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.
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)
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,
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)
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.
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)
BELIEF, ATTITUDE, AND AFFECT
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)
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,
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)
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.