 1992; Melamed, 1989; Wulfemeyer, Sneed, Ommeren, &

Riffe, 1990). They argued that media education makes students critically aware of what

they see, hear, and read, and it should be taught regularly in elementary and secondary

schools. Several states, including Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, Minnesota, and

Massachusetts, heeded this call by instituting some component of media literacy within

their school curricula (Considine, 1995; Darlington, 1996).

Support and advocacy groups such as the Center for Media Education, the Center

for Media Literacy, the National Telemedia Council, Citizens for Media Literacy, the

National Media Citizenship Project, and the Children's Media Policy Network were

created to push for a media literate society. National conferences, like the annual Media

Education Conference and the Media Literacy Citizenship Project conference, have

brought together educators, media professionals and concerned citizens in an effort to

create a unified voice for media literacy. At the Aspen Institute's' National Leadership

Conference on Media Literacy in 1992, participants developed a formal definition of

media literacy:

a media literate person--and everyone should have the opportunity to become
one--can decode, evaluate, analyze and produce both print and electronic media.
The fundamental objective of media literacy is critical autonomy in relationship to
all media. Emphases in media literacy training range widely, including informed

"The Aspen Institute is an international nonprofit educational institution dedicated to enhancing the
quality of leadership through informed dialogue. ... [Its] Communications and Society Program promotes
integrated, values-based decision making in the fields of communications and information policy. It
accomplishes this by bringing together representatives of industry, government, the media, the academic
world, nonprofits, and others to assess the impact of modem communications and information systems on
democratic societies. The Program also promotes research and distributes conference reports to'leaders in
the communications and information fields and to the broader public" (Aspen Institute, 1996, available

citizenship, aesthetic appreciation and expression, social advocacy, self-esteem,
and consumer competence. (Aufderheide. 1993, p.1)

This comprehensive definition illustrates the wide range of skills needed to be

media literate. Media literacy teaches students how to deconstruct, analyze, and critique

media messages. However, media literacy goes beyond the creation and production of

media messages that are the focus of school media (e.g., school newspaper, television

productions, and yearbook). Media education provides the opportunity for students to

learn to work together toward a common goal. In the process they learn about

responsibility, cooperation, and problem solving. No matter what they do in life, they

will always encounter situations that require these skills. In addition, students identify

their strengths and weaknesses, develop varied interests, and accept new challenges.

The National Communication Association (1998) developed standards for

speaking, listening, and media literacy in K-12 education. Furthermore, media literacy is

also reaching the community through workshops conducted by the National PTA and

"Cable in the Classroom" (Considine, 1995). It is evident media literacy is building a

strong network of committed educators, media professionals, and citizens to create a

more media literate population.

Critical Viewing Skills Programs

Although the media literacy movement has received increased support in recent

years, several of the central issues have been addressed over the last three decades.

James A. Brown's book, Television "Critical Viewing Skills" Education: Major Media

Literacy Projects in the United States and Selected Countries (1991), is an excellent

review of the beginning of the media literacy movement. Many of the central issues were

first investigated in the United States by the federal government; however, funding for

such projects was eliminated during the early 1980s. These early federal programs laid

the foundation for future research by scholars and public interest groups about the

potential benefits and necessity of media literacy programs.

Evolution of Critical Viewing Skills

Critical thinking is one of the fundamental elements of media literacy. It was the

goal of early Greek philosophers and continues to be a priority in education. Critical

analysis has been applied to all forms of communication. Early forms of print

communication (e.g., books), mass media forms of print communication (e.g.,

newspapers, magazines), and visual communication (e.g., motion pictures) have been

critically read or viewed over the years in an attempt to better understand what their

messages are and how they are created (Brown, 1991).

Despite this history of critical reading and viewing, educational institutions were

slow to recognize the value of formally teaching audiences how to evaluate critically

mass media experiences. In the 1920s and 1930s, film appreciation courses began to

spread throughout the United States and England, due in part to the growing number of

contemporary movies (Brown, 1991). It was not until the 1960s that film studies were

integrated fully into the curriculum of U.S. high schools and colleges, despite the

presence of film courses since the 1930s (Worth, 1981). Finally, in the late 1970s,

cinema courses began to incorporate film skills along with theory and criticism (Brown,


While educators were gradually recognizing the value of aiding audiences

in their interpretation and analysis of the cinema, television was making its own

impact. In the beginning, educators used television as an instrument for teaching.

The U.S. and Great Britain developed and studied the instructional use of

television during the 1950s and 1960s. Also during that time, "some curricular

designs for teaching better understanding and use of television were developed

but not widely used" (Brown, 1991, p. 58).

An UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization)

meeting in Norway in 1962 laid the framework for "critical viewing skills" education.

Due to the scope and power of television, meeting participants suggested that educators

accept the responsibility to teach young people how to use the medium constructively

(Hodgkinson, 1964). The aims of "critical viewing skills" education were stated as


I. To help viewers to increase their understanding of what they see on the

II. To encourage viewers to become more selective in their choice of

III. To help viewers to become more aware and discriminating in their
responses and to develop their power of judgment so that they may benefit
from those programs, both imaginative and factual, which have the
capacity to enrich their lives.

The aims of screen education thus consort with those of a truly democratic
education, namely, to help the individual to respect and uphold truth and, on the
basis of the richest possible personal development, to share and enjoy with his
fellow men the treasures which our civilization offers to the human mind and
heart. (Hodgkinson, 1964, p. 78)

Eleven years later the Ford Foundation echoed the perspective of UNESCO. The

Foundation saw a need for increased and improved mass media instruction within public

schools (Ford Foundation, 1975). The report of a Television and Children conference

funded by the Ford, Markle, and National Science Foundations recommended several

courses of study as part of a curriculum. Among the subjects were analysis of media

appeals, interpretation of non-verbal cues, review of the broadcasting industry's history

and structure, the economic aspect of television, analysis of program formats, analysis of

values within television content, standards for criticism of content, and production skills

(Ford Foundation, 1975).

USOE's Four Seed Projects

Critical viewing skills education received additional support in 1978 when the

United States Office of Education (USOE) funded four "seed" projects for elementary

and secondary teachers to teach students critical viewing skills (Brown, 1991). Each

project was funded for two years. USOE narrowly defined critical viewing skills by

relating them only to television. Such skills included understanding the psychological

impact of commercials; recognizing fact and fiction; identifying and respecting different

points of view; understanding the style and content of various types of programming; and

understanding the relation between TV programming and the printed word (Lloyd-

Kolkin, Wheeler, & Strand, 1980). These seed projects were established in response to

research that found a link between television violence and subsequent aggressive

behavior in children (Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1963; Surgeon's General Scientific

Advisory Committee, 1972; Tyner, 1991).

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (Grades K-5)

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), the first of the four

seed projects, was established for teachers of grades K-5 as well as students' parents and

youth leaders. The critical viewing skills (CVS) activities were designed for classroom

and home use as well as within community organizations. Since it was difficult to add

new components to existing school schedules, SEDL incorporated the program into

existing courses. SEDL was designed to teach eight essential television viewing skills.

For example, students were taught how to distinguish fact and fiction, understand

psychological effects of advertising, and identify various production techniques such as

music, special effects, and color (Brown, 1991).

WNET 13. New York City (Grades 6-8)

Since 1972, the Education Division of New York City's noncommercial

television station WNET 13 had been conducting critical viewing skills workshops in

New York area schools. With federal funding in 1978, WNET developed and tested

formalized curriculum materials and conducted workshops for educators and community

leaders across the nation. Ten training sessions were set up for school administrators and

teacher trainers to help them conduct their own CVS workshops. Ten more sessions were

arranged for community leaders and public librarians to help them train parents and

children in critical home viewing. WNET's critical viewing skills program was designed

for students in grades 6-8, but could be adapted for children at different cognitive levels.

Creators of the program intended the concepts and materials to be part of the language

arts or social studies curricula as well as to be used at home. A special workbook was

developed for students to practice critical writing and thinking skills. For example,

students might watch a television program and identify and analyze main ideas, specific

details, literary elements, and draw conclusions based on their interpretations (Brown,


Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development (Grades 9-12)

With a grant of $410,000, the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and

Development (FWL) developed a CVS project directed to secondary students. This third

USOE project had a fourfold mission. First, the project was to identify TV skills

appropriate for teenagers; second, develop and field test course materials for teachers,

students and families; third, create materials and provide workshops for educators,

parents, and leaders of organizations; and fourth, publish and distribute those materials

(Brown, 1991). After testing their initial curriculum, FWL determined their CVS

program should address five areas of critical viewing abilities: 1) to assess and manage

one's own television viewing behavior; 2) to question the reality of television; 3) to

identify persuasive techniques and messages and counter-argue them; 4) to recognize

television effects on one's own life; and 5) to use television to facilitate family

communications (Brown, 1991). FWL sought to develop these skills by helping students

understand the economic basis of television, by teaching them about TV production

techniques, and encouraging them to question TV messages and seek answers to their

questions (Brown, 1991).

Boston University (Post-secondary and Adults)

In September 1978, the USOE devoted $400,000 to its fourth and final project,

which was conducted by the School of Public Communication at Boston University. The

project ended on July 31, 1981. The project was directed to college students, parents, and

teachers with the intention of affecting the medium itself. The program was built around

four modules that presented introductory material that was applied through various

activities. The first module examined the structure of the television industry, including

production, programming, economics, regulations, and effects. Module two focused on

the persuasive elements of television programming, including credibility and effects of

advertising, while module three examined various program genres. The fourth module

explored the news media and governmental constraints. The project's director. Donis

Dondis (1980), argued that the effort to create critical viewers must begin with future

gatekeepers, teachers, and television program producers in order for it to be successful.

More specifically, critical viewing skills training "enables these audiences, in their

present or future roles as parents, educators, business people, and community leaders, to

comprehend and influence programming decisions" (Dondis, 1980, p. 3).

Funding Withdrawn

Despite the success of the four CVS projects, the government withdrew additional

funding in the wake of a deep economic recession. The recession cultivated the

widespread belief that students needed to know how to compete in the global

marketplace, which meant, among other things, that they needed to be computer literate.

Since media education was associated with the recreational nature of television, critical

viewing skills programs were deemed unnecessary frill and new funding for computer

literacy programs replaced critical viewing as a top educational priority (Dondis, 1980).

The Current Media Literacy Movement

The media literacy movement in the United States grew rapidly in the late 1990s

(Considine, 1995; Kubey & Baker, 1999). Numerous support and advocacy groups like

the Center for Media Education, the Center for Media Literacy, the National Telemedia

Council, Citizens for Media Literacy, and the Children's Media Policy Network have

been created to educate the public about the need for media education. The National

Communication Association has developed standards for media literacy in K-12

education (National Communication Association, 1998). Kubey and Baker (1999)

examined all 50 state curricular frameworks and found that 48 states contained one or

more elements that called for some form of media education. Media literacy components

appeared most frequently in language arts and communication arts curricula. For

example, Florida's Sunshine State Standards in language arts for grades 3-5 requires that

the student "understands ... a variety of messages can be conveyed through mass media"

(Florida Department of Education, 1998). In the communication arts area, one of the

theatre standards for grades preK-2 requires that "the student understands context by

analyzing the role of theatre, film, television, and electronic media in the past and

present" (Florida Department of Education, 1998). The social science curricula followed

language arts in terms of frequency of media education elements. Based on the results of

a survey of teachers, Tuggle and his colleagues (Tuggle, Sneed, & Wulfemeyer, 2000)

reiterated a call made 10 years earlier for media literacy to be part of the high school

social science curricula. Health and consumerism curricula were third behind social

science curricula in terms of frequency of media literacy components followed by media

strands in fourth place (e.g., newspaper, yearbook, television production) (Kubey &

Baker, 1999).

Further examples of media literacy around the nation are found in Minneapolis,

where students receive media literacy grades on their report cards, and in North Carolina,

where students in grades K-12 are required to learn to "access, analyze, evaluate and

create media" (Darlington, 1996, p. 9E). Another example of media education that has

been in place for years is the Newspaper in Education program. "The Newspaper in

Education program is a cooperative effort of newspapers and thousands of U.S. and

Canadian schools where the newspaper is used as a tool of instruction" (ANPA, 1990, p.

1). The program helps students be informed citizens, develop critical reading skills, and

foster personal growth. NIE provides educators a cost effective and exciting opportunity

to use newspapers to teach students lessons in writing, history, math, and many other

subjects (ANPA, 1990). A number of texts and guides, such as Using Newspapers to

Teach Journalism and Using the Newspaper to Reinforce Reading and Writing Skills,

have been written to help teachers use an ever present mass medium to help students

learn. For example, teachers can use the sports and business sections of the newspaper to

teach math skills or give current events quizzes to make students aware of their world.

Teachers also can help students develop writing skills by having them choose an event in

a poem, essay, or novel and write a newspaper article about the event (ANPA, 1990).

Research indicates that journalism courses help students do better in school

(Dvorak, Lain, & Dickson, 1994; Robinson, 1996; The Freedom Forum, 1994). Dvorak

et al. (1994) reported that journalism students do better in 10 out of 12 major academic

areas, write better, and are active participants in extra-curricular and community

activities. Dvorak and colleagues maintain that journalism courses are worthy of

permanent status in the language arts curriculum.

Students who took a class called "Journalism" found it superior in meeting well-
recognized language arts competencies than did either required English courses or
other English electives. These indications from academically superior students
affirm the worthiness of Journalism as a course at the heart of the language arts
curriculum, not to be relegated to distant or second-class or adjunct status within
the English curriculum, and not to be squeezed out during times of budget crunch.
(Dvorak et al., 1994, p. 49)

Moreover, with the face of media changing as the digital age evolves, journalism

courses as well as others must incorporate lessons about and with new media. Katz

(1996) suggests that children must have access to the technology and be taught to use it

safely and responsibly and in a way that will serve a broader social purpose beyond

entertainment. Media education is one way to meet the challenges set forth by Katz.

