AECT Handbook of Research

Table of Contents

34: Instructional Technology and Attitude Change

34.1 Introduction
34.2 The Nature of Attitudes
34.3 Theories of Attitude Change
34.4 Attitudes and Behavior
34.5 Measuring Attitudes
34.6 Attitudes and Instructional Media - The Literature
34.7 Conclusion: Designing Mediated Messages for Attitude Change and the Model of Cumulative Effect.


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34.7 Conclusion: Designing Mediated Messages for Attitude Change and the Model of Cumulative Effect

Based on the literature reviewed above, a series of guidelines have been developed for designing mediated messages that change attitudes. These guidelines are based on Simonson's (1979) previous work in this area and have been modified in three ways. First, the recent attitude literature of social psychology was incorporated where appropriate. Second, the Iowa State University research agenda reviewed above provided guidance about techniques that seemed effective. Finally, Bednar and Levie's (1993) 22 principles for attitude change validated the proposed guidelines. Bednar and Levie's principles can be subsumed within one or more of the following guidelines. The guidelines are organized into two groupings. The first three guidelines refer to message design, and the second three relate to learner involvement. A "model of cumulative effect"mis also proposed (Fig. 34-2). This model states that for attitude change, at least one guideline should be selected from each category, and the more of the guidelines that are appropriately included in a persuasive communication, the more likely will be the development of attitude changes.

34.7.1 Message Design Guidelines

Guideline #1: Learners are persuaded, and react favorably, when mediated situations include the discovery of useful new information about a topic.

Most students like to learn. They react positively when relevant new information is presented to them. Inert knowledge, knowledge that can be recalled but is not spontaneously used in problem solving (Whitehead, 1929), is often not perceived positively by learners. Sherwood, Kinzer, Hasselbring, and Bransford's (1987) interesting work on logarithms demonstrates this point. Most youngsters do not see the importance of learning logarithms, even though almost everyone remembers studying them. To many students, logarithms are inert knowledge. On the other hand, mathematicians, statisticians, and computer programmers do not feel this way. They use logarithms and realize their power as tools to solve problems. While no attitude study investigating attitudes toward logarithms was found in the literature, it is safe to say that those who use these powerful tools have a much more positive attitude about them than those that do not use them. To the users of logarithms, they are important tools, not inert knowledge. This is because mathematicians use logarithms to solve real-world problems.

Message Design Guidelines:

New information

Realistic, relevant, and technically stimulating

Presented in a credible manner


Learner involvement guidelines

Involved in planning, production, and/or delivery

Purposeful emotional involvement or arousal

Participation in postinstruciton discussions or critiques

Figure 34-2. Model of cummulative effect.

Levonian's (1960, 1962, 1963) landmark studies support this guideline. As a critical part of Levonian's study, the audience for a film was surveyed about India. The developer of the film used this information to ascertain previous knowledge about India so that new information could be presented. This new information was included in the film to support the attitude position desired by Levonian. In other words, Levonian produced a film that presented useful and relevant information. The content of the film was selected so that it would not be knowledge for the sake of knowledge but that it would be cognitively relevant to the previous knowledge and needs of the audience.

Jouko (1972) reported related results. It was found that the less preinstruction knowledge students had about a topic, the more attitude change that was produced after an informational and persuasive lesson. There was a negative relationship between preinstruction familiarity about a topic and attitude change as a result of participating in a relevant persuasive situation.

A similar conclusion was proposed in a study by Knowlton and Hawes (1962). In this study, it was determined that knowledge about a topic was often a necessary prerequisite

for a positive attitude position toward the idea. Stated another way, new knowledge may need to be discovered by learners when attitude changes are desired (e.g., Jouko, 1972), or knowledge may need to be present for learners to have a favorable attitudinal position toward the situation in which they are involved (Knowlton & Hawes, 1962). The results of two additional studies using video reported similar findings (Thirion, 1992; Harkins& Petty, 198 1).

Guideline #2: Attitude change is likely because of, and learners react favorably to, mediated situations involving the use of instructional technologies that are authentic, relevant to them, and technically stimulating.

