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Title:An Application of Helson's Adaptation-Level Theory to the Problem of Context in Television Advertising
Author(s):Johnson, Robert Walter
Department / Program:Speech Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Mass Communications
Abstract:This dissertation involved an experimental application of Harry Helson's Adaptation-Level Theory. This theory explains human perceptual judgment, categorizing stimuli as (1)focal, the stimulus being judged; (2)contextual, the stimuli which provide the judgment context or background; or (3)residual, the stimuli comprised of the individual's past experiences, perceptions and biases which affect judgment. Judgment of the focal stimulus is affected by the contextual and residual stimuli.
Accordingly, the following operational definitions were developed: The brand an individual will judge was the focal stimulus; The television program and commercial in which the brand is perceived are the contextual stimuli; The perceived reference groups' evaluations of the brand, commercial, and television program served as the residual stimuli.
Based upon Helson's theory, the contextual stimuli and residual stimuli as defined above, served as independent variables in this study. The judgments of the focal stimulus, the brand, served as the dependent variable. Focal judgments were measured according to the change in attitude toward the brand that resulted from exposure to the contextual stimuli.
Accordingly, the following hypothesis was developed and tested: A brand will be judged to be significantly different according to the program and commercial context in which the brand is perceived when the effect of residual stimuli is held constant across such contexts.
To test the hypothesis a pre- and post-exposure experimental design was developed. This required testing three different contexts. A no-commercial context was defined as one in which the viewers were not exposed to a commercial for the brand during the broadcast of the program. A congruous context was defined as a program combined with a commercial that was designed to perfectly match the format of the program. Finally, the incongruous context was defined as the typical combinations of program and commercial that are not related by format or content. Two different program treatments and three different commercial treatments were combined to form six different program and commercial treatment combinations used in this study.
184 subjects, aged 18 to 34, were randomly assigned to the six experimental treatments until each cell contained approximately thirty subjects. These subjects roughly matched the characteristics of the audiences for the two experimental programs.
An analysis of variance was conducted on the six group scores. The results indicated that context did significantly affect brand attitudes among the experimental groups. Different context affected judgment of the brand. These six group responses were collapsed into the three general categories of congruous, incongruous, and program only context. An analysis of variance conducted on these brand attitude change scores demonstrated that the context category groups did differ significantly. The attitude change score for the typical, incongruous context combination yielded a negative attitude change score of -.15. The perfectly congruous combination where the commercial was written to match the program format caused no shift in attitudes toward the brand. Finally, the program-only context resulted in a positive attitude change of .04. The major hypothesis which stated that program and commercial context will affect attitudes toward a brand was supported.
The general conclusion that can be drawn from these findings is that Helson's theory of Adaptation-Level serves as an appropriate explanatory paradigm to be used in understanding the relationship between program and commercial contexts and judgments of a brand.
Issue Date:1981
Description:119 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1981.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8114440
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-05-13
Date Deposited:1981

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