Media literacy is reaching the community through the "Family and Community

Critical Viewing Project"2 sponsored by the National PTA (Parent Teacher Association),

Cable in the Classroom, and the National Cable Television Association (Considine,

1995). With the passage of the Children's Television Act of 1990 and the subsequent

debate over how to enforce the requirements of the Act, more attention has been given to

the types and amount of media messages children are exposed to on a daily basis.

New Mexico Media Literacy Project

New Mexico has been the leader in the media literacy movement in the United

States. In 1993, the Downs Media Education Center (DMEC), with other supporters,

funded the New Mexico Media Literacy Project (NMMLP) (Darlington, 1996). Hugh

Downs of ABCs "20/20" and his daughter, Dierdre, founded the Downs Center. The

Project is now sponsored by Albuquerque Academy3 Outreach and supported by the New

Mexico State Department of Education and public and private sources. The goal of

2 "The Family & Community Critical Viewing Project, a partnership of the National Parent Teacher
Association, Cable in the Classroom, and the National Cable Television Association, provides free "Taking
Charge of Your TV" workshops to help families view television carefully and critically. Since this
nationwide initiative began in 1994, over 800 local cable operators, parents, and educators have been
trained as presenters to give critical viewing workshops in their communities..... This project has the
support of national education organizations including the National Education Association, the American
Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the
National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National School Boards Association" (Cable
in the Classroom, 1996, available

3 Albuquerque Academy is a non-denominational, coeducational, independent day school for 1,000
students in grades six through twelve. It houses the New Mexico Media Literacy Project.

NMMLP is to make New Mexico the most media literate state in the nation and introduce

the basic principles of media literacy to the state's population (New Mexico Media

Literacy Project, 1998). The Project conducts media literacy workshops for students.

teachers, and parents that train participants to become more aware of media practices and

help them analyze media messages in a systematic and critical manner. The NNMLP

also provides resources, including curriculum guides, videos, and CD-ROMs, to help

teachers and parents develop and refine media literacy skills in children as well as

themselves. The Project has been recognized by local and national media as one of the

"state and nation's most successful community-based educational matching grant

programs" (New Mexico Media Literacy Project, 1995b, p. 1).

Feedback about the NMMLP's effort to create a media literate citizenry has been

positive. The Project's director, Bob McCannon, is essentially a media literacy

salesperson, who travels the state giving workshops to public and private schools (Nissen,

1996). As part of McCannon's workshops and teacher training programs, "the concept of

taking back our children's culture from the dominant media is resonating in New

Mexico" (New Mexico Media Literacy Project, 1995b, p. 1). Those who hear the

message realize that they, whether parents, teachers, churches, or media representatives,

must reclaim from the media the task of teaching children lessons for life in their

formative years and beyond (New Mexico Media Literacy Project, 1995b). Project

members equate commercial television and other powerful media with strangers who

come into the home and give thousands of hours worth of lessons on anti-intellectualism,

gratuitous violence, addiction, and other anti-social values (New Mexico Media Literacy

Project, 1995b). Media literacy exists to combat these "strangers."

National Media Literacy Efforts

On a national level, media literacy finds support from top government officials.

U. S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley has said, "'young people need to stretch their

minds and avoid being passive consumers ... Television is here to stay, and our young

people need to become savvy and thinking people when it comes to understanding the

media'" (Rubel, 1996). In her book, It Takes A Village, Hillary Clinton alludes to media

literacy. She suggests that television affects what and how Americans think and argues

for teaching children to watch television critically (Rubel, 1996).

The concern about how citizens think is at the heart of media literacy training.

The objective of such training is to produce critical thinkers who can evaluate and

analyze media messages. But, for teachers to train students to be critical consumers of

the media, they must have specific objectives for their students and be trained


National Communication Association Standards for Media Literacy

The National Communication Association has recommended standards for

teaching and learning about media literacy. The K-12 Standards for Speaking, Listening,

and Media Literacy (National Communication Association, 1998) are the result of the

call for a system of voluntary standards in the "core" subjects of English, math, history,

geography and science by the National Education Goals Panel (National Education Goals

Panel, 1992) as well as the national education reform legislation, "Goals 2000: Educate

America Act." This act proposed the development of standards in several subjects,

including communication (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991).

NCA made several assumptions about these standards. Acceptance by school

administrators and teachers is voluntary; the standards are not a national curriculum; they

serve as a framework for each state, school districts, or local schools to use to develop

curricula; and the standards are not all-inclusive; rather, they provide the opportunity for

necessary additions by each state, school districts, schools, and individual teachers

(National Communication Association, 1998). These assumptions are important because

they leave the decision about adopting and implementing the standards up to the

individual states and their respective school districts. Such freedom and flexibility may

be the catalyst to get other states and school districts to adopt the standards and help

students become media literate.

NCA also provided guidelines for implementing these standards. It is clear that

only those trained in the designated areas should be allowed to teach the specific skills

and concepts associated with media literacy. Lack of training has been a problem for the

media literacy movement from the start. Teachers who participated in the four "seed"

projects in the late 1970s complained they did not know how to use the materials given to

them. Today, with projects like NMMLP and workshops conducted by organizations like

the National PTA and Cable in the Classroom, there should be more teachers (from all

subject areas) qualified to teach media literacy skills. Training teachers from all subjects

is in accord with NCA recommendations that the concepts and skills of media literacy be

taught across the entire curriculum. NCA also recommends that teachers receive ongoing

in-service training to help them create and adapt assignments to help foster students'

communication competence (National Communication Association, 1998).

Evolution of Persuasion Research

In order to comprehend more fully the research questions and hypotheses guiding

this study, it will be useful to review briefly the evolution of persuasion research in order

to understand how the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion developed. This

established model of persuasion developed out of years of media effects research that

began with Walter Lippmann (1922) and Harold Lasswell (1927).

Early persuasion research suggested that mass media had direct effects on

attitudes and behavior (Doob, 1935; Lippmann, 1922). However, much of the early

research was based on anecdotal evidence and not empirical research (Petty & Priester,

1994). In the 1940s and 1950s there was a shift in media researchers' thinking. Evidence

of an indirect effects model of persuasion began to emerge. The work of Hyman and

Sheatsley (1947) suggested that persuasion could not be achieved by a mere increase in

message flow; rather, effective message dissemination requires consideration of specific

psychological barriers. Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet's (1948) famous presidential

campaign study found that media tend to reinforce existing attitudes as opposed to

creating new ones. Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) suggested the idea of a "two-step" flow of

communication. They believed the media were not as powerful as early researchers had

thought. Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) argued that media tend to influence opinion leaders

who in turn influence the general public. The studies of Carl Hovland also contributed to

the indirect effects view of the media. Hovland, Lumsdaine, and Sheffield (1949)

reported that military films had little effect on mass changes in attitude and behavior.

Findings indicated a significant number of moderating variables that contributed to the

persuasive power of the military films (Hovland et al., 1949). Subsequent research

focused on these moderating variables as contemporary models of persuasion were


Over the years the attitude construct has been popular in social psychological

research focusing on media influence (Petty & Priester, 1994). In essence, the concept of

attitudes can be described as "peoples' general predispositions to evaluate other people,

objects, and issues favorably or unfavorably" (Petty & Priester, 1994, p. 94). Attitude is

important because it is believed to be a mediating variable for knowledge acquisition as

well as behavioral change (Petty & Priester, 1994). Although a number of theories of

attitude change have been developed over the years, the one that laid the foundation for

the elaboration likelihood model is the communication/persuasion matrix model of

influence elaborated by McGuire (1985, 1989). The model suggests that there are five

inputs to the persuasion process. These include (1) source, (2) message, (3) recipient, (4)

channel, and (5) context. The outputs involve (1) exposure, (2) attention, (3) interest, (4)

comprehension, (5) acquisition, (6) yielding, (7) memory, (8) retrieval, (9) decision, (10)

action, (11) reinforcement, and (12) consolidation (McGuire, 1989). While thorough, the

communication persuasion matrix model is not complete.

Further research has shown that information processing does not have to be

sequential as suggested by the model. Many of the steps may be completely independent

of the others (Petty & Priester, 1994). For example, learning and comprehension can

occur without attitude change and attitudes can change without learning of specific

information (Petty, Baker, & Gleicher, 1991; Petty & Priester, 1994). Secondly, the

model is deficient in explaining the factors that produce yielding, one of the outputs of

the matrix model. While individuals may accept a persuasive communication based on

their exposure, attention, interest, comprehension, and acquisition of a message, it is not

guaranteed that they will yield to it (Petty & Priester, 1994).

Greenwald (1968) and Petty, Ostrom, and Brock (1981b) developed the cognitive

response theory in order to address these two drawbacks. Cognitive response theory

suggests that the level of "yielding is related to the idiosyncratic cognitive responses (pro

and counter-arguments) generated to the message rather than learning of the message,

and persistence of persuasion is related to memory for these cognitive responses rather

than the message per se" (Petty & Priester, 1994, p. 98).

However, the cognitive response theory only focused on individuals who were

active message processors and failed to consider what happens when individuals do not

actively think about the information they receive (Petty & Priester, 1994). Thus, Petty

and Cacioppo (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981a; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986a; Petty & Cacioppo,

1986b) developed the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion, which holds that

there are two routes to persuasion, central and peripheral.

Elaboration Likelihood Model

The Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion has been tested in a number of

empirical studies. The ELM posits that there are two routes to persuasion, a central route

and a peripheral route (see Figure 2.1). The central route of persuasion is characterized

by active cognitive processing and leads to attitude changes that are more enduring and

predictive of future behavior (Cialdini, Petty, & Cacioppo, 1981; Petty & Cacioppo,

1980). The peripheral route is characterized by the attention given to positive and

negative cues (e.g., source attractiveness, number of arguments) within the persuasion

context. Attitude changes tend to be temporary and unpredictive of behavior (Petty et al..

1983). The following review of the literature will examine the empirical research that

has tested and validated the ELM.

Central Route of Persuasion

The central route to persuasion involves active cognitive processing of persuasive

communications. This route of persuasion "views attitude change as resulting from a

person's diligent consideration of information that s/he feels is central to the true merits

of a particular attitudinal position" (Petty et al., 1983, p. 135). In other words, a person

uses his/her prior knowledge and experience to scrutinize all of the relevant information

in a message in order to evaluate the merits of the advocated position (Petty & Cacioppo,

1986a; Petty & Priester, 1994). An individual's motivation and ability to process

information and generate favorable and/or unfavorable thoughts characterize the central

route. Other characteristics include 1) cognitive justification of behavior different from

existing attitudes (Cummings & Venkatesan, 1976; Festinger, 1957) and 2)

understanding, learning, and retaining issue/product relevant information (Bettman, 1979;

Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953; McGuire, 1976).

PERSUASIVE COMMUNICATION Attitude is relatively temporary,
Susceptible, and unpredictive of
I behavior

Personal relevance; need for cognition; No Yes
personal responsibility.
AttituPositive/negative affected
c ti attractive expert
ABILITY TO PROCESS? sources; number of
Distraction; repetition; prior knowledge; arguments.

Media Literacy Training

(initial attitude, argument quality)
Favorable Unfavorable Neither or
Thoughts Thoughts Neutral
Predominate Predominate Predominate

Are new cognitions adopted and stored in / --
memory? Are different responses made more
salient than previously?

Yes Yes
(favorable) (unfavorable)

Attitude is relatively enduring, resistant, and
predictive of behavior

Figure 2.1. Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986b).

Additionally, the central route is characterized by individual cognitive responses

to external messages (Cacioppo & Petty, 1980; Greenwald, 1968; Petty et al., 1981b;

Wright, 1980) and the way a person integrates issue/product-relevant beliefs into a

summary evaluation (Azjen & Fishbein, 1980; Lutz & Bettman, 1977; Troutman &

Shanteau, 1976). Careful processing leads to an attitude that becomes part of a person's

belief structure. However, research has shown that considerable cognitive work does not

imply the formation of rational or accurate attitudes (Petty & Priester, 1994). The key

point is that careful and thoughtful evaluation of a persuasive message can change

attitudes. Attitudes changed by the central route "have been found to be relatively

accessible, persistent over time, predictive of behavior, and resistant to change until they

are challenged by cogent contrary information" (Cialdini et al., 1981; Petty et al., 1980;

Petty & Priester, 1994, p. 100-101).

Peripheral Route to Persuasion

The peripheral route of persuasion espouses that attitude change can occur

without effortful evaluation of a message. A person's motivation and ability to process

information are low along this route. This route relies on simple cues within the

persuasion context to influence attitude change. These cues include, among others,

source attractiveness, perceived expertise, and the number of arguments. Attitude change

via the peripheral route of persuasion can be highly effective; however, research has

shown that such attitude changes are "less accessible, less enduring, and less resistant to

subsequent attacking messages" (Petty & Priester, 1994, p. 101) than carefully processed

information (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986a).

Unlike the central route, attitude change along the peripheral route is not the result

of an individual's consideration of the pros and cons of an issue; rather, it is the result of a

person associating the attitude issue or product with positive or negative cues. Also,

attitude change may result because a person makes an inference about the merits of the

argued position based on simple cues within the persuasion context (Petty et al., 1983).

For example, a person may accept an advocated position because he/she received good

news before exposure to the persuasive communication.