One practical technique for instruction using technology is based on the concept of anchored instruction. Anchored instruction, as described by the Vanderbilt Cognition and Technology Group (1990), uses technology to provide a realistic situation for learning. Media are used to present real-world events that become the anchor for learning. While the Vanderbilt Group's studies concentrated on the cognitive consequences of anchored instruction, there is ample anecdotal evidence that anchored instruction also influences attitudes.

Simonson et al. (1987) reported on a series study that attempted to determine if a situation where media were used to deliver messages authentically was more effective in creating attitude change than media that presented a situation less authentically. It was found that authentic mediated situations could be designed to promote desired attitudinal change.

Dimond and Simonson (1988) studied filmmakers who produced persuasive films. These filmmakers indicated that presenting authentic situations in their films was critical to the success of their persuasive messages, much more so than for informational films and videos. In other words, filmmakers indicated that the presentation of authentic, real-world situations was a critical ingredient of successful persuasive films. Filmmakers also indicated that when they produced persuasive films, they almost always "believed" in the attitudinal positions advocated in their films. Dimond and Simonson hypothesized that the act of filmmaking was an authentic situation that acted to influence the filmmaker's attitudes.

Similar results have been reported in the literature for decades. Levonian's (1960, 1962, 1963) landmark study that incorporated the use of a preproduction survey of the target audience to determine their attitudinal positions towards India was summarized above. The results of this survey were used as input for the production of a persuasive film on India. This approach made the resulting motion picture about India more authentic and realistic to the audience, and this contributed to desired attitude changes.

Authenticity and realism were examined further by Croft, Stimpson, Ross, Bray, and Breglio (1969) and Donaldson (1976). Both studies reported that authentically presented situations were most effective in producing attitude changes toward intercollegiate athletics and the disabled. Booth and Miller (1974) and Winn and Everett (1978) investigated the authenticity provided by pictures produced in color versus those produced in black and white. They reported a relationship between the use of color, authenticity, and attitude formation.

Authentic instruction, typically instruction anchored in technically stimulating media such as the Vanderbilt Group's Jasper series (Vanderbilt, 1990), has a positive attitudinal impact on learners. The assumption is that positive predispositions, developed during participation in authentic situations, orient students to actively pursue additional learning.

Guideline #3: Learners are positively affected when persuasive messages are encountered in mediated situations that are as authentic and credible as possible.

Modem strategies such as situated learning are based, in part, on the concepts of the credibility and authenticity of instruction. A direct relationship exists between attitude about a situation and the individual's perception of the authenticity and relevance of the situation. For example, source credibility has been recognized as an important criteria for attitude change since the early 1950s. When mediated situations are planned, they will often be valued positively, and attitudinal positions advocated in the materials will be influential, if persuasive messages are delivered by a credible source or discovered in a credible situation. Kishler's (1950) classic study found that when the actor in a persuasive film was cast as a member of a highly credible occupational group, it was likely that the attitude changes advocated by the actor would be produced. Viewers considered the message to be authentic, so it influenced them.

A study by Carter (1990) supports this relationship between source credibility and attitude change. Results indicated that when subjects were told that the message was prepared by an expert, attitude changes tended to be more positive.

Physical attractiveness and celebrity status also contribute to source credibility. Maddux and Rogers (1980) used photographs of people with varying levels of physical attractiveness to identify the relationship between physical attractiveness and source credibility. The attractive source was evaluated as being more sociable, warm, outgoing, poised, and more credible. In a study by Mehta (1990), celebrities were rated significantly higher on source variables of trustworthiness, believability, and physical attractiveness and were found to be effective persuasive sources. This was especially true for field-dependent subjects.

Two studies reported that the use of social modeling was an effective means of promoting attitude change. Slide/tape an d print materials using positive role models had a significant effect on student attitudes toward nontraditional careers (Savenye, 1990). Evans, Rozelle, Maxwell, Raines, Dill, Guthrie, Henderson, and Hill (1981) used students as real-world models in films created to deter smoking. Groups viewing the films considered their messages to be credible and authentic and exhibited less smoking behavior and indicated less intention to smoke.

These studies have looked at human sources of information delivered by media. However, one study in the

literature examined the effects of credible and noncredible computer sources of information. Gahm (1986) found that persuasion increased as the authenticity of the computer message increased.

The content of media-based instructional situations is A critical variable in determining attitude formation and change. If information is presented authentically and intelligently (i.e., credibly), it is likely that it will be favorably received and will be persuasive.

