Emotions in Mass Communication a Study Investigating Relations Between Cognitive Categories/ Cultural Narrative and Psycho-Physiological Phenomenon in the Perception of Visual Stimuli



Citation:

Anders A. Rasmussen (2001) ,"Emotions in Mass Communication a Study Investigating Relations Between Cognitive Categories/ Cultural Narrative and Psycho-Physiological Phenomenon in the Perception of Visual Stimuli", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Andrea Groeppel-Klien and Frank-Rudolf Esch, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 297-299.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2001      Pages 297-299

EMOTIONS IN MASS COMMUNICATION

A STUDY INVESTIGATING RELATIONS BETWEEN COGNITIVE CATEGORIES/ CULTURAL NARRATIVE AND PSYCHO-PHYSIOLOGICAL PHENOMENON IN THE PERCEPTION OF VISUAL STIMULI

Anders A. Rasmussen, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

BACKGROUND

It is a general observation that communication pre-tests reveal aspects of the communication effect related to attention, cognition, emotions and behaviour. It is also well known that market research has its focus on attention (e.g. which commercials do you remember?), cognition (e.g. what was the message of the commercial?) and behaviour (e.g. would you purchased the product after watching the commercial?).

Emotion on the other hand is, if not neglected, given a more superficial treatment, even though emotions often are the most important factor in the decision process (Ambler, 1999 & Hazlett, 1999). Often researchers rely on the very simple question about liking, "do you like the advertisement?" as an indicator of emotional reaction to the advertisement. This question raises two problems. First of all it is a superficial treatment ofa complex phenomenon and second the question of ad liking is very often non-relevant. According to Larry Percy ad liking is not a demand to advertisements. Lots of advertisements sell the product successfully with no or poor ad liking (Percy, 2000).

Neither is a superficial treatment of emotions in market research harmonious with the strong emphasis on emotional communication in today’s advertising strategies or with the overall shift in cultural meta paradigm from the information society to the emotional society (Jensen, 1999)

What is needed is a better conceptualisation and operationalisation of emotions in a marketing context as well as better test procedures for investigating emotional effects in mass communication. Today, and in the past, theories of emotions divides between biological and social constructivistic viewpoints. Trend setting scientist from both sides are talking about bringing the viewpoints together because both holds some of the truth (Strongman, 1998, Griffiths 1997, HarrT &Parrot 1996).

My purpose with this study is 1) to investigate the interaction of biological and social elements in consumer’s decision making and 2) to distinguish between different consumer decision context determining the relative importance of biological and social elements.

When it comes to purpose NR. 1 the study is primarily explorative, not knowing exactly what to expect and anticipate. But when it comes to purpose NR. 2 the study has some concrete hypothesis that will be tested through the nature of the research design.

It is important to emphasise that the overall purpose of the study is explorative. The findings should primarily prepare the formulation of a new and more precise research project to be conducted in about 6 month after this project.

ThenBin the endBboth the projects should help me in formulating a model of emotions in mass communication with an emphasis on an adequate test procedure, formulated in a PhD thesis, bringing together the biological and the social constructivist viewpoint.

DAMASIO’S THEORY

Damasio is a rather new authority, bringing some new and interesting perspectives to the discussion of emotions. With a starting point in the biological aspects, this is his strength, but he is indeed covering both the biological and the social dimension. He distinguishes between emotions and feelings (Damasio, 1995). Emotions represent the signal from the body (a primitive reaction to stimuli), while feelings are a higher perceptual level integrating the emotional signal from the body with sensory perception of the stimuli. In feelings emotions become images. Emotions are subconscious and feelings can be either conscious or subconscious. This is illustrated in the model (Figure 1) from Damasio (Damasio, 2000).

According to Damasio our perception of stimuli is processed in different levels of perceptual maps. In the first level we have 1) a first-order map of our own body’s primitive reaction to the stimuli and 2) a first-order map of our sensory perception of the stimuli. At the next level these to mapsBand especially the relation between bodily reaction and sensory perceptionBare brought together in a second-order map. This second-order map is the perceptual image that we experience in our consciousness, it is our feeling of the stimuli and it is a mentally constructed non-verbal narrative.

