Perhaps the failure of special education researchers to examine such a pervasive element of our culture is due to an interdisciplinary gap between psychologists, marketing researchers, linguists, and communications scientists. (Harris, 1983, p. xi) They all study cognition and communication, but are not necessarily aware of each others' methods and findings. Part of the reason for lack of communication is that marketing research is proprietary research lost to the academic community and government agencies (Harris, 1983, p.8) In this section, I will present some of the knowledge that market researchers have amassed concerning human learning. I believe that this knowledge is useful to the educator. Not only is it important to know how marketers conceive of learning and learners, this market research may prove helpful when designing curriculum materials. All of the considerations market researchers make about learning are particularly relevant for the desgin of multimedia educational software. Advertisers have studied attention, memory, and belief change extensively, and educators obviously would benefit from this knowledge. Fortunately, we can begin to bridge the interdisciplinary gap with relative ease, as market researchers and educators have been operating under the same learning paradigm since the 1980s-- information processing. Briefly, information-processing research is built upon the "conception of human mind as a symbol manipulator with certain similarities to a general purpose machine." The mind is understood to consist of operations--encoding, storing, comparing, locating-- that assist in the creation of an internal representation of reality. (Harris, 1983, p. 5)


Holding attention is crucial for any learning to take place. In the information acquisition process, people have three critical areas of control: exposure to the information, the amount of attention devoted to the information, and how the information is processed.(Mitchell, 1983, p. 25) In holding a persons attention, these three areas of viewer control must be accounted for. In many ways the advertiser is trying to minimize these points of viewer control and hold attention to result in a sale.

Visuals grab attention better than text. A person will at least give a picture a glance and perhaps a quick evaluation. However, when text does get a person's attention, the impact is stronger, as the person's level of engagement is higher. Text involves more cognitive involvement. So visuals that prompt the person to read the text are an ideal combination for maintaining attention. High imagery sentences, those that evoke visuals, are evaluated 30% faster than low imagery sentences.(Jorgensen & Kintsch, 1973, p.100) Text that opens with a question also increases the likelihood that the reader will continue.

Attention to dynamic visuals or video is a bit more complicated. Research has found that after an important frame, it is best if the viewer looks away to prevent interference. This is why advertisers often follow high-impact frames with conventional pictures or familiar logos. (Rossiter & Percy, 1983, p.100) Likewise, the shift from the program to the ad acts as a stimulus to look away from the TV and become less attentive. Programs are structured to induce tension prior to the ad in hopes that the emotional intensification will maintain attention. (Key, 1989, p.39) Nevertheless, decreased attention in the switch to an ad creates incidental learning, where the viewer catches the high impact frames without having really watched the commercial. Advertising research has found that ads half-watched have more impact than ads fully attended to. Designers of commercials know they are not going to hold full attention. (Monaco & Kaiser, 1983, p.266) To hold attention, advertisers will engage in time compression; for example they may represent a day in thirty seconds.(Percy & Woodside, 1983, p.246)

Market researchers have also measured electroencephalographic activity to learn about attention. They have found that print is left hemisphere dominant and video is right hemisphere dominant. Electrical activity is higher in novel situations, and down during repetition. Repetition, which greatly aids memory, hinders attention. So ads will try to balance the new with the repetitive, using the new to hold attention, and repetition for brand name reinforcement. (Percy & Woodside, 1983, p.246)The relationship between attention and memory is worthy of further investigation.


People remember things that they believe they may need. Memory serves to filter out unnecessary clutter. Any information that is stored in long-term memory is perceived to have some use. The use of course need not be utilitarian and may be affective, for example. A person in a state of happiness is more likely to remember something.(Cafferata & Tybout, 1989, p.94) So, memory concerns the intensity and depth of information-processing, which hinges upon the message content and the need for the information (Burnkraut & Sawyer, 1983, p. 49)

A number of studies show that pictures are remembered better than words and that visual does not fade as quickly as verbal memory. Words are remembered better if they are presented with a picture, which is a format that holds attention best. Pictures and imagery that interacts with the meaning of the word is best for memory. (Alesandrini, 1983, p.66)

For some reason, name brands that are concrete nouns or action verbs are easily remembered. People generally have more trouble remembering brand names that are adjectives. Advanced organizers, which are common in education, strengthen memory as they give prompts and context to the coming information. (Alesandrini, 1983, p. 66)