34.7.2 Learner Involvement Guidelines

Guideline #4: Learners who are involved in a situation requiring their participation in the planning, productioF4 or delivery of media-based instruction are likely to react favorably to the situation and to the message delivered by the media.

Involving learners in the planning, production, and delivery of mediated lessons can be considered a form of cognitive apprenticeship (see 20.4). If learners participate in a situation they feel is realistic and not fabricated, they will generally react by indicating they have a positive attitude about it, Simsek (1993) investigated the issue of audience involvement by studying the effects of learner control in computer-based cooperative learning. A comparison was made between students exercising control over pacing and sequencing and students using software that controlled the pacing and sequencing. The students with control over the lesson had a more positive attitude toward the delivery system and the subject matter. Learner control as opposed to program control was found to promote better attitudes (see 33.5).

Video is traditionally a very passive instructional medium. When merged with computer technology, video allows the learner to become involved in the instruction. In other words, it becomes more real. Dalton and Hannafin (1986) found that interactive video instruction produced significant improvements in learner attitudes when compared with computer-based instruction and video alone.

Active involvement (see 12.3. 1. 1) in the learning situation has been examined as a component of many research studies. For example, Erickson (M6) found that students who actually produced a film on science concepts reacted more favorably toward instruction and toward science than did students who only watched science films. Coldevin (1975) involved students in message delivery through the use of various review and summarization techniques that were a part of the instructional sequence. It was found that a short review after the TV lesson subunits produced the most favorable attitude reports from students.

Simonson (1977) conducted an experiment in which students were convinced to make counter attitudinal videotapes without realizing that attitude change was the primary purpose of the activity. The process of involving subjects in making these videotapes was found to be successful in producing significant attitude changes in subjects. In these studies, learners were solving real-world problems. They were learning by doing, and were often apprentices to more knowledgeable mentors.

It would seem that in the affective domain, the active learner perceives instruction and information more favorably than does the passive learner. Student involvement is an important technique for promoting desirable attitudinal outcomes.

Guideline #5: Learners who experience purposeful emotional involvement or arousal during media-rich instructional situations are likely to change their attitudes in the direction advocated in the situation.

Participating in an authentic event requires intellectual involvement that can elicit emotions in the learner. For this reason, the research seems to indicate that this guideline is extremely powerful. For example, the use of subliminal messages to arouse emotion and therefore affect attitude change was examined in two studies. In a pretest-posttest control group study on weight loss, videotapes were used that differed only in the inclusion of visual and aural subliminals. While the subliminal messages had no identifiable impact on weight loss, subjects who viewed the videotape with subliminal messages showed an improved attitude toward food and exercise (Treinier & Simonson, 1988)'

Edwards (1990) used a series of 10 supraliminal and 10 subliminal slides in a study of affect-based and cognition-based attitude change. Subjects were aware of the cognitive manipulation, but not the affective manipulation (subliminal slides). Results indicated that emotion-arousing subliminal slides were effective in inducing affect-based attitude changes, and supraliminal knowledge, or information slides, were effective in inducing cognition-based attitude changes.

Janis and Feshbach (1953) presented a slide/audiotape program on the effects of poor dental hygiene to high school students. The intensity of a fear-arousing appeal in three versions of the presentation were varied to determine the most influential delivery technique. All three methods were successful in producing aroused, affective reactions in the students. However, it was found that a minimal fear-arousing appeal was most successful in modifying attitudes because the stronger versions left students in a state of tension that was not alleviated by the remedies offered during the slide show.

Janis and Feshbach concluded that strong, fear-producing appeals were not as effective in changing attitudes as were more moderate appeals, because the audience became motivated to ignore the importance of the threat to reduce the tension they felt. The more-frightening message was not as authentic, and therefore was not as effective. It was found that only those fear-provoking messages that were considered to be authentic influenced attitudes. The more dramatic and fearsome presentations were not considered to be realistic or authentic, and were less effective.

Rogers (1973) reported on a study that supported this position. Public-health films dealing with cigarette smoking, safe driving, and venereal disease were tested in three different studies. It was found that the more noxious a film was, the more fear was aroused in viewers. However, it was also reported that these fear-arousing films were most effective in changing attitudes when preventatives or statements of probability of exposure to the malady discussed in the film were included as part of the motion picture.