The Role of Involvement

One of the most important variables that affect the amount of thinking about a

persuasive message is personal relevance. High personal relevance tends to dictate the

level of interest and motivation to process the message information. Several studies

reported that an increase in personal relevance resulted in an increase in persuasion when

strong arguments were used. However, when weak arguments were presented, the

message was less persuasive than in the low relevance conditions (Bumkrant & Unnava,

1989; Petty & Cacioppo, 1979b).

Involvement as a determinant of argument-based persuasion

Petty, Cacioppo, and Goldman (1981) conducted an experiment to examine

personal involvement as a determinant of argument-based persuasion. Undergraduates

expressed their attitudes toward an issue after exposure to a mediated message with either

strong or weak arguments from a source of high or low expertise. The communication

had either high or low personal relevance to subjects.

The authors hypothesized that high personal relevance of a topic would lead to

thoughtful consideration of the issue-relevant arguments in the message (i.e., the central

route). Low personal relevance would make peripheral features of the argument more

potent (Petty et al., 1981 a).

Although the central and peripheral routes to persuasion had received much

support at the time, Petty et al. (1981a) pointed out that "attitude change is not

determined exclusively by either issue-relevant argumentation (central) or simple cue

association (peripheral)" (p. 848). Therefore, they suggested a closer examination of the

differences between each route and an identification of variables that determine which

route will be followed.

Personal involvement is one variable that influences how much consideration is

given to issue-relevant arguments. For example, Cialdini, Levy, Herman, Kozlowski,

and Petty (1976) found that subjects generated more supportive arguments in an

anticipation of a discussion with an opponent when the attitude issue was of high

personal relevance. Petty and Cacioppo (1979a, 1979b) reported that issues of high

rather than low personal relevance generated higher correlations among subjects'

message-relevant thoughts and message acceptance.

While high personal relevance tends to dictate subjects following the central route

of persuasion, low personal relevance typically engages the peripheral route of

persuasion. Johnson and Scileppi (1969) and Rhine and Severance (1970) found

manipulation of source credibility had more impact under low involvement conditions

than high. After exposing subjects to a message containing two or six arguments from a

likable or dislikable source, Chaiken (1980) found that message manipulation impacted

persuasion more under high involvement conditions. On the other hand, varying the

source had a greater impact under low involvement conditions. However, Chaiken's

findings do not provide

definitive support for the two routes to persuasion because the particular message
manipulation employed by Chaiken (number of arguments) has the ability to
serve as a simple cue much in the same way that a source manipulation (likable or
dislikable source) can serve as a cue. (Petty et al., 1981a, p. 849)

Petty, Cacioppo, and Goldman's (1981a) study was designed to more directly test

that under high-involvement conditions thoughtful message evaluation is the most

important factor in persuasion, but under low-involvement conditions, peripheral cues

have the most impact. Their formal hypothesis was that

underr conditions of high personal involvement, persuasion would be affected
more by the quality of the message arguments employed but that under low-
involvement conditions, persuasion would be tied more strongly to the expertise
of the source. (Petty et al., 1981a, p. 849)

A 2 (issue involvement: high or low) x 2 (argument quality: strong or weak) x 2

(source expertise: high or low) factorial design was used to test the hypothesis. Subjects

were exposed to radio broadcasts about potential policy changes at the University of

Missouri. In order to create high involvement among subjects, half were told that the

policy changes (comprehensive exam requirement for graduation) would be instituted the

following year. The other half were told the changes would not take effect for 10 years,

thus creating low involvement. Additionally, source expertise was varied among the

subjects as well as argument quality. Strong arguments included statistics, data, etc. in

support of the comprehensive exams. Weak message arguments relied on quotes,

personal opinion, and examples. The messages contained eight arguments each and were

equivalent in length (Petty et al., 1981a).

Two attitude measures were taken after the subjects listened to the radio

broadcasts. Subjects were asked "to rate the concept of'Comprehensive Exams' on four

9-point semantic differential scales (good/bad, beneficial/harmful, foolish/wise, and

unfavorable/favorable)" (Petty et al., 1981, p.850). Subjects were also asked to rate the

extent of their agreement with the proposal for comprehensive exams on an 11-point

scale (1-do not agree at all and 11-agree completely). These attitude measures were

converted and averaged into an index of attitude toward comprehensive exams. Subjects

also rated the quality of the broadcast and the announcer in order to maintain the cover

story. They answered three questions to evaluate the effectiveness of the manipulations.

Furthermore, subjects were given four minutes to list as many arguments from the

message they could recall. Independent coders blind to the experimental manipulations

rated each argument listed for accuracy (r = .92).

Findings suggested that under certain circumstances factors other than message

content, like source credibility and attractiveness, might be more important as

determinants of persuasion. Results indicate that a persuasive message high in personal

relevance is effective because of the cogency of its arguments. However, persuasive

messages low in personal relevance were effective because of peripheral cues. Given the

results, Petty and his colleagues suggested that issue-relevant argumentation and

peripheral cues must be examined to determine the path to persuasion. "Each type of

persuasion occurs in some instances, and the level of personal involvement with an issue

appears to be one moderator of which type of persuasion occurs" (Petty et al., 1981a, p.


The authors offered two reasons why increased personal relevance might be

associated with increased reliance on message arguments for persuasion. First, there is

greater motivation to form a reasoned opinion when personal interests are high.

Individuals tend to scrutinize arguments about a highly personal issue more thoroughly

than issues low in personal relevance. Few people want to do the cognitive work

necessary to evaluate message arguments when the issue is not relevant to them (Petty &

Cacioppo, 1981b).

Besides motivation, ability is a second reason personal relevance might be

associated with increased message evaluation. The authors suggest that people tend to

have a better schema for thinking about things relevant to them. Thus, people may have a

greater ability to process messages relevant to them (Petty et al., 1981a).

The authors conclude that there are two distinct routes to persuasion and "that

these routes are characterized by different antecedents and consequents" (Petty et al.,

1981a, p. 854). They suggested that future work examine other potential moderators of

the route to persuasion. This suggestion is a catalyst for the present study.

The moderating role of involvement

Petty et al. (1983) conducted an experiment to test the moderating role of

involvement in the ELM. Over 150 male and female undergraduates at the University of

Missouri-Columbia were randomly assigned to each of the cells in a 2 (high vs. low

involvement) x 2 (strong vs. weak argument) x 2 (celebrity vs. non-celebrity status)

factorial design. Subjects were told they were part of a study concerning the evaluation

of magazine and newspaper ads conducted by the psychology department and journalism

school (Petty et al., 1983).

Subjects were presented with two booklets. The first contained instructions and

advertisements. The second was a questionnaire booklet. Each booklet varied on level of

involvement, argument quality and peripheral cue (Petty et al., 1983).

Involvement was manipulated by offering a free gift to the subjects for their

participation. To establish high involvement, subjects were offered a disposable razor,

which happened to be the brand advertised in one of the ads in the booklet. Additionally,

subjects were told that the razor and advertisement would be test marketed in Midwestern

cities, including their own. Low involvement was established by offering a brand of

toothpaste not advertised in the booklet. To further establish low involvement, subjects

were told the razor and advertisement would be test-marketed on the East Coast. Thus,

high involvement subjects were led to believe they would make a decision about a

product in the experiment and that the product soon would be available in their area.

Low involvement subjects were led to believe they would not have to make a decision

about razors in the experiment and that it would not be available in their area in the

foreseeable future (Petty et al., 1983).

Argument quality was either strong or weak. The strong arguments ad suggested

the razor was "scientifically designed" and listed five statements about the razor (e.g.,

"Handle is tapered and ribbed to prevent slipping"). The weak arguments ad

characterized the razor as "designed for beauty" and listed five statements about the

product (e.g., "Floats in water with a minimum of rust") (Petty et al., 1983).

Celebrity and non-celebrity endorsements were used to vary the peripheral cue.

Celebrity endorsed ads featured famous golf and tennis athletes. Non-celebrity ads

featured average looking people unfamiliar to the subjects (Petty et al., 1983).

The questionnaire booklet contained the dependent measures. On the first page,

subjects were asked to list all the product categories that were advertised and asked to

recall the brand name of the products in each category. The second page asked subjects

to select the correct brand name from seven choices and match it with one of the 12

product category descriptors. These brand recall and recognition measures were used for

"their practical importance and for purposes of comparison with the attitude data" (Petty

et al., 1983, p. 139).

After responding to questions about one of the legitimate ads in the booklet,

subjects answered questions about the crucial Edge razor ad. These questions were

placed early in the booklet to avoid subject fatigue and boredom and achieve maximum

manipulation effectiveness. Subjects responded to questions about purchase intentions

and their overall impression of the product. These measures were averaged into a general

positive or negative attitude toward the product (Petty et al., 1983).

Next, subjects answered questions consistent with the cover story and then were

instructed to list all their thoughts while they examined the Edge ad. This thought listing

activity was designed to be a "cognitive response" measure; however, subjects did not list

many thoughts about the product. Results indicated this measure was unaffected by the

manipulations. The authors suggest that the measure may have been more sensitive if it

had been administered immediately after exposure to the Edge ad (Petty et al., 1983).

Findings indicate that manipulation of argument quality influences attitudes to a

greater degree when involvement is high. Manipulating the product endorser resulted in

a greater impact on attitudes under low involvement conditions rather than high. These

results are consistent with the ELM and confirm there are two distinct routes to

persuasion (Petty et al., 1983).

Forewarning of subjects

Petty and Cacioppo (1979a) studied the effects of forewarning subjects of the

persuasive intent of a communication under high and low involvement conditions.

Foreknowledge of persuasive communications can take two forms (Papageorgis, 1968).

"Persons may be forewarned of a) the topic and position of an impending

communication, or b) the communicator's persuasive intent" (Petty & Cacioppo, 1979a.

p. 173). The researchers' hypothesis, which was based on reactance theory (Brehm,

1966), suggested that the reactance to foreknowledge of persuasive intent would affect

how the message was processed. Without forewarning, the communication would be

accepted on its own merits. With forewarning, subjects would be motivated to counter-

argue the communication (Petty & Cacioppo, 1979a). Petty and Cacioppo (1979a)

believed the greater the personal relevance of the attitude under attack, the greater the

reactance to the communication and the greater the inhibition of persuasion.

Subjects were placed in two groups (warned of persuasive intent or not). Within

each group subjects experienced one of three involvement levels (one high and two low).

Subjects read booklet covers that either warned them of the impending persuasive

communication or not. Subjects then listened to three-minute radio editorials that argued

for the requirement of senior comprehensive exams in one's major before graduation.

The researchers manipulated high involvement by providing an introductory paragraph in

the editorials that stated the comprehensive exams were to be instituted with the

upcoming graduating class. Thus, the subjects were likely to be affected personally. The

two low involvement conditions used a paragraph that stated the exams would begin in

10 years or they would begin with the upcoming graduating class, but at another college.

Thus, the personal relevance of the editorials was greatly reduced (Petty & Cacioppo,


After hearing the editorials, the subjects expressed their attitudes toward the

proposed policy change on an 11-point Likert-type scale. Subjects also listed their

thought and ideas about the radio editorial and rated them as positive, negative or neutral

(i.e., in favor of the exams, opposed, indifferent). Additionally, subjects completed

ancillary questions and attempted to recall all message arguments (Petty & Cacioppo,


The results confirmed Papaeorgis' suggestion that forewarning of persuasive

intent inhibits attitude change more for issues of high than low involvement.

Additionally, Petty and Cacioppo's hypothesis that forewarnings of persuasive intent on

issues of high involvement inhibits persuasion by producing counter-arguments, which is

based on reactance theory, was also confirmed. Forewarning of persuasive intent inhibits

persuasion on highly involving issues by producing counter-arguments, not only before

the message (Petty & Cacioppo, 1977), but during message presentation (Petty &

Cacioppo, 1979a).

Interestingly, in the absence of forewarning, high involvement subjects tended to

show more attitude change than low involvement subjects (Petty & Cacioppo, 1979a).

Petty and Cacioppo suggest that increased personal relevance produces more critical

message processing. However, when forewarning is introduced, the nature of

information processing changes because subjects become less objective and more intent

on finding problems with the arguments presented as a way of reasserting their attitudinal

freedom (Petty & Cacioppo, 1979a). Higher correlations were found for attitude under

high rather than low involvement conditions and under warned rather than unwarned

conditions. "This suggests that both involvement and warning increase the importance of

message relevant cognitions in producing persuasion" (Petty & Cacioppo, 1979a, p. 176).

Child Development Literature

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is one of the most influential

researchers in the area of cognitive development. His developmental stages have been

used time and again to explain and categorize children's mental and physical growth.

Piaget's work in cognitive development suggests that children learn by what they do;

however they must be ready to move to the next level of learning. Moving children

through the steps necessary to get them to where they need to go can create readiness. It

is clear from Piaget's work that children tend to follow an established pattern of

development. Communication researchers have applied and tested the ideas set forth by

Piaget and other psychologists and educators through numerous research studies.

Understanding which age group possesses the necessary cognitive skills to process and

evaluate persuasive messages will provide vital information for the design of this study.

Therefore, a brief review of theories about child development as it relates to television is

essential to this study.

Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development

Before examining the developmental literature as it relates to communication it is

useful to summarize Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Having a working

knowledge of Piaget's ideas will provide a foundation on which to build. Piaget (1983:

Piaget & Inhelder, 1964) and other stage theorists believe there are distinct qualitative

stages of child development. This is in contrast to learning theorists who suggest there is

a step-by-step quantitative process of acquiring knowledge4.

According to Piaget, the various stages are achieved as children mature.

