Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Media Literacy and Attitude Change: Assessing the Effectiveness of Media Literacy Training on Children's Responses to Persuasive Messages within the ELM

Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Media Literacy and Attitude Change: Assessing the Effectiveness of Media Literacy Training on Children's Responses to Persuasive Messages within the ELM

Article excerpt

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). 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. 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 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. 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, 1995; 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. 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 ELM posits that there are two routes to persuasion, a central route and a peripheral route. 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, Cacioppo, & Schumann, 1983). 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.

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, 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.

Does media literacy training increase the likelihood of persuasion via the central route?

What role does media literacy training play in influencing children's attitude toward a product of high personal relevance? …

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