Another study addressing the relationship between fear-arousing videos and attitude change was conducted by Berry and Simonson (1983). Subjects viewed either a fear-provoking persuasive video or a fear-provoking video with remedies. The message was about smoking. Experimental treatments significantly influenced subjects' attitudes as compared to subjects in the control group, and the more authentic situations presented by the videos were considered to be the most effective at changing attitudes.

The studies supporting guideline #5 indicate also that viewers' participation in the learning process is important when attitudinal outcomes are desired. In these cases, involvement was emotional rather than behavioral. It would seem that learner involvement in a situation is a powerful technique if attitudinal outcomes are to be important consequences of instruction.

Guideline #6: Learners who participate in situations where technology-based instructional situations are openly critiqued in an attitudinally appropriate way are likely to develop favorable attitudes toward the situations and toward the message.

The learner who is actively involved in what is perceived as a real event is more likely to react in an attitudinally positive way to the situation and to instruction. Johnson (1989) found that the use of discussion questions following a mediated situation resulted in significant attitude changes toward careers with regard to learners' confidence in their ability to be successful.

Follow-up discussions, a powerful technique for promoting positive attitudes, were evaluated by several researchers (Howard, 1990). Follow-ups usually involved learners in an analysis or critique of the instructional situation and message presented. Allison (1966) found that significant attitude changes occurred only when postviewing discussions were held. Fay (1974) reported similar findings in a study that used follow-ups to a film on the problems of the handicapped and the need for barrier-free buildings. Attitudes toward continuing education were significantly altered after classroom teachers saw a film and participated in a discussion on the subject (Burrichter, 1968). These studies demonstrated the importance of learner involvement in authentic situations which, in these cases, were discussion activities. The researchers carefully constructed the learning situations to make sure the students felt that their opinions were important.

Lamb (1987) found that including social interaction in the form of postinstruction discussion was an effective instructional technique to promote changes in attitudes toward wearing seat belts. This study examined the effects of three learner involvement strategies incorporated into a persuasive, computer-based instruction lesson. The situations that included postinstruction discussions were found to be the most effective in promoting attitude change.

The study also found that the absence of emotional involvement by the learner toward the message was shown to be detrimental to attitude change. Students stated that they considered the discussion to be real (i.e., authentic), and that this was important to them.

These six guidelines can be used singly or in combination to design mediated instructional situations that are likely to change attitudes. However, it is hypothesized that there is likely to be a cumulative effect that will take place if more than one technique from each category is used. Certainly, one media design guideline and one learner involvement guideline should be considered as part of any persuasive instructional strategy (Fig. 34-2).

34.7.3 Summary

The "model of cumulative effect' is based on the principle that a persuasive message must be designed effectively. First, new information should be presented (guideline #1). Next, the message should be realistic, relevant, and stimulating (guideline #2). Finally, a persuasive message should be delivered in as credible a manner as possible (guideline #3).

The effectiveness of persuasive messages is improved if the target of the message, the learner, is involved actively, cognitively, and emotionally. First, learners who are involved in the planning, production, or delivery of persuasive messages are more likely to be influenced (guideline #4). Purposefully emotional involvement of the learner is an extremely powerful attitude change activity. The aroused learner is the involved learner (guideline #5). Finally, the use of postinstruction activities that relate to the intent of the persuasive message is extremely powerful and may produce attitude changes even if other guidelines are improperly or inadequately followed (guideline #6).

Certainly, these guidelines and the model of cumulative effect must now be offered to the researchers of the discipline for further validation. However, based on current evidence, it is safe to assume that attitudes of learners can be changed if mediated instructional events incorporate as many of the activities referred to in the guidelines as possible.

Attitudes are predispositions to respond, and media are primarily carriers of information. There is no best medium for attitude change. However, there probably are best situations involving media that will maximize the likelihood of developing desirable attitudes in learners. Critically applying the general guidelines listed above will promote the discovery of attitudinal positions by students that are likely to contribute to healthy, positive learning situations.

Companion none is like
Unto the mind alone;
For many have been harmed by speech,
Through thinking, few or none.

Of a Contented Mind, 1557
Sir Thomas Vaux

Updated August 3, 2001
Copyright © 2001
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