Maturation and readiness (i.e., the capability of learning with relative ease) are key to

children developing the skills that help them acquire and organize knowledge. Piaget

believed physical action and experience with the environment were important for

learning. He also believed in the importance of schemata, which are the basic units of

cognition, speech, and behavior. Examples include sensorimotor, cognitive, and verbal

schemata. Sensorimotor schemata refer to things like walking and opening doors;

cognitive schemata refer to concepts, images, and the ability to reason from causes to

effects; and verbal schemata refer broadly to communication skills. Schemata in

newborn infants are simple reflexes; however, new schemata develop quickly and

coordinate into larger schemata. For example, grasping schemata are the coordination of

acquired schemata such as the abilities to, first, focus on an object, and, second,

determine if the object can be grasped or not.

According to Piaget, schemata are modified through the constant process of

adaptation, which is achieved via assimilation, accommodation and equilibration.

Adaptation is an on-going process that helps individuals learn to predict and control their

environment as they develop additional schemata through interactions with their

4 Learning theorists, like Bloom (Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, 1956), Gagne (1977), and
Briggs (Gagne & Briggs, 1979), have developed typologies that classify types of learning based on
differences in what is being learned. These typologies suggest that specific types of learning take place
within each category.

surroundings. Individuals accommodate, or change, their behavior when they encounter

new experiences by developing new schemata or adapting existing schemata to the new

situations. They assimilate by transferring established schemata to new situations.

Accommodation and assimilation exist in every behavior. Individuals also try and

maintain a sense of equilibration. or balance, as they explore and attach order and

meaning to their daily experiences (Good & Brophy, 1990).

According to Piaget's theory, development is divided into four basic periods: "1)

sensorimotor (birth to eighteen months), 2) preoperational (eighteen months to seven

years), 3) concrete operations (seven to twelve years), and 4) formal operations (twelve

years and beyond" (Good & Brophy, 1990, p. 72). Schemata development is

characterized by sensorimotor skills in the sensorimotor stage, while the preoperational

stage moves into thought and imagery. Classification skills, negation, identity,

reversibility of operations, and reciprocity develop in the concrete operations stage. The

period of formal operations is highlighted by the use of symbols, abstractions, and

propositions contrary to fact.

Developmental Differences Among Children

Attention. Attention level is based on more than just aural and visual stimuli.

The nature of the stimulus and its complexity dictate attention level. Studies show that

children pay attention to the formal features of television (e.g., program pace, cuts, sound

effects, presence of dialogue) as well program content (Huston, Greer, Wright, Welch, &

Ross, 1984; Huston & Wright, 1983). Huston and Wright (1983) suggested that formal

features signal what content is forthcoming, and such features serve as the syntax and

grammar of program content.

Age differences exist in attention to formal television features. Animation,

peculiar voices, upbeat music, rhyming, auditory changes, and sound effects appeal to

younger children (Anderson & Levin, 1976; Calvert & Gersh, 1987). Older children do

not rely on such salient features unless they are informative; they tend to depend on

learned signals (Calvert, Huston, Watkins, & Wright, 1982). For example, older children

learn that the end of a dramatic show is when revelations are made and problems are

resolved. They understand that the last part of the program is the time to really pay


As children's experience with television increases, the cognitive demands of a

show grow in importance (Van Evra, 1998). Wright and colleagues (1984) noted that

salient features are important, especially to young viewers, in establishing initial

attention, which is based largely on perception. These formal features become less

important as cognitive skills develop and experience with television increases.

Zuckerman, Ziegler, and Stevenson (1978) noted that despite a lower attention level older

children grasp television content as accurately as young viewers do. Research suggests

that older children are using more active and schematic processing and selectively

attending to what they perceive is important for processing (Wright et al., 1984). This

explains why older children do not need to pay attention as much as young viewers.

Their ability to process information is more sophisticated, so they can attend to the most

important elements and still accurately interpret what is happening on the program.

"These data run counter to the idea that children passively absorb television information,

and they suggest that children's cognitive processing abilities and strategies are active and

fairly sophisticated" (Anderson & Smith, 1984; Pezdek & Hartman, 1983, cited in Van

Evra, 1998, p. 6).

Comprehension. Numerous researchers have found developmental differences

among children in terms of children's understanding television (Dorr, 1980; Hayes &

Kelly, 1984; Young, 1990). For instance, three-year olds believe television characters are

real; they lack the ability to understand narrative or dramatic structure; and they don't

understand sarcasm and irony (Van Evra, 1998).

Children's comprehension levels vary depending on age. Young children's

understanding of a television program and recall of program content are adversely

affected by an inability to associate cause and effect events (Hayes & Kelly, 1984). For

example, a five-year old watching "Beavis" and "Butt-head" play with fire does not

associate lighting a match with the destruction of property. Children also have a difficult

time distinguishing between program content and commercials and real and imaginary

characters (Canadian Association of Broadcasters, 1985). Of course, some programming

practices, like bringing an action figure to "life," make distinguishing between real and

TV life more difficult (Dorr, 1980).

According to a study of children's comprehension of temporal aspects of content

by Calvert (1988), 10-year old children were better able to understand flashbacks than

six-year olds. Calvert concluded that formal features, like flashbacks, influence

children's understanding of time-ordered concepts presented on television. Hirsch and

Kulberg (1987) found age to be a factor in accuracy of temporal judgments. Children

underestimated the length of 45-second segments and overestimated 15-second segments.

According to the study, children, especially preschoolers, who watched less television

overall tended to make more accurate estimates. Thus, the more television a child

watched, the more mistakes he/she made in estimating time length. Older children made

more accurate estimates despite the amount of television watched. Hirsch and Kulberg

(1987) suggested that the age of a child and amount of TV viewing during preschool are

key factors that influence children's ability to make temporal judgments.

Spontaneous organization and integration of plot information is beyond the

capability of most children, and those younger than 7 or 8 rarely grasp abstract lessons

embedded in some shows (Christenson & Roberts, 1983). Rubin (1986) suggested that

preoperational children rely on perception to guide their behavior; thus, their judgments

are based on perceived appearances and the immediate environment. However, by age 7

or 8 changes occur and conceptual and symbolic skills develop. These help youngsters

mediate television content and understand the complexities of television portrayals better

(Rubin, 1986).

Hoffner and Cantor (1985) point out that young children rely on more perceptual

features and information (e.g., personal appearance) than conceptual information and

actual behavior when watching programs. Thus, they often misinterpret important

information. Additionally, children's comprehension of social interaction on television is

influenced by their ability to understand certain character depictions (Babrow, O'Keefe,

Swanson, Meyers, & Murphy, 1988). Their ability to comprehend television characters'

social interaction is largely based on their own interpersonal experience (Van Evra,


Retention. Differences in retention levels among children are due to

developmental level as well. Recall is greatest for verbal encoding of auditory input, but

such encoding is an age-related skill not available to young children. They rely more

heavily on visual input; therefore recall of auditory information is poorer (Van Evra,


Researchers have found that format variables involved in various media affect

younger children more than older ones. Meringoff, Vibbert, Char, Femie, Banker, and

Gardner (1983) reported that preschooler's memory of figurative language improved

greatly after a story was read to them as compared to watching a television story.

However, Meringoff et al. (1983) noted that older children remember language from

television as well as they do from stories; although, older children may be more sensitive

to language delivery than younger ones.

Oyen and Bebko (1996) compared the performance of 4- to 7-year olds on a

memory task that was either embedded in a computer game or given via simple

instructions. Although significantly more rehearsal time was observed in the game

context, the difference between groups was not so large when covert rehearsal was

included in the comparison. Rehearsal in either context led to greater recall, but those

playing the game remember less than those following simple instructions. Conclusions

suggested that the games, although interesting, may have distracted the subjects and made

the memory task more difficult because of competing goals. The authors explained that

changes in task and interest value do not necessarily lead to spontaneous rehearsal in

children who do not want to remember the information (Oyen & Bebko, 1996).

Children, 5- to 8-years old with advanced story schema skills, processed

information with less effort, had better memory recall for central content, and

demonstrated a higher level of attention and memory coordination in a study by

Meadowcroft and Reeves (1989). Beagles-Roos and Gat (1983) found that younger

children develop basic television skills early, but general cognitive skills become more

important as time passes.

Although effective learners process information via visual recognition and verbal

encoding, it is older children who process, encode, and remember language more easily

(Van Evra, 1998). Beentjes and van der Voort (1993) found that children learned more

from television stories than print stories. Interestingly, television stories and print stories

were recalled equally when immediate recall was tested; however, television stories fared

better than print stories on delayed tests.

Age-differences also exist for type of material that is recalled. Hayes and Casey

(1992) reported that preschoolers mention of the emotional states of characters on

"Sesame Street" and "The Cosby Show" made up less than 1% of the reactions recalled

after viewing. Recognition of affective states lasted longer for human portrayals than for

Muppet shows and cartoons. The children also described basic emotions more accurately

than complex ones. Despite verbal labels, the preschoolers did not remember the

emotional states of the Muppets or cartoon characters, nor did they mention the physical

states of the characters in retelling the stories (Hayes & Casey, 1992).

Winn (1985) noted a significant age-related difference among children and adults

in terms of the television viewing experience; it is the background of actual experiences

one can bring to television viewing. For children, television is a primary activity, and

they do not have a vast amount of experiences, fantasies, and relationships to shape their

viewing experience like adults do. Often, real-life experiences evoke memories of

television content for young children rather than the reverse, which is the case for adults

(Winn, 1985).

Although much of the literature suggests that young children remember little of

what they see on television, it is necessary to identify the measures used to assess their

retention. Young children tend to perform better on tests of recognition than on ones of

recall, and several researchers have reported that older children recall more of television

content than younger viewers (Meringoff, 1980; Odom, 1972; Roedder, 1981).

Therefore, younger children who focus on visual stimuli are at a disadvantage when

open-ended recall measures are used. Previous research might yield different results for

young viewers' recall performance if these studies substitute recognition measures for

recall measures (Van Evra, 1998). Such findings were reported by Hayes and Kelly

(1984) when a recognition measure was used in place of a recall measure to assess

retention of visual material. Moreover, Cullingsford (1984) explained that recall, unlike

recognition, is a voluntary process. He suggested that children recognize a lot about

television because of repetition and familiarity, but they recall little.

Children and Advertising

Since the focus of this study is to determine the role of media literacy training in

children's understanding of persuasive messages (i.e., television advertisements), it is

necessary to discuss the literature relating to children and advertising. Although a review

of all the children and advertising literature is beyond the scope of this investigation, a

brief discussion of the relevant research on children and advertising follows.

Martin (1997) conducted a meta-analysis of children's understanding of the intent

of advertising and found several study characteristics that have produced varying results

in previous research. The meta-analysis examined studies that addressed these questions:

"What is a commercial?" and "Why is a commercial on television/What is a commercial

trying to do?" (Martin, 1997). Twenty-one articles met the criteria and were included in

the meta-analysis. Although most studies suggest a positive relationship between age and

children's understanding of the intent of advertising, it is not clear which factors impact

the strength of the relationship.

Young (1990) classified the research on children and advertising into two

categories with several subcategories:

1. Cognitive processes activated as a result of watching and listening to
a. attention to advertisements
b. ability to distinguish between advertising and programs
c. understanding of ad intent
d. interpretation of advertising content
e. memory for advertisements (recognition and recall, awareness of
f. other processes involved (cognitive mediators)
2. What the child does with the information processed
a. effect on knowledge, attitudes, and values
b. effect on other people (e.g., parents)
c. effect on choice/consumption behavior or other types of behavior (e.g.,
antisocial behavior) (cited in Martin, 1997, p. 206).

Young's (1990) breakdown of the children and advertising literature is useful

because it provides a clearer picture of the numerous areas of research that have been

explored. The present investigation is concerned with both categories set forth by

Young. The first category involves cognitive processing of messages. This study will

focus on the sub-categories of children's understanding of ad intent, their interpretation of

ad content, and other cognitive mediators (i.e., media literacy training). The second

category deals with what the child does with the processed information. The focus within

this category is the sub-category of effects on attitudes.

In her meta-analysis, Martin (1997) focused on the relationship between age and

understanding of ad intent and examined potential moderator effects. These moderator

effects included measurement of children's understanding of the intent of advertising,

type of intent assessed, type of ad exposure, publication year, and publication type. The

first three moderator effects are most relevant to the present study; publication year and

publication type will not be discussed.

Verbal assessments, including personal interviews (Macklin, 1983) and written

questionnaires (Boush, Friestad, & Rose, 1994), have been the primary means of

measuring children's understanding of advertising's intent (Martin, 1997). However,

there is some question about children's ability to articulate their understanding about ad

intent. This task may be too difficult for kids (Macklin, 1987). Other studies have

assessed children's understanding through nonverbal tasks, like pointing at pictures to

demonstrate understanding (Donohue, Henke, & Donohue, 1980; Kunkel, 1988; Macklin,

1987). Children's inability to articulate their understanding of ad intent has led to the

conclusion that they do not understand the intent of advertising intent. This is

problematic because they may understand but cannot explain it (Macklin, 1987).

In terms of understanding the intent of advertising, Martin's (1997) meta-analysis

revealed a significant difference between the effect size for verbal assessment and the

effect size for nonverbal assessment. Results indicate that it is problematic to draw

conclusions from the entire set of studies because several study characteristics, especially

differences in methods, moderate the relationship between age and understanding of ad

intent (Martin, 1997). The findings suggest nonverbal assessments tend to be more

appropriate for younger children than verbal assessments. Nonverbal measures appear to

reveal understanding of ad intent that was previously undetected (Martin, 1997).

According to Martin (1997), the literature distinguishes between an informational

function of advertising and a persuasive function. The informational function simply lets

the audience know the products are available in the store (Macklin, 1987). The

persuasive function is more complex and requires an understanding of four attributes.