A person remembers the message better if the audio is dubbed over the video than if the video is of the speaker giving the message. Market researchers have found that "the distraction of watching something unrelated to the audio message lowered whatever resistance there might have been to the message". If ears and eyes are taking in different information, the mind does the work of integrating the two and this helps memory. This is why we hardly ever see the speaker on a commercial. This sensory barrage has led one observer to suggest that comprehension equals persuasion. In the case of the mind integrating different audio and visual information, "perception precedes perceptual defense". The mind does the work to create the message so evaluation is more difficult. (Pregman, 1966, p. 93)

Marketers have extensively considered the types of stimuli the mind may process. Visual input can be static, dynamic, pictorial, or linguistic. Auditory stimuli is categorized into dynamic, linguistic, musical, or miscellaneous sounds. Other considerations are olfactory and gustatory input, but these are rarely employed in advertising, though the perfumed magazine is now commonplace. The complex interaction of these stimuli types affect not only memory, but awareness, belief, attitude, intentions, and choice rules. ( Rossiter & Percy, 1983, p.87) The number of variables marketers consider when they address learning is incredibly complete.

In terms of just memory, these stimuli have been researched and structured into a memorability hierarchy. Most memorable are dynamic concrete pictures. Static abstract words are most difficult to remember. So, the media most preferable for memory based on day-after recall scores are: video, print pictures, audio, and finally print. Another crucial finding is that for memory, the visual need never be translated to the verbal. (Rossiter & Percy, 1983, p. 105) Remembered visuals are "internal subvocal cognitive processes" that need not interact with verbal memory.

Another crucial feature of memory is that "retention" does not accurately describe the process. Memory is not retention but a constructive process. We "do not remember input verbatim but a . . .distorted version based on inference [we] constructed during comprehension". We modify based on context, our stored knowledge, and our beliefs. Implied information is often remembered as fact. Advertisers often use the fact that people remember their inferences better than the actual information. Since we modify information when we store it based in part on our beliefs, let us consider marketing researchers knowledge about belief. (Harris, Dubitsky, Bruno, 1983, p.241)


Attitude change research has found that the more extravagant the claim, the larger the belief change. Disbelief is "not going to be a tremendous problem", if the claim is repeated sincerely enough. If advertisers find in initial audience testing that the public disbelieves a claim, they often run it any way, because there is potential for greater attitude change. (Gerhold, 1976, p.68)

People carry attitudes about seemingly neutral visual information. Shape and color can be a key to meaning as people glean style, social status and gender from these. For example, print ads with a triangular format are understood as active and potent, while an elliptical format is interpreted as female. (Mesaris, 1997, p.59)

Common beliefs about colors include that red is active and violet is passive. Yellow is associated with cheap. Industrial green is considered to be for the professional user. (Rossiter,1983 , p.10) Color must increase some combination of attention, memory and believability, as in one study the addition of color in ads produced sales 83% greater than black and white pictures.(Twitchell, 1996, p.70)

Affect is a large area of market research as it relates to belief. Information delivered with emotion increases believability. "Mood commercials" and emotional appeals are designed based on such findings. Researchers conduct "warmth response studies" to learn how emotional appeals are working. They have learned that claims made in "smile voice" are highly effective. They work from a typology of emotional responses and ask viewers to categorize the emotions that a commercial calls up. Another important area of research is gender difference in information-processing as it relates to affect.. (Cafferata &Tybout, 1989, p.11)

Market researchers have used the information-processing paradigm to understand learning. Their standards of research are different than those of the educational researcher. They design their experiments with very specific purposes in mind and the results are hardly ever held to the level of scrutiny of published educational and psychological research. Their methods would be considered to be "quick and dirty" by academic standards. Nevertheless, their findings are tested in the results of advertising campaigns. If the research produces increased sales, then it is considered valid and reliable. So, even though market research is markedly different in purpose, the educator can still benefit from this knowledge about learning, consider its relevance, and apply it where possible. All of this information-processing research also deals fundamentally with communication, both linguistic and visual. I have suggested how integrated linguistic and visual communication relate to attention, memory, and belief; now, I will consider them separately.


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