Television and Political Advertising: Psychological Processes - Vol. 1

By Frank Biocca | Go to book overview

4 The Effects of Visual Structure and Content Emphasis on the Evaluation and Memory for Political Candidates

Seth F. Geiger University of California, Santa Barbara

Byron Reeves Stanford University


TELEVISION AND POLITICAL ADVERTISING

The role of television in political campaigns is a double-edged sword: More voters have access to more campaign information than ever before; but television, by emphasizing style over substance, may foster an electorate incapable of making informed decisions. Critics claim that the content in political advertisements, as well as inherent characteristics of the television medium, work together to highlight a candidate's image at the expense of information about political issues. This chapter examines image and issue content in political advertisements, and the interaction of content with message attributes unique to television. Two questions are posed: (a) What is the impact of an image or issue message on the evaluations and memory for political candidates? (b) Does the visual structure of political advertisements enhance or detract from the influence of image and issue messages on candidate evaluation and memory?

The first question is concerned with the influence of message content, the second with message structure. First, a definition of image and issue advertisements is presented. These two types of content are presumed to encourage different processing strategies; one primarily affective, and the other cognitive. The implications of these two processing modes on candidate evaluation are then outlined. The second section addresses the visual structure of advertisements in relation to processing and candidate evaluations. The final section discusses the interaction be-

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