Audience members must 1) understand the message source has other interests and

perspectives; 2) realize the source intends to persuade; 3) understand persuasive

messages are biased; and 4) realize biased messages must be interpreted differently than

informational messages (Macklin, 1987; Roberts, 1982). Robertson and Rossiter (1974)

made similar distinctions. They suggested there are two types ofattributional intent: 1)

assistive (i.e., ads inform us) and 2) persuasive (ads encourage us to buy products). Other

types of intent identified by Blosser and Roberts (1985) are the intent to inform, teach,

entertain, sell, and persuade.

Despite the differences put forth by Blosser and Roberts (1985), Martin (1997)

found that much of the literature equated selling intent with persuasive intent. She noted

that little empirical evidence exists to support differences between informational intent

and persuasive intent. Her meta-analysis focused on the distinctions between

persuasive/selling intent and informational/assistive intent (Martin, 1997).

Results indicate a significant difference in effects sizes for persuasive/selling

intent and informational/assistive intent. Martin (1997) suggests that across age groups,

children tend to understand the informational/assistive intent of advertising better.

Robertson and Rossiter (1974) explained that "persuasive intent, as would be clearly

surmised, is a higher order of attributional sophistication and is dependent upon

maturational development and, by implication, cumulative exposure to television

commercials" (p. 17). It is clear that children, even young ones, better understand the

informational concept that commercials tell them about things, and their ability to

comprehend the persuasive concept of advertising depends on their age (Martin, 1997).

Type of ad exposure has varied among the studies measuring children's

understanding of the intent of advertising. Some studies (e.g., Ward, Wackman, &

Wartella, 1975, 1977) do not expose children to commercials or programming. They

simply ask general questions about children's understanding of ad intent via surveys or

personal interviews. Other studies (e.g., Rubin, 1974) have exposed children to a series

of commercials only or to commercials and other programming. Still others (e.g., Stutts,

Vance, & Hudleson, 1981) exposed children to commercials imbedded in other types of

programming. Martin (1997) suggests that "the type of ad exposure (i.e., "no ad," "ad

only," or "ad mixed"--advertisements and other types of programming) may moderate the

strength of the relationship between age and understanding of ad intent" (p. 207). Seeing

an advertisement may help subjects explain more clearly the intent of advertising than not

seeing an ad. Moreover, seeing an ad in an unnatural setting with few distractions may

cue subjects to the ad's informative or persuasive intent. Meta-analysis results indicate

that type of exposure before measurement of understanding of ad intent does, indeed,

affect the level of understanding shown by children (Martin, 1997).

According to Martin (1997), further research must explore children's

understanding of the distinction between informational/assistive intent and

persuasive/selling intent. Martin argues that conceptually the two types of intent lie on a

continuum, with informational intent requiring a lower level of understanding and

persuasive intent requiring a higher level of understanding. Her meta-analysis reveals

that the research has not treated them as such (Martin, 1997). Roberts (1982) argued that

children's understanding of advertising intent is based on their perspective. If they

approach advertising from the consumer's perspective, then they see its intent as

informational (i.e., show products that are available for purchase). If they approach

advertising from the advertiser's perspective, then they understand advertising is a way to

persuade the audience to buy products so the advertiser can make a profit (Martin, 1997).

Martin (1997) also argued for further development of reliable nonverbal measures

to assess children's (especially younger children's) understanding of ad intent. Macklin

(1987) questioned those studies (Donohue et al., 1980; Macklin, 1985) that claimed to

measure persuasive/selling intent via nonverbal measures. Asking kids to point to what

the Trix Rabbit wants them to do may not accurately assess their understanding of

advertising's selling intent (Macklin, 1987). Martin (1997) suggested that researchers

"...continue to develop nonverbal measures with the goals of determining whether these

tasks are ascertaining informational/assistive intent, persuasive/selling intent, or some

other type of information, and the extent to which the results are affected by the nature of

the task" (p. 214). Furthermore, additional verbal assessment measures should be

developed (Martin, 1997).

Attitude Toward Advertisements

While the focus of this investigation is to determine changes in attitude toward

selected, high-involvement products, it is also necessary to understand that subjects may

develop an attitude toward the actual advertisement that could influence their attitudes

toward the products. Therefore, it is useful to examine briefly some of the work that has

been done in the area of attitude towards advertisements (Haley & Baldinger, 1991;

Holbrook, 1978; Mitchell & Olson, 1981; Shimp, 1981).

A Meta-Analvsis

In their meta-analysis ofpairwise relationships involving attitude toward

advertisements, Brown and Stayman (1992) found that a number of methodological

variables moderate the strength of relationships among the research studies focusing on

ad attitudes. Results also provided support for the indirect influence of ad attitudes on

brand attitudes via brand cognitions (Brown & Stayman, 1992).

This meta-analysis offered several insights into the effects of ad attitudes. The

aggregated study effects showed a significant relationship between ad attitudes and

constructs such as feelings, ad-related cognitions, brand-related cognitions, brand

attitude, and purchase intentions. A notable result was that even in studies where ad

attitude was not the central focus, relationships involving ad attitudes remained strong.

Thus, ad attitude plays an important role in explaining advertising effects (Brown &

Stayman, 1992).

Brown and Stayman's (1992) study also supported the dual mediation model (Lutz

et al., 1983), "which posits a direct effect of ad attitude on brand attitude as well as an

indirect effect via brand cognitions" (p. 46). However, the results suggest the indirect

path may be more important than previously thought (Brown & Stayman, 1992).

Moderator analyses yielded useful findings. Although Peter and Churchill (1986)

suggest that multiple-item scales should be more reliable for measuring ad attitude.

results indicated that multi- versus single-item scales had little effect on average

correlations. Significance was found only for ad attitude and brand attitude relationships.

Additionally, student samples were found to produce large effects sizes, especially

between ad attitude and feelings and ad-related cognitions. This possible upward bias in

effects sizes led the authors to caution against generalization to other populations (Brown

& Stayman, 1992).

Product-related moderator variables affected ad attitude relationships in different

ways. Use of novel brands in studies tended to produce stronger relationships between ad

attitude and brand attitude and purchase intentions. Familiar brands tend to weaken the

impact ad attitudes can have on such outcomes (Brown & Stayman, 1992).

Stronger relationships existed between ad attitudes and feelings and ad attitude

and brand cognitions when products other than consumer nondurables were used in the

studies. The authors suggested that increased involvement with services and higher-

priced durable products (e.g., automobile, and refrigerator) might account for the stronger

relationship. Brown and Stayman (1992) concluded that mixing product types within

studies might help reduce biasing effects of product type and allow for more accurate


Other moderator variables that affected ad attitude relationships included

subjects' processing goals (i.e., advertising medium, whether ads were imbedded in other

material, and whether subjects were instructed to attend to the ad). "As expected, these

variables had different effects on the feelings and ad attitude relationship than they had

on the cognitive and behavioral outcomes of ad attitudes" (Brown & Stayman, 1992, p.

47). Increased cognitive elaboration, which typically occurs with print ads, the

nonimbedded ad, and instructions to pay attention to the ad, resulted in smaller effects of

feelings on ad attitude. However, such conditions produced "higher correlations between

ad attitudes and the downstream constructs of brand cognitions, brand attitudes, and

purchase intentions" (Brown & Stayman, 1992, p. 47). Such findings support earlier

results (Madden, Allen, & Twible, 1988) and "strongly suggest that processing goals that

enhance cognitive responses may inhibit affective responses" (Brown & Stayman, 1992,

p. 47).

A test of study design as a moderator of ad attitude relationships yielded

significant findings. Significantly larger effects sizes for the ad attitude and brand

attitude relationship were produced by within-subjects designs. Substantially large

effects sizes were also found for the ad attitude and purchase intention relationship. The

within-subjects design produced the opposite effect on the ad attitude and feelings

relationship (Brown & Stayman, 1992).

The authors concluded that strong relationships exist between ad attitude and

other variables; however, these relationships vary according to several methodological

factors (i.e., subjects' processing goals, product-related variables, study design).

Furthermore, ad attitude influences advertising effectiveness via paths, especially the

indirect path, set forth in the dual mediation model (Brown & Stayman, 1992).

Affective Reactions on Attitudes Toward the Advertisement

Brown and Stayman's (1992) meta-analysis offered considerable support for the

notion that attitude toward the ad is a predictor of brand attitude. However, the stream of

research examined in the meta-analysis dealt mainly with evaluative judgments. Other

researchers have examined the significant contribution of affective responses on ad

attitudes. Batra and Ray (1986) were one of the firsts to report the influence of affective

responses on ad attitudes. Stayman and Aaker (1988) demonstrated that the affective

responses of warmth, amusement, and irritation could affect attitude toward the brand

without affecting ad attitudes. Edell and Burke (1987) reported that feelings created by

the actual advertisement are, by themselves, useful in explaining advertising effects.

Such affective reactions are more than an additional measure of subjects' evaluation of

advertisements. According to Edell and Burke (1987), when semantic judgment scales

(evaluation, activity, gentleness) were combined with feelings (upbeat, negative, warm)

in a regression analysis, results indicated a unique contribution of feelings to ad attitude,

brand attitude, and beliefs about the brand attitudes. Burke and Edell (1989) noted the

importance of feelings on ad-based affect and cognition. They examined the

relationships among feelings elicited by "new television ads for unfamiliar products,

judgments of the ads' characteristics, brand attribute evaluations, attitude toward the ad,

and attitude toward the brand in a simultaneous equation model" (Burke & Edell, 1989, p.

69). Findings indicated that feelings directly and indirectly affect ad and brand attitudes

(Burke & Edell, 1989). While the aforementioned studies (Batra & Ray, 1986; Edell &

Burke, 1987; Stayman & Aaker, 1988), used laboratory settings and verbal measures to

assess the impact of affective reactions on attitudes toward the ad and the brand, Derbaix

(1995) used more natural settings and included facial expression measures.

Derbaix (1995) investigated the impact of affective reactions produced by

television advertisements on the following variables: attitude toward the advertisement

and postexposure brand attitude. The study was conducted in a natural setting (waiting

room) using a real program and real commercials for known and unknown brands.

Affective reactions were measured through facial expressions and traditional verbal

measures. Verbal measures indicate that affective responses contribute to ad attitude and

postexposure brand attitude, but facial measures do not. Findings show that unfamiliar

brands are more influenced by verbal affective reactions generated by the advertisement.

The author concludes that the nonverbal measure of affective reactions (facial

expressions) is a poor indicator of the impact of affective reactions on ad attitude and

postexposure brand attitude. The results indicate that verbal measures are better

indicators of the influence of affective reactions. Furthermore, the contribution of verbal

affective responses to ad attitude and postexposure brand attitude is greater for unfamiliar

brands than familiar ones (Derbaix, 1995).

Research Questions

This study explores the effects of media literacy training on children's attitudes

toward specified products within the framework of the Elaboration Likelihood Model

(ELM) of persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986a; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986b) in order to

understand better the effectiveness of media literacy training on children's attitudes

toward persuasive messages. The catalyst of this empirical investigation is the question:

"What are the effects of media literacy training on children's attitudes toward persuasive

messages?" While this question serves as a focus for the study, the following research

questions guide this empirical investigation.

1) Does media literacy training increase the likelihood of persuasion via the

central route?

2) What role does media literacy training play in influencing children's attitude

toward a product of high personal relevance?

The Hypotheses

The proposed hypotheses are based on the research questions above and the

relevant literature. The first two hypotheses deal with the ELM as a whole. They suggest

that media literacy training plays a moderating role in the persuasion process. The

hypotheses are grounded in previous research by Petty and his colleagues.

In general, we suspect that any variable that increases the likelihood that people
will be motivated and able to engage in the difficult task of evaluating the
message arguments increases the likelihood of the central route to persuasion. On
the other hand, any variable that reduces a person's motivation and/or ability to
think about the message content would make the peripheral route more likely.
(Petty et al., 1981a, p. 854)

To test the effectiveness of media literacy training to increase the likelihood of

children following the central route to persuasion for an advertised product the following

hypotheses are advanced.

HI: Media literacy training will increase the likelihood of children following the

central route to persuasion for an advertised product.

H2: No media literacy training will increase the likelihood of children following

the peripheral route to persuasion for an advertised product.

Four additional hypotheses are advanced to test the effectiveness of media literacy

training on changing children's attitude toward a particular advertised product that is of

great personal relevance.

H3: Media literacy training, as compared to no training, will yield greater

positive changes in children's attitude toward an advertised product when many strong

arguments are used.

H4: Media literacy training, as compared to no training, will yield greater

positive changes in children's attitude toward an advertised product when few strong

arguments are used.

H5: Media literacy training, as compared to no training, will yield greater

negative changes in children's attitude toward an advertised product when many weak

arguments are used.

H6: Media literacy training, as compared to no training, will yield greater

negative changes in children's attitude toward an advertised product when few weak

arguments are used.


An Overview

A 2 (argument quality) x 2 (number of arguments) x 2 (media literacy training)

posttest-only between-subjects experimental design with random assignment was used to

test the moderating role of media literacy training on children's attitude toward an

advertised product within the framework of the ELM. The central focus of the

experiment was to assess if media literacy training influences the process by which

children's attitudes toward products are changed.

As discussed in Chapter 1, few studies have tested the effectiveness of media

literacy training empirically; although several researchers have suggested media literacy

training will improve students' evaluation of media messages (Considine, 1990; Duncan,

1989; Kahn & Master, 1992; Melamed, 1989; Wulfemeyer et al., 1990). Recent research

by Austin and Johnson (1997a, 1997b) empirically tested the immediate and delayed

effectiveness of general and specific media literacy training on children's decision-

making processes about alcohol. Austin and Johnson used a Solomon 4-group

experimental design in both studies to test their hypotheses. Results indicated that

children's understanding of persuasive content is a key variable in the decision-making

process. In their studies, media literacy training was identified as an effective means of

improving children's understanding of persuasive media content.


