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Semantic Processing in Advertising

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Semantic Processing in Advertising Introduction Having learnt about levels of processing in Psychology it has made me think more about the meaning of words and how we decipher that meaning. Levels of Processing suggests that stimuli can be encoded and processed at varying levels/depths from shallow to deep. It shows that the long term memory store is not just a simple storage unit but a complex processing system. There are at least three levels of processing, visual, acoustic and semantic. Visual processing involves analysing the visual appearance (orthography components) of a word. Acoustic processing is about the sound (based on the phonemic components) of the word for example 'does it rhyme'? And semantic processing analyses the meaning of the word. I am particularly interested in semantic processing and how it links with memory. I am interested to find out what features make words stand out and make a word/sentence memorable and to see how these techniques are used in advertising in that they have a lasting affect on the person reading the advert. To avoid transgressing which limits boundaries and to achieve more significant results, this experiment will focus on two levels, visual and semantic as these are the extremes (shallowest and deepest level of processing). Does semantically processing a word increase recall? What other features increase recall? To what extent are these factors being exploited by advertisers? Methodology The experimental design was independent groups. The sample was opportunist because a class of 17-18 year old college students were available to take part in my experiment, so it was convenient. I conducted a memory experiment which involved a word list incorporating both visual and semantic processing through questions. I compiled a list of words and assigned a question to each word. Some questions led to visual processing e.g. 'Is the word in capital letters?' this questions requires the reader to analyse the appearance of the word. ...read more.


The last word on the list was 'bottle' but the yellow colour of the word didn't stand out very well so this could be why the participant didn't recall this word. Participants were not told that they were going to be tested on recall as this would have affected my results as some participants may have employed memory techniques such as chunking or making up a story involving the words, this could then have affected the order of the word recall. I didn't want to find out about memory techniques, I wanted to find out about on the spot memory. Words at beginning of list recalled first? The first word on the list was 'Table' 5/18 participants recalled this word first. This could be down to the primacy factor (it was the first word, first impressions are remembered). If participants had known I was going to test their recall after the questions they may have used memory techniques which would have most definitely affected the order of which they recalled words, probably remembering even more words from the beginning especially, and maybe the end. This could also have increased recall of words in the middle of the list, especially if they used the story technique. Repetition In the word list I included the words 'camera' and 'cameras'. I found that 8/18 participants recalled both of these words (11/18 remembered at least one of these words). I think this use of repetition is the explanation for this high recall. If you see a word twice you are likely to pay more attention to it (process it twice) and you may think to yourself 'I've already seen this word and answered a question on this'. This increases the likelihood of you recalling it. I believe this technique is also used in advertising, repetition can emphasise a point. It is a rhetorical device used by politicians and by many others including at college, used by teachers to make students remember information for an exam by making them repeat practice exam questions over and over again. ...read more.


Advertisers must also have to take this fact into consideration, they need to ensure their advert appeals to the audience that it is intended to target, they may exploit different advertising techniques in order to do this. Evaluation: Limitations and Modifications In this experiment one of the limitations was the sample. The sample size was fairly small (only 18 people took part, 8 boys and 10 girls for each condition). This meant that quite a small amount of results were gathered and it was hard to compare and generalise the results. The sample itself was a limitation in terms of the type of people. The participants were all college students and between the ages of 16-18 so the group was limited. To modify this, a bigger sample could be gathered and from the general population so the participants would be from a wider radius rather than just college students. For example you could go into town and randomly select a sample. I would also investigate more frameworks to explore my results further. It would be interesting to add in the third level of processing which is acoustic. It would be interesting to see how the results would alter. Some people's preferred learning style involves saying the word or having it played on a tape recorder and so this may increase their recall. The participants had to recall a list of words they had answered questions on. This is fairly unrealistic because in everyday life we are not required to remember random words, the experiment lacks ecological validity. To modify this I could have used a shopping list (including food/drink etc) as this is happens in real life and has some significance. However I have decided to test my findings using real life data. Finally I am very happy with my findings as I took a holistic approach and my frameworks occurred naturally through my research. My further research exploring advertising has been effective in supporting my results regarding the frameworks. ...read more.

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