Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Judging a Book by Its Cover! Cultural Stereotyping of Interactive Media and Its Effect on the Recall of Text Information

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Judging a Book by Its Cover! Cultural Stereotyping of Interactive Media and Its Effect on the Recall of Text Information

Article excerpt

Humans often make assumptions about other people and stereotype them based on superficial cues. There is little research on whether people categorize computer programs in a similar manner. This study builds on existing research that indicated that people react to interactive media just as they react to other people (Reeves & Nass, 1996). Specifically this study investigated whether ESL students stereotype a multimedia computer tutorial as being native or non-native and how this perception affects the recall of information. Participants worked with two versions of a language tutorial that were identical in all respects except that (a) one program was given an Anglo-Saxon name (Susan) while the other was given a Spanish name (Carmen); (b) one was supposedly programmed in the USA while the other was programmed in Mexico; and (c) one program read out the instructions in a native (i.e., Midwestern) accent while the read out the same instructions in a fluent and clear Spanish accent. The information on which the pa rticipants were tested was presented as just text on a screen that is it was not voiced. Results showed that participants who worked with the native speaking computer recalled significantly more information that the participants who worked with the non-native speaking computer. The self-reported evaluation showed no significant difference in the perception of credibility. These results seem to indicate that people's responses to interactive media are similar to their responses to other people and are prone to stereotyping as well. Implications for the research and design of educational technology are also discussed.

Humans often make assumptions about other people and categorize them based on superficial cues (Hamilton & Sherman, 1996). As Ryan, Park, and Judd (1996), say, "human beings have a limited capacity for processing information. Stereotypes serve to organize and simplify a complex social world and thus are often likely to take the form of over-generalizations" (p. 122). For instance, more attractive people, both male and female, are often thought to be more intelligent (Alicke, Smith, & Koltz, 1987; Steinberg, Conway, Ketron, & Bemstein, 1981). Factors such as wearing glasses, refined appearance or fashionable clothes are often used by people as indicators of intelligence and credibility (Alexander, 1985; Borkenau, 1993; Edwards, 1987).

People use more than visual cues to judge and categorize others. In fact, research suggests that people pay much greater attention to verbal cues than visual ones (Borkenau, 1993). Alexander (1985) found that students often used language ability-such as an extensive vocabulary, use of specialized or uncommon words, and good grammar-to rate the intelligence of other people. Voices are often a sufficient source for gender-based stereotypes (Robinson & McArthur, 1992). Research also suggests that these stereotypical responses are instilled quite early. Eight-and nine-year-old children ranked non-standard English speakers as being far less intelligent and credible than ones who spoke standard English (Bell, Light, & Richard, (1974).

This stereotyping of people based on superficial cues, affects almost all aspects of our lives including the educational process. Ritts, Patterson and Tubbs (1992) in a review of research on student attractiveness and teacher assessment found that attractive students are often judged favorably by teachers. Verbal cues can lead to stereotypes as well (Coleman, 1974). For instance, in a free interaction between a native and non-native speaker, the native speaker is usually regarded as the authority or expert on the language (Zuengler, 1989; Woken & Swales, 1989). Raisler (1976) conducted a study in which native speakers of English listened to a tape recorded lecture in two different conditions. One group of native-speakers listened to a lecture delivered by a native speaker; the second group listened to the same lecture delivered by a fluent, faultless non-native speaker. …

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