Testing the effects of young children's persuasion knowledge and equity in their response to a TV advertisement

Shasha Wang

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated] Persuasion knowledge is widely used to refer to young children’s cognitive defence against persuasive marketing communications, such as TV advertisement and advergames. Researchers have asserted that young children’s (pre-schoolers who are younger than eight-years-old) low cognitive ability to understand the persuasive nature of marketing communication makes them more vulnerable or susceptible toward persuasive marketing communications than older children’s and adults’. It has been further argued that young children’s lack of this ability or persuasion knowledge has led to their low scepticism toward advertisements, and in turn maybe led to their high desire of advertised brands.

However, these arguments have been framed by adults’ theory. The researcher has found that research about the effectiveness of persuasion knowledge in reducing young children’s vulnerability or susceptibility to be weak, and the definitions of young children’s vulnerability or susceptibility to be unclear. Most researchers have found a supportive outcome of persuasion knowledge with young children’s responses to advertisements, but little evidence has been found to support the proposition that persuasion knowledge affects young children’s reactions toward the brands advertised. Moreover, in her review of the literature, the researcher has identified a measurement issue in the construct persuasion knowledge, because there was no consistency in measurement and no practice in validating it in the past.

The researcher has also found some theoretical issues. The assumption that young children’s cognitive or perceptual responses toward advertisements leads to a behavioural response toward advertised brands was derived from adults’ theory, but it is clearly not necessarily the case for young children. Children may question the advertisement but have no incentive to not want the advertised toy. And the overwhelming lack of a link between persuasion knowledge and reactions toward the brands advertised (e.g. brand liking, brand choice or brand request intention) may be due to the general lack of a need or reason to use their persuasion knowledge.

Researchers have tried to change young children’s cognitive situation by cueing and activating their persuasion knowledge by training them about the coping strategies toward persuasive marketing messages. However, according to the researcher’s analysis of 20 empirical studies, 80% of them failed to show an effect of persuasion knowledge in reducing young children’s desire for the brands advertised. This failure suggests two possibilities: either children must have a good reason to use their persuasion knowledge to react to the advertised brands, or persuasion knowledge does not influence young children’s reactions toward the advertised brands.

The under-tested reason that could influence young children’s behavioural responses is equity. If the children had equity at risk, then they would be expected to use their persuasion knowledge to reduce their desire of the advertised brand (e.g. less likely to like or choose the advertised brand). This reason was selected, because the only difference between young children and adults when making behavioural decisions is that young children just ask for things without any consideration of cost, whereas adults make cost considerations. Young children should experience the cost of equity, if researchers expect young children to response the same as adults. The experience of the cost of equity provides young children a same knowledge base as adults to make behavioural decisions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Liu, Fang, Supervisor
  • Mizerski, Dick, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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