Subjects were recruited for the experiment from fourth and fifth grade classes at

Statham Elementary School in Statham, Georgia. Parental consent forms (see Appendix

A for the informed consent form) were sent home with every child in the fourth and fifth

grades. As an incentive, all students who returned their consent form were eligible for a

gift certificate drawing. A drawing for each grade awarded local mall gift certificates of

$25, $15, and $10. Additionally, the class in each grade that returned the most parental

consent forms was awarded an ice cream party. Furthermore, a substantial monetary

donation for instructional materials was made to the school principal and distributed

evenly among the fourth and fifth grade teachers.

The total number of subjects that participated in the experiment was 148. Fourth

grade subjects were tested on December 1, 1999 and fifth grade subjects on December 2,



The same procedure was followed on both days of testing. Students numbered off

by twos in their homeroom class. All "ones" remained in their homerooms and viewed a

videotaped broadcast of "Bill Nye the Science Guy" and discussed the content of the

program on caves (see Appendix B for the control group discussion guide). All "twos"

gathered in a separate room and were taught a media literacy training lesson (see

Appendix C for the lesson script) by the experimenter. After the discussion and lesson

were completed, students were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Each student

was handed an index card with a number that had been generated from a random numbers

table. Each card also had a teacher's name. Students were instructed to go to the

appropriate teacher's classroom5. Students viewed one of four versions of a Pringles

Potato Chips commercial (discussed below) twice in their respective classroom.

Afterwards, students filled out a colored, 12-page questionnaire6 (see Appendix D for the

questionnaire) that was read out loud by the teacher. At the top of each page subjects

were given brief instructions on how to complete the items on the page. At the bottom of

each page, subjects were instructed to turn to the next page when they were told to do so.

The first page, which included basic demographic questions, instructed students that they

would be asked questions about the commercial they just saw. They were instructed to

respond as best that they could. The second page asked students to list their thoughts

about the commercial and then go back and rate those thoughts as positive or negative.

The third page asked students to list the arguments they recalled in the commercial. The

fourth and fifth pages included measures of attitude toward the product and attitude

toward the ad, respectively. Pages six and seven included items that measured subjects'

attitude toward television advertising in general. Items on pages eight and nine served as

manipulation checks for the media literacy training lesson while pages 10 and 11 asked

questions about peripheral cues contained in the commercial. The final page served as a

measure of the overall persuasiveness of the commercial. The last question on page 12,

which asked if subjects had seen the "Bill Nye the Science Guy" video, served to double-

s There were only two rooms available for use when the fifth grade students were tested. Therefore, each
student was sent to one of two rooms. Once in the room, approximately half of the students were sent
outside while one version of the Pringles Potato Chips commercial aired. The students in the classroom
were then instructed to go outside while the other students returned to view another version of the Pringles
commercial. All students reconvened in the appropriate classroom to fill-out the questionnaire. Colored
questionnaires were used to ensure that the version of the commercial corresponded with the teacher's
name and number on students' index cards.

6 Colored questionnaires corresponded with level of argument quality and number of arguments in each
commercial as well as whether subjects were in the control or experimental group.

check that subjects were filling out the appropriate questionnaire. After all items were

completed, subjects placed the index card they had received inside their questionnaire

and the teacher collected them. Students were debriefed and thanked for their

participation in the study.

Product of Interest

A pretest was conducted to identify the product of interest to be used in the

experiment (see Appendix E for the product of interest pretest). A product that generated

moderate attitudes but was high in personal relevance was desired7. Eighteen subjects

aged 8-12 years old were administered a 23-page questionnaire that asked them to rate 21

consumer products. The first and second pages, respectively, asked for demographic

information and provided examples of how to complete the form. The same 12 items

were asked about all 21 products. The first six items represented an attitude toward the

product scale developed by Stayman and Batra (1991)8. The scale was highly reliable,

with a Cronbach's alpha of.98. The final six items represented the General Scale to

Measure Involvement (GSMI), which was developed by Traylor and Joseph(1984)9. The

GSMI was highly reliable as well (a = .88). Subject responses were analyzed and potato

chips were identified as a product that elicited moderate attitudes but high involvement.

Therefore, a potato chips commercial was sought.

T he ELM purports that subjects who have the motivation and ability to scrutinize a message will be more
likely to follow the central route to persuasion. Therefore, a product of high personal relevance ensures
subjects are motivated to process a message about the product. It is predicted that media literacy training
will produce the ability necessary to follow the central route. Subjects must have moderate attitudes so that
their attitudes can change either positively or negatively. Initial strong positive or strong negative attitudes
will produce an unwanted ceiling effect.

8 Stayman and Batra (1991) reported a Cronbach's alpha of.96.

9 Traylor and Joseph (1984) reported a Cronbach's alpha of.92.

The Commercial

Several commercials were reviewed and a nationally broadcast Pringles Potato

Chips commercial with a music bed and without voice-over10 was identified for use in the

experiment. The commercial shows young children" (approximately 8-12 years old) in

several scenarios enjoying Pringles Potato Chips. The theme of the commercial is "Once

you pop, the fun don't stop." The music bed plays throughout the 30-second commercial

with the lyrics "I want Pringles" repeating.

To test the proposed hypotheses, four different voice-overs (see below) were

written and added to the Pringles commercial. The four versions represented various

levels of argument quality and number of arguments consistent with previous research by

Petty and Cacioppo (1986).

The original copy of the commercial was taped off-air on high quality videotape.

The experimenter recorded the voice-overs in a sound studio at the University of Florida

and edited them on professional editing equipment'2. Copies shown to subjects were of

high audiovisual quality.


The hypotheses suggested the need for eight experimental groups. Subjects either

received media literacy training or watched the control video about caves. Subjects in

both the control and experimental groups viewed one of the four versions of the Pringles

Potato Chips commercial. The four versions of the commercial were 1) strong argument

10 A voice-over free commercial was necessary to effectively manipulate argument quality and number of

' There were approximately 16 males and 14 females depicted in the commercial. The racially diverse
characters (African American, Asian, and Caucasian) were seen in various costumes including a.caveman,
pirate, deserted islander, and astronaut.

quality x high number of arguments; 2) strong argument quality x low number of

arguments; 3) weak argument quality x high number of arguments; and 4) weak argument

quality x low number of arguments. Therefore, the study used a 2 (strong vs. weak

argument quality) x 2 (high vs. low number of arguments) x 2 (control vs. experimental

group) between-subjects factorial design (see Figure 3.1).

No media literacy training Media literacy training

Few arguments

Many arguments

Figure 3.1. Graphic representation of 2 X 2 X 2 factorial experimental design.

To ensure that the experimental manipulations were responsible for differences

among groups, the groups had to be equivalent prior to the experiment. Random

assignment to one of the four groups was employed to be able to infer treatment-caused

changes in this study. According to Campbell and Stanley (1963), randomization is vital

to equate control and experimental groups or several treatment groups. Randomization

can rule out dangerous threats to internal validity, including testing, instrumentation,

regression, and the interaction of selection and maturation. Furthermore, it creates

conditions appropriate for analysis in the most common statistical models. However,

Cook and Campbell (1979) warn that randomization does not cure all threats to validity.

12 The experimenter has appeared in and voiced-over several television commercials and teaches courses in
television production.

Despite acknowledged limitations, random assignment to groups was considered the best

available method to test the hypotheses in this study. Therefore, as noted above, subjects

randomly numbered off by twos for inclusion in either the control or experimental

groups. From these groups, subjects were assigned to the four groups representing the

levels of argument quality and number of arguments using a random numbers table.

Operational Definitions of Key Variables

Based on the literature review, the moderating role of media literacy training on

the persuasive impact of advertisements was tested utilizing the following variables. The

independent, manipulated variables were argument quality, number of arguments, and

media literacy training. The dependent variables were active cognitive processing as

measured by favorable and unfavorable thoughts, attitude toward the product, attitude

toward the advertisement, attitude toward television advertising in general, and attention

to peripheral cues (see Table 3.1).

Table 3.1. Independent and dependent variables within the study.

Independent Variables Dependent Variables
1) Argument quality 1) Active cognitive processing
2) Number of arguments a) Favorable thoughts
3) Media literacy training b) Unfavorable thoughts
2) Attitude toward product
3) Attitude toward advertisement
4) Attitude toward TV advertising
5) Attention to peripheral cues

Independent Variables

To test whether subjects are following the central or peripheral route to

persuasion, argument quality and number of arguments within a selected commercial

advertisement were manipulated. A discussion of how the arguments were manipulated


Argument Quality

Manipulation of argument quality. Argument quality was operationalized as

either a strong argument or a weak argument. Petty and Cacioppo (1981a. 1986b)

explain that when individuals rate the quality of the same argument there will always be

some differences. However, the key to testing hypotheses within the framework of the

ELM is to develop arguments that the majority of a particular population considers strong

or weak. Following the steps suggested by Petty and Cacioppo (1981a, 1986b), this

study generated "strong" and "weak" arguments for use in the Pringles Potato Chips


Pilot-testing arguments. Based on previous research by Petty and Cacioppo

(1986b), the researcher generated a series of 26 arguments that were perceived to be

either strong or weak statements about Pringles Potato Chips. A group of subjects similar

to those who would be used in the actual experiment were asked to rate the arguments in

a pilot test. Subjects were asked to rate the persuasiveness of each statement by

responding to a four-item semantic differential scale (see Appendix F for the pilot-test

questionnaire). Semantic differentials are common measures of peoples' attitudes

(Osgood, 1965). To measure the quality of arguments, subjects were asked to rate each

statement (on a seven-point scale'3) on four dimensions14: Don't want it/Want it; Doesn't

make sense/Makes sense; Not believable/Believable; Weak/Strong.15

Twenty-nine subjects participated in the argument quality-rating test. Subjects

ranged in age from 10-11 years old, 48 percent were male and 52 percent were female.

The mean score was calculated by averaging responses on the four dimensions used to

rate each argument. The median score was 4.75 with means ranging from 1 to 7. The

lowest eight means were identified as weak arguments while the highest eight means

were selected as strong arguments. To assess whether the strongest and weakest

arguments were significantly different from one another, a multiple analysis of variance

(MANOVA) was conducted. Results indicated a significant difference among means (F

(7, 161) = 5.86, p <.000). Pairwise comparisons identified the weak argument seven (M

= 4.35) as significantly different from strong argument seven (M = 3.80), but in the

opposite direction. Weak argument eight (M = 5.13) and strong argument eight (M =

5.14) were not significantly different. Therefore, only six weak and six strong arguments

were used to develop voice-over copy for the Pringles Potato Chips commercial.

Persuasiveness of commercial. For the sake of general curiosity and potential

comparison, the persuasiveness of each commercial version was assessed using the same

" Subjects were instructed that numbers I and 7, each closet to one of the words in the adjective pair,
represented a very strong feeling on the negative (bad) side and positive (good) side, respectively.
Numbers 2 and 6 indicated strong feelings on the negative and positive side, respectively. Numbers 3 and
5 indicated fairly weak feelings on the negative and positive side, respectively, and number 4 represented
an undecided view of the dimension.

4 The wording of two of the dimensions was changed in order to make the language more age-appropriate.
Instead of Unconvincing/Convincing the terms Don't want it/Want it were used, and the terms Doesn't
make sense/Makes sense replaced Irrational/Rational.

" After testing for persuasiveness, Petty and Cacioppo (1986b) suggest testing for believability with
another panel of subjects in order to develop strong and weak arguments "that do not strain credulity" (p.
134). However, due to a limited number of subjects, the believability and persuasiveness dimensions were
tested at the same time.

four-item semantic differential scale used in the pilot-test for argument quality (see page

12 of the questionnaire in Appendix D). This measure focused on the overall perceived

persuasiveness of the commercial rather than the level of quality of each individual


Number of Arguments

Using the theme of the Pringles Potato Chips commercial ("Once you pop, the fun

don't stop") and the pilot-test of argument quality, four voice-overs were written. Petty

and Cacioppo (1986b) suggest that number of arguments can be used as a peripheral cue

to persuasion. They distinguish between a high number of arguments (6-8) and a low

number of arguments (1-3) (Petty & Cacioppo, 1984). Therefore, six arguments were

used to represent a high number and two arguments represented a low number.

Manipulation check for number of arguments. Two items served as a

manipulation check for the number of arguments in each version of the Pringles

commercial. The first item asked if the commercial presented many arguments and the

second item asked if the commercial presented few arguments for eating Pringles Potato


Commercial voice-over copy. The four voice-overs are as follows:

Strong argument quality x high number of arguments: Once you pop, you can't

stop! That's because Pringles Potato Chips taste great. They're so delicious, and

they crunch when you munch. Pringles are less greasy than other chips, and

they're packed in airtight cans for freshness. With a unique shape and great taste,

you and your friends will love Pringles. Pop open a can of Pringles today. Once

you pop, the fun don't stop!

Strong argument quality x low number of arguments: Once you pop. the fun

won't stop! That's what happens when you pop open a can ofPringles Potato

Chips. Pringles are really great snacks. They're less greasy than other chips, and

they're packed in airtight cans for freshness. Pop open a can ofPringles today.

Once you pop, the fun don't stop!

