Using Syntax to Direct Processing Resources

Slimen Saliba, Andrews University
ABSTRACT - The purpose of this study is to examine how syntax can direct the processing of messages to discover whether individuals can utilize this process information in making decisions. A promising approach to these issues is offered by the "given-new" theory espoused in psycho-linguistics. This theory suggests that language syntax directs the processing of information. Certain sentence structures can direct attention to what is new information for the hearer and imply, by their syntax, that critical attention need not be paid to old information. As such, the hearer's attention can be automatically directed to processing message meaning.
[ to cite ]:
Slimen Saliba (1992) ,"Using Syntax to Direct Processing Resources", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, eds. John F. Sherry, Jr. and Brian Sternthal, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 275.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, 1992      Page 275

USING SYNTAX TO DIRECT PROCESSING RESOURCES

Slimen Saliba, Andrews University

ABSTRACT -

The purpose of this study is to examine how syntax can direct the processing of messages to discover whether individuals can utilize this process information in making decisions. A promising approach to these issues is offered by the "given-new" theory espoused in psycho-linguistics. This theory suggests that language syntax directs the processing of information. Certain sentence structures can direct attention to what is new information for the hearer and imply, by their syntax, that critical attention need not be paid to old information. As such, the hearer's attention can be automatically directed to processing message meaning.

To examine these ideas, four experiments were conducted. Attention was limited by having subjects read an externally-paced message. By using a pseudo-cleft sentence in experiments one and two, attention was directed to specific parts of the message. Subjects gave evaluative responses based on the advertised product. These evaluations were made when rehearsal was suppressed or after it was motivated.

It was observed that when limited attention was directed and rehearsal suppressed, subjects evaluated favorably. However, when rehearsal was motivated, evaluation was less favorable.

In experiments three and four the limiting and directing effects were replicated. These experiments also explored unmarked information. The outcomes showed that in the unmarked condition evaluation was more favorable under motivated thought rehearsal but the results were not always significant.

The experiments showed that people can process meaning automatically. This information can be recalled and utilized when thought rehearsal is motivated. That ability to recall automatically-processed information can be hindered or enhanced by marking message information.

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