Age-related differences in children's responses to television advertising : central versus peripheral routes to persuasion
Thesis DisciplineBusiness Administration
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
This thesis presents an empirical investigation of age-related differences in children's processing of advertising and subsequent persuasion. Limitations of paradigms used in past research on children's responses to advertising are identified: of particular concern is the rather cursory attention that has been given to involvement. This thesis investigates the potential for the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) to provide a more sophisticated perspective of children's processing of advertising and resultant persuasion. Thus, both children's abilities and motivations to process advertising are given much-needed attention. Hypotheses are grounded in theories of children's information processing abilities that provide descriptions of expected age-related differences in children's processing of advertising.
An experimental design for assessing age-related differences in children's processing of advertising and resultant persuasion is presented. The implemented design was a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial experiment manipulating involvement with the ad (high/low) and assistance (assisted/not assisted) for children from two age groups (7-11 and 11-16) that have associated information processing abilities. Triangulation of measures, including thoughts produced during viewing, argument recognition, and formation of Attitude toward the Ad (Aad), Attitude toward the Brand (Ab), and Purchase Intention (PI), provide a holistic view of children's processing and persuasion. Thought and argument recognition analyses revealed mechanisms producing persuasion. Path analyses, using evaluations of central message arguments and peripheral cues as predictors of Aad, Ab, and PI, allowed persuasion to be specified as taken through the central or the peripheral routes.
207 children from a single full-primary school participated in the experiment. The results reveal that even children as young as 8 years of age have the ability to take the central route to persuasion. In fact, whilst the older children exhibited greater ability to elaborate central message arguments and thereby greater potential ability to take the central route, the younger children exhibited an equivalent and in some cases superior tendency to form attitudes via the central route to persuasion. Implications for theory, management and public policy are discussed. Further research opportunities spring forth and are duly presented.