Weak argument quality x high number of arguments: Once you pop you can't

stop! That's because Pringles Potato Chips are good for you. They're really

healthy snacks. Pringles have less fat and more vitamins and minerals than other

snacks. Pringles are fun to eat because they stay in one piece. They don't break

like bags of chips. Pop open a can of Pringles today. Once you pop, the fun don't


Weak argument quality x low number of arguments: Once you pop, the fun won't

stop! That's what happens when you pop open a can of Pringles Potato Chips.

Pringles are really great snacks. And, they're even good for you. Plus, Pringles

are fun to eat because they stay in one piece. Pop open a can ofPringles today.

Once you pop, the fun don't stop!

Message recall. As a manipulation check on message recall, subjects were asked

to write down as many arguments or claims that they could remember from the Pringles

Potato Chips commercial they saw. Subjects were given three minutes to complete the

task. Twelve six-inch by one-half inch boxes were provided for their responses. Three

independent coders coded responses for accuracy. Inter-coder reliability was high (a =

.94). Recall items were coded as correct (1) if they appeared in the appropriate

corresponding voice-over copy. All other items were coded as incorrect (0). Summing

the number of correct responses produced an overall argument recall score.

As a manipulation check, two items asked about the number of arguments in the

Pringles commercial. One item asked if the commercial presented a lot of reasons for

eating Pringles, while the other asked if the commercial presented few reasons for eating

Pringles. Responses were on a seven-point Likert-type scale (disagree/agree).

Media Literacy Training Lesson

For the purposes of this study, media literacy training was operationalized (see

Appendix C) as a 50-60 minute lecture and discussion about the persuasive techniques

used by advertisers to sell products and how to detect strong and weak arguments in

commercials. The learning objectives of the lesson were designed so that 1) students will

be able to identify persuasive techniques used by advertisers and 2) students will be able

to distinguish between strong and weak arguments in commercials. The experimenter

introduced various media literacy principles by showing video clips from Consumer

Reports' Buy Me That! series and selected broadcast commercials. The three half-hour

Buy Me That! programs, which were produced for children (ages 4 to 12, specifically)

and their families, focus on the sophisticated and sometimes deceptive techniques used

by television advertisers to persuade children to buy or ask for certain brands of products.

These programs provide parents and children with helpful hints for managing the sales

pitch (Consumers Union of United States, 1989). Austin and Johnson (1997a; 1997b)

used the first of these videos in their experiments to assess the effectiveness of media

literacy training on children's decision-making about alcohol. The selected broadcast

commercials were used to reinforce and help the subjects apply the principles introduced

in the Buy Me That! videos. Seventy-three of the subjects were exposed to the 50-60

minute media literacy training session while the other 75 subjects watched an episode of

"Bill Nye the Science Guy" on caves and engaged in a discussion about the program


Subject Variables

According to the ELM, in order for an individual to follow the central route to

persuasion, the person must be motivated to process a message and have the ability to do

so (Petty & Priester, 1994). By design, all subjects were to have a high level of

motivation. Subjects' ability to process the message depended upon their level of

exposure to media literacy training.

Motivation to process a message was operationalized as high involvement with

Pringles Potato Chips. Subjects had a high level of motivation to process a message

because of the personal relevance of Pringles Potato Chips, which were used in the

experiment. As noted above, personal relevance was measured using an adaptation of the

General Scale to Measure Involvement with Products (GSMI) developed by Traylor and

Joseph (1984). "The GSMI is a six-item scale composed of Likert statements scored on a

seven-point basis (disagree-agree)" (Bearden, Netemeyer, & Mobley, 1993, p. 141). The

scale is applicable to a varying range of products and is unidimensional. Summing the

scores of each item produces an overall GSMI score (Bearden et al., 1993). The six

items, with a slight modification to item one'6, are as follows: 1) When other people see

me using this product, they think of me in a certain way; 2) You can tell a lot about a

person by seeing what brand of this product he uses; 3) This product helps me express

16 The original item was "When other people see me using this product, they form an opinion of me."

who I am; 4) This product is "me"; 5) Seeing somebody else use this product tells me a

lot about that person; and 6) When I use this product, others see me the way I want them

to see me.

Ability to process a message was operationalized as media literacy training or lack

thereof. Level of subject ability was established by whether or not they received training.

Subjects were asked questions on the posttest about their media literacy training as a

manipulation check. The manipulation check included a series of seven-point

(disagree/agree) Likert-scale statements that assessed subjects' recall of the material

presented during the media literacy lesson. The first eight items dealt with topics like

persuasive tactics, editing, camera angles, humor, color, strength of claims, attractiveness

of actors/performers, and identification with actors/performers. The latter eight items

were techniques'7 potentially used by advertisers to convince consumers to buy products.

Subjects were asked to indicate which methods they believed were used by advertisers.

Three bogus items were included to clearly distinguish lesson content from irrelevant

information. 1 The scale was not previously tested.

Dependent Variables

Active cognitive processing was operationalized as favorable and unfavorable

thoughts elicited through the thought-listing technique (Cacioppo & Petty, 1981).

Twelve six-inch by one-half inch boxes were provided for subjects to write down all of

their thoughts during the commercial. They were given three minutes to complete the

task. Afterward, subjects were asked to rate their thoughts as good, bad, or not sure by

" The eight items included quick cuts, bad language, catchy music, ugly people, humor, arguments, mad
people, and famous people.

" The bogus items were bad language, ugly people, and mad people.

circling "G." "B," or "NS" in the boxes where they had written their thoughts. Research

on attitude change suggests there are three dimensions that characterize the classification

of responses (Cacioppo & Petty, 1981). The polarity dimension, which is comprised of

favorable, unfavorable, or neutral/irrelevant thoughts, was used in this experiment. Three

independent coders who were blind to the experimental conditions coded the thought-

listings. Coders identified subjects' thoughts as favorable (1), unfavorable (-1), or

neutral/irrelevant (0) based on the descriptions below. Coders had a high reliability (a =

.94)9. Disagreements were resolved through discussion and majority vote. An overall

attitude score was achieved by summing coded responses.

Favorable thoughts are statements that mention specific desirable attributes or

positive associations, statements that support the validity or value of the stimulus

(Pringles Potato Chips commercial), and statements of positive affect about the product

and/or commercial. Example of favorable thoughts include, "I want some," "I am

hungry," and I was thinking how good Pringles are." Favorable thoughts could not be

mere recall items. There should be evidence of a positive disposition toward Pringles

Potato Chips and/or the commercial for Pringles (Cacioppo & Petty, 1981).

Unfavorable thoughts are statements that mention specific undesirable attributes

or negative associations, challenges to the validity of the stimulus (Pringles Potato Chips

commercial), and statements of negative affect about the product and/or commercial.

Examples of unfavorable thoughts include, "It was weird," "They are not healthy," and

"Pringles are not the best." Thoughts could not be mere recall items. There should be

Interestingly, when student ratings of their thoughts were included in the reliability analysis Crobach's
alpha remained high (a =.86).

evidence of a negative disposition toward Pringles Potato Chips and/or the commercial

for Pringles (Cacioppo & Petty, 1981).

Neutral/Irrelevant thoughts are statements that express no affect with regards to

the stimulus (Pringles Potato Chips commercial). Examples of neutral thoughts include

"My cat," "My mom is getting married," "Dancing," and "Pirates." Neutral thoughts

include recall items and items that show no evidence of a positive or negative disposition

toward Pringles Potato Chips and/or the commercial for Pringles (Cacioppo & Petty.


Attitude toward the product was measured by a 10-item, seven-point semantic

differential scale. The scale is a combination of hedonic and utilitarian items used by

Stayman and Batra (1991) to produce an overall measure of brand attitude. Stayman and

Batra (1991) reported Cronbach alphas of .90 and .94 for an eight-item and ten-item

version of the scale, respectively. Sample items included bad/good,

unfavorable/favorable, disagreeable/agreeable, unpleasant/pleasant, negative/positive,

dislike/like, useless/useful, not beneficial/beneficial, low quality/high quality, and


Attitude toward the advertisement was measured by a 13-item, Likert-type scale.

Several researchers have used varying versions of the scale to measure consumers'

attitude toward an advertisement20 (Burke & Edell, 1989; Edell & Burke, 1987; Wells,

Leavitt, & McConville, 1971; Zinkhan, Locander, & Leigh, 1986). Previous

administrations of the scale used 14 items21 and asked subjects to indicate how well a list

20 Previous reliability analyses resulted in alphas of.89 and .95.

2 Informal testing revealed subjects did not comprehend the term "valuable" well enough to include it in
the scale. Therefore, the scale was reduced from 14 items to 13.

of words describes the advertisement they are exposed to by placing a number next to the

word. For example, if a subject believes a word describes the ad extremely well, he/she

places a "5" next to the word. If the word does not describe the ad at all well, the subject

places a "1" next to the word. However, the format was changed to make it consistent

with the other scales used to measure attitude toward advertising in general. The list of

items included (1) Not believable/Believable; (2) Not for me/For me; (3) Not

informative/Informative; (4) Not interesting/Interesting; (5) Irritating/Not irritating; (6)

Not meaningful/Meaningful to me; (7) Phony/Not phony; (8) Ridiculous/Not ridiculous;

(9) Terrible/Not terrible; (10) Not worth remembering/Worth remembering; (11) Did not

like ad/Liked ad; (12) Did not enjoy ad/Enjoyed ad; and (13) Did not find ad to be

good/Found ad to be good.

Attitude toward advertising in general was measured by a compilation of three

scales developed by Alwitt and Prabhaker (1992) that have been used to measure beliefs

and perceptions about television advertising. The language used in the items was adapted

so that it was appropriate for the age of the subjects.

Perceptions of the personal and social benefits or costs of TV advertising22 were

measured by the first set of items.23 The list included: (1) TV advertising is a good way

to learn about what products and services are available; (2) TV advertising results in

better products for you and your family24; (3) in general, TV advertising presents a true

picture of the product advertised; (4) you can trust product brands advertised on TV more

22 Alwitt and Prabhaker (1992) reported a Cronbach's alpha of.86.
23 The original scale included 10-items, but this item, "TV advertising helps raise our standard of living,"
was eliminated because it was determined subjects would not comprehend "standard of living."
24 The original item was "TV advertising results in better products for the public."

than product brands not advertised on TV25; (5) TV advertisements help me find products

that match my personality and interest; (6) TV advertising helps me know which product

brands have the qualities or features I am looking for26; (7) TV advertising gives me a

good idea about products by showing the kinds of people who use them; (8) TV

advertising helps me buy the best product for the price2; and (9) I am willing to pay

more for a product that is advertised on TV.

The second set of items measured perceptions that TV advertising does not offer

information.28 Alwitt and Prabhaker's (1992) scale included the following items: (1)

most TV ads today are not about products themselves, but just make me feel a certain

way (e.g., happy, excited, good)29; (2) today's TV ads don't give you as much

information as they could30; and (3) today's TV ads tell you more about the people who

use a product than about what the product does for you.31

The third and final set of items focused on perceptions that TV advertising is

deceptive.32 The four items included: (1) most TV ads try to work on (affect) people's

emotions (feelings)33; (2) there is a critical need for more truth in today's TV advertising;

25 The original item was "You can trust brands advertised on TV more than brands not advertised on TV."

26 The original item was "TV advertising helps me know which brands have the features I am looking for."

27 The original item was "TV advertising helps me buy the best brand for the price."

28 Alwitt and Prabhaker (1992) reported a Cronbach's alpha of.61.

29 The original item was "Most TV ads today are not about products themselves, but just create a mood."

'0 The original item was "Today TV ads don't give you as much information as they used to."

31 The original item was "Today's TV ads tell you more about the people who use a brand than about what
the brand does for you."

3 Alwitt and Prabhaker (1992) reported a Cronbach's alpha of.71.

3 The original item was "Most TV ads try to work on people's emotions."

(3) TV commercials do not show life as it really is; and (4) TV advertising mostly tries to

create small differences between products that are a lot alike.34

Attention to peripheral cues was operationalized through a series of questions

posed to the subjects. Two questions, which dealt with the peripheral cue of interest (i.e..

number of arguments), asked if the commercial presented many or few arguments for

eating Pringles Potato Chips. As noted earlier, these two items also were used as a

manipulation check for number of arguments. Four questions asked if subjects liked the

kids in the commercial, if they wanted to be friends with the kids, if they had friends like

the kids in the ad, and if the kids were attractive. Three other questions dealt with the

credibility of the announcer. Items asked if subjects thought the announcer knew a lot

about Pringles, if subjects believed what he said, and if he was telling the truth.

Path for Analysis

The next chapter includes an examination of descriptive statistics of the data

followed by an analysis of the manipulation checks used in this experiment. The

reliabilities of the scales will be discussed and the hypotheses will be tested using

experimental Analysis of Variance (ANOVA).

4 The original item was "TV advertising mostly tries to create imaginary differences between products that
are very similar."


Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to test effects of argument quality,

number of arguments, and media literacy training on active cognitive processing, attitude

toward the product, attitude toward the ad, attitude toward TV advertising in general, and

attention to peripheral cues.

The presentation begins with descriptive demographic data on the participating

subjects. Next, scale properties and reliabilities used as independent and dependent

measures are examined. Finally, results of the manipulation checks and tests of the

hypotheses are presented.

Descriptive Analysis

Demographic Data

One hundred forty-eight subjects participated in the study. Of those, 54 percent

(n = 80) were male and 46 percent (n = 68) were female. Subjects ranged in age from 8

to 12 (M = 10, SD = .79). Ninety of the subjects were in the fourth grade and 58 were

fifth graders. Seventy-nine percent of the subjects were white, 15 percent black, two

percent Asian, and the remaining four-percent reported being Native American or Other.

The Scales

This study relied primarily on six measures for the initial tests of hypotheses.

Four scales, attitude toward the product, attitude toward the ad, attention to peripheral

cues, and attitude toward advertising in general35, measured the dependent variables.

Two other scales were used as manipulation checks for the independent variables. Four

of the scales had proven to be highly reliable in previous research. Scales for attention to

peripheral cues and the media literacy training manipulation check were not previously


A reliability analysis, in which Cronbach's alpha and average inter-item

correlation coefficients were examined, was used to analyze the internal consistency of

all scales. Scale properties for the media literacy manipulation check and attention to

peripheral cues also were scrutinized via factor analysis. Factor analysis is a procedure

used to assess construct validity (Huck & Cormier, 1996) and to determine if more basic,

underlying variables represent clusters of inter-correlated items (Williams, 1986).

Principal components factor analysis with varimax rotation was used to analyze the

scales. Items were considered to load on a factor if factor scores were .40 or higher.

Results for each scale are discussed below.

Attitude Toward the Product Scale

The attitude toward the product scale is a compilation of two separate scales that

measure the pleasure-related and value-related aspects of a consumer's attitude toward a

specific product. Reliability analysis of the ten-item scale produced a Cronbach's alpha

of.90. Deletion of any of the items would have reduced the reliability of the scale.

Therefore, a single-factor solution was suggested, and the 10-item scale was retained as a

measure of attitude toward the product. The average inter-item correlation for the 10

items was .47.

" Attitude toward advertising in general was measured by three separate scales: (1) perceptions of the
personal and social benefits or costs of TV advertising; (2) perceptions that TV advertising does not offer

Attitude Toward the Ad Scale

Reliability analysis of the attitude toward the ad scale indicated a highly reliable

scale (a = .92). Deleting any of the items would have decreased the reliability. The

mean inter-item correlation was .47. The 13-item scale was retained as a single measure

of attitude toward the ad.

Attitude Toward TV Advertising Scale

Three previously tested scales measured various dimensions of attitude toward

TV advertising in general. A nine-item scale that measured perceptions of the personal

and social benefits or costs of TV advertising was highly reliable with a Cronbach's alpha

of.81. Deletion of any items would have reduced the reliability. Average inter-item

correlation was .33.

A three-item scale that measured perceptions that TV advertising does not offer

information had a relatively low reliability (a = .34). Deletion of one item would have

slightly increased the reliability (a = .38). Mean inter-item correlation was .15. Given

the low reliability and average inter-item correlation, this scale was discarded.

A four-item scale that produced a Cronbach's alpha of .59 measured perceptions

that TV advertising is deceptive. Deletion of any item would have decreased the

reliability. Average inter-item correlation equaled .27.

Media Literacy Training Manipulation Check Scale

A 13-item media literacy training manipulation check scale was used to measure

the effectiveness of the media literacy lesson. Principal components factor analysis with

varimax rotation resulted in two factors with Eigenvalues greater than 1.0. Seven of the

information; and (3) perceptions that TV advertising is deceptive.

items loaded on the first factor, which explained 30.1 percent of the variance and had an

Eigenvalue of 3.9. Six items loaded on the second factor, which explained 19.2 percent

of the variance and had an Eigenvalue of 2.5. The seven items that loaded on the first

factor had a reliability of.82 and an average inter-item correlation of .40. Although

deletion of one of the items increased the reliability slightly (a = .83), the entire seven-

item scale was retained. The six items that loaded on the second factor had a reliability

of.75 and a mean inter-item correlation of.34. Although deletion of one item would

have increased the reliability slightly (a = .77), the increase was not significant. The six-

item scale was retained as a manipulation check.

Number of Arguments Manipulation Check and Attention to Peripheral Cue Scale

A two-item scale was used to assess the effectiveness of the manipulation of

number of arguments in the four versions of the Pringles Potato Chips commercial and

subjects' attention to the peripheral cue. Item two was reverse-coded because the initial

correlation matrix indicated a negative correlation. A principal components factor

analysis with varimax rotation produced one factor that explained 60.1 percent of the

variance (Eigenvalue = 1.2). Reliability analysis produced a small Cronbach's alpha of

.34, which is likely due to having only two items in the scale. The correlation of the two

items was .20. Despite the low reliability, the two-item scale was retained as a single

measure of the number of arguments manipulation check and as the attention to the

peripheral cue of interest scale.

Attention to Additional Peripheral Cues Scale

Additional peripheral cue measures were included in the questionnaire for

potential comparison. Principal components factor analysis with varimax rotation on the

additional seven-item peripheral cue scale produced two factors with Eigenvalues over

1.0. Four of the items loaded on the first factor and three loaded on the second factor.

The first factor produced an Eigenvalue of 2.3 and explained 33.1 percent of the variance.

The second factor produced an Eigenvalue of 1.7 and explained 24.1 percent of the

variance. Reliability analysis of the four-item scale, which included items that addressed

how well subjects liked the kids in the commercial, produced a Cronbach's alpha of.76.

Average inter-item correlation was .44. Deletion of any item would have resulted in a

lower alpha. Therefore, the four-item scale was retained as one additional measure of

attention to peripheral cues. Reliability analysis of the three-item scale, which included

items that assessed the credibility of the commercial announcer, revealed a Cronbach's

alpha of.58 and a mean inter-item correlation of.33. High factor loadings suggested all

three items represent the same dimension. The three-item scale was retained as a second

additional measure of attention to peripheral cues.

Persuasiveness of the Commercial Scale

A previously tested four-item scale was used to assess persuasiveness of the

commercial. This measure assessed the overall persuasiveness of the four commercial

versions rather than the level of argument quality. Reliability analysis of the four-item

scale produced a Cronbach's alpha of.76 and an average inter-item correlation of.45.

Manipulation Checks

Media Literacy Training

Media literacy training was manipulated by exposing the experimental group of

subjects to a 50-60 minute media literacy lesson. Subjects in the control group were not

exposed to the lesson; they watched and discussed a television program about caves. It

was suggested that subjects exposed to media literacy training would have greater ability

to process the Pringles Potato Chips commercial. Increased ability would increase the

likelihood of following the central route to persuasion as suggested by the ELM (Petty &

Cacioppo, 1986b). In contrast, subjects not exposed to the media literacy lesson would

have less ability to process the commercial message via the central route. Therefore,

control group subjects would be more likely to follow the peripheral route to persuasion

(Petty & Cacioppo, 1986b).

To test whether subjects attended to and remembered the media literacy lesson

subjects were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with 13 statements3 about

information contained in the media literacy lesson. Subjects who were exposed to the

media literacy lesson were expected to score higher on the measure than subjects not


As noted above, factor analysis and reliability analysis produced two separate

media literacy manipulation check scales. An independent-samples t-test found no

significant difference between the control group and experimental group on the seven-

item scale (t (142) = -.80, p < .43) or the six-item scale (t (139) = -1.64, p = .10).

Therefore, the media literacy training manipulation check was unsuccessful.

Argument Quality

Argument quality was manipulated by varying the level of argument quality

(weak vs. strong) within the four versions of the Pringles Potato Chips commercial. Pilot

test data provided statistical evidence (F (7, 161) = 5.86, p <.000) that the arguments

36 Although sixteen items were presented to subjects, only 13 were used to assess the effectiveness of the
media literacy lesson because three items were bogus.

used in the commercial versions were considered strong or weak by subjects similar to

those who participated in the experiment (see Chapter 3 for a complete description of

pilot test results).

Number of Arguments

Subjects in the different treatment groups were exposed to varying numbers of

arguments within the versions of the Pringles Potato Chips commercials. Therefore,

number of arguments was manipulated by including a high number (six) or a low number

(2) of arguments in the various commercial versions. It was expected that subjects in the

control group would pay more attention to the number of arguments contained in the

commercial than the quality of the arguments. In contrast, subjects in the experimental

group would not pay as much attention to the number of arguments; rather, they would

scrutinize the quality of the arguments.

To test whether subjects attended to and remembered the number of arguments,

they were asked to disagree or agree with two statements. The statements were: "The

commercial presented many (a lot of) reasons (arguments/claims) for eating Pringles

Potato Chips" and "The commercial presented few (not a lot of) reasons

(arguments/claims) for eating Pringles Potato Chips." Subjects' responses to the second

item were reversed coded. Subjects who were exposed to a high number of arguments

were expected to score higher on the first statement and lower on the second. Subjects

exposed to a low number of arguments were expected to score lower on the first

statement and higher on the second.

Unexpectedly, the manipulation was not successful. An independent samples t-

test compared means of subjects exposed to a high number of arguments and subjects

exposed to a low number of arguments. Mean scores were not significantly different

among subjects exposed to a high number (M = 4.55) and subjects exposed to a low

number (M = 4.78, t (144)= -.78, p <.44). The two-item scale produced a low

Cronbach's alpha of.34. Therefore, this might be a reason the manipulation check was


Further analysis compared the means of subjects on the single item. "There are

many (a lot) of reasons (arguments/claims) for eating Pringles Potato Chips." Results of

the independent samples t-test revealed no significant difference among subjects (M =

4.81, high number; M = 5.40, low number; t (145) = -1.57, p = .117). When means of

subjects' responses were compared on the single item, "The commercial presented few

(not a lot of) reasons (arguments/claims) for eating Pringles Potato Chips," no significant

difference was found (M = 4.30, high number; M = 4.23, low number; t (145) = .17, p <

.87). These results confirm that the manipulation check for number of arguments was not


Attention to Additional Peripheral Cues

As mentioned earlier, two different scales measured attention to additional

peripheral cues. One-way ANOVA results for the first attention to peripheral cues scale,

which assessed if subjects liked the kids in the commercial, indicated a significant

difference among the experimental (M = 3.11) and control (M = 3.80) groups (F (1, 145)

= 5.43, p = .021). A significant difference was also found between the experimental (M

= 3.08) and control (M = 3.82) groups (F (1, 145) = 7.32, p = .008) for the second

peripheral cues scale, which assessed the credibility of the announcer.

Persuasiveness of Commercial

As previously noted, the persuasiveness of the commercial was assessed for

potential comparisons. A four-item scale, identical to the one used in the pilot test, was

employed. However, subjects were not asked what they thought about each individual

argument; rather, they were asked how persuasive they thought their version of the

Pringles Potato Chips commercial was. Subjects rated the overall commercial on the

following semantic differentials: Doesn't make me want Pringles/Makes me want

Pringles; Doesn't makes sense/Makes sense; Not believable/Believable; Weak/Strong.

Attitudes were gauged on a seven-point scale, with 1 and 7 representing the extremes. A

three-way ANOVA (2 x 2 x 2) testing the persuasiveness of the commercial revealed a

significant main effect for control (M = 4.74) versus experimental (M = 3.79) groups (F

(1, 123) = 9.74, p = .002). No interactions or additional main effects were found.

Tests of Hypotheses

To test the general research question "Does media literacy training increase the

likelihood of persuasion via the central route?" two hypotheses were proposed. The two

hypotheses are as follows:

HI: Media literacy training will increase the likelihood of children following the

central route to persuasion for an advertised product.

H2: No media literacy training will increase the likelihood of children following

the peripheral route to persuasion for an advertised product.

Stated concisely, it was expected that subjects in the experimental condition would

follow the central route to persuasion while subjects in the control condition would

follow the peripheral route.

To test these two hypotheses, subjects exposed to media literacy training (n = 73)

were compared to subjects in the control group (n = 75) on each dependent measure. A

one-way ANOVA for the first dependent variable, active cognitive processing, revealed

no significant difference between the experimental (M = .69) and control (M = 1.03)

groups (F (1, 145)= .73, > .39). Therefore, Hypothesis 1 was not supported.

The same scale used for the manipulation check for number of arguments was

used as the attention to the peripheral cue of interest scale. One-way ANOVA results

indicated no significant difference among the experimental (M = 4.50) and control (M =

4.83) groups (F (1, 144) = 1.22, p = .271). Thus, Hypothesis 2 was not supported either.

Four hypotheses were proposed to test the effectiveness of media literacy training

on changing children's attitude toward a particular advertised product that was of great

personal relevance. The hypotheses are as follows:

H3: Media literacy training, as compared to no training, will yield greater

positive changes in children's attitude toward an advertised product when many strong

arguments are used.

H4: Media literacy training, as compared to no training, will yield greater

positive changes in children's attitude toward an advertised product when few strong

arguments are used.

H5: Media literacy training, as compared to no training, will yield greater

negative changes in children's attitude toward an advertised product when many weak

arguments are used.

H6: Media literacy training, as compared to no training, will yield greater

negative changes in children's attitude toward an advertised product when few weak

arguments are used.

Stated simply, it was expected that a three-way interaction between treatment

(media literacy training or lack thereof), argument quality, and argument number would

produce significant differences among subjects. It was thought that subjects exposed to

media literacy training would have higher scores on attitude measures when strong

arguments were used despite the number of arguments. Moreover, it was believed that

subjects exposed to media literacy training would produce lower scores on attitude

measures when weak arguments were used despite the number of arguments.

To test the four hypotheses a three-way (treatment x argument quality x number

of arguments) ANOVA was run for each dependent variable. Results indicated no three-

way interactions. Therefore, hypotheses 3-6 were not supported and must be rejected.

Further examination of the three-way ANOVA results revealed interesting

findings. A two-way interaction (see Figure 4.1) was found for treatment group by

number of arguments (M = .17, control x high number, M = 1.89; control x low number;

M = .92, experimental x high number; M = .39, experimental x low number) on active

cognitive processing (F (1, 139) = 8.71, p = .004). Main effects were found for treatment

group (M = 5.21, control; M = 4.17, experimental) on attitude toward the product (F (1,

121) = 18.29, p < .000) and attitude toward the ad (M = 4.73, control; M = 3.59,

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