Both emotions and feelings can exist without language, but that is not to say that language does not contribute to the construction of feeling second-order mapsBit does contribute. Both emotions and feelings are related to learning and memory, but it is only feeling that is related to working memory and consciousness. Feelings is also reflected in consciousness signalling to us, in our mental problem solving activities the personal and subjective relevans of stimuli and consequences. This makes feelings an important aspect of what normally is referred to as rational decision making. In Bechara gambling experiment it is shown that it is emotions that guide or decisions, even without a conscious knowledge of this. People relying on a 100% rational decision making capacity (can’t use emotional signals due to brain damage in ventromedial part of the neo cortex) can’t make rational decisions in a real life context. Rational decision making rely on emotional capacity (Damasio, 1995)

RESEARCH PROJECT

Purpose

The purpose of this project is to study emotional, feeling and high reason reactions to visual stimuli and how they work together. Cognitive categories and cultural narratives will be investigated in what Damasio terms high reason and feelings, while psychophysiological phenomenon will be investigated in what Damasio term emotion.

It is hypothesised that

1) It is possible to distinguish between emotion, feeling and high reason in decision making

2) Different decision making context gives different importance to emotion, feeling and high reason

Design

Step 1: Respondents (students from the Copenhagen Business School, male, age 18-25) are exposed to 9 pictures of different types of persons (3 appetitiv (1m&2f), 3 adversive (1m&2f) and 3 neutral (1m&2f)) one at a time while measuring their EMG and GSR responses.

Step 2: The respondents are asked to prioritise all the pictures according to personal liking.

FIGURE 1

LEVELS OF LIFE REGULATION

Step 3: The respondents prioritise some other pictures of persons (from their own sex and age group) according to liking. The purpose is to find a person the respondent can identify with (without telling the respondent that this is the purpose). The chosen person is given a name, e.g. John.

Step 4: Decision scenario A. The respondent is asked to imagine that John is going on a summer holiday to a dessert island near Honolulu with a secret room maid which none will ever come to know about afterwards. The task is to prioritise the pictures according too whom he would prefer to go with. The picture with the highest and the lowest priority is probed using NeedScope (relying of the psychological mechanisms of projection and transference) to let the respondent describe the reasons for the judgement in depth and in detail.

Step 5: Decision scenario B. The respondent is asked to imagine that John is walking very late all alone in the forest and for some reason everything is very frightening that evening. John is thinking about a series of awful murders that took place in that very same forest a year ago. At some moment in the forest John is surprised and scared by a person stepping out on the path from behind the trees. The task is to prioritise the pictures according to which you would the least like the person to be. The picture with the highest and the lowest priority is probed using NeedScope (relying of the psychological mechanisms of projection and transference) to let the respondent describe the reasons for the judgement in depth and in detail.

Step 6: Decision scenario C. The respondent is asked to imagine that John has been falsely accused of possession of Cocaine by some misunderstandings. If the trial ends up finding John guilty he will not only be send to jail for 2 years he will also loose his job, wife, children and house. John is to choose a lawyer to present him in the trial. The task is to prioritise the pictures according to which John will prefer being his lawyer.

The picture with the highest and the lowest priority is probed using NeedScope (relying of the psychological mechanisms of projection and transference) to let the respondent describe the reasons for the judgement in depth and in detail.

Step 6: Decision scenario D. The respondent is asked to imagine that Johns daughter has social problems at schoolBprobably related to the divorce of her parentsBand that the class teacher has recommended that John choose a counsellor to speak to his daughter. The task is to prioritise the pictures according to which John would prefer counselling his daughter.

The picture with the highest and the lowest priority is probed using NeedScope (relying of the psychological mechanisms of projection and transference) to let the respondent describe the reasons for the judgement in depth and in detail.

SPECIFIC HYPOTHESIS

1. The first prioritisation (step 1) will correlate with none of the other prioritisation’s (step 4 and 5).

-Liking is not relevant for the outcome of decision processes.

2. The result of decision scenarios A and B will correlate with the psycho physiological measurements of positive versus negative emotional reactions.

-Decision processes depend on context. The contexts in scenario A and B are very similar in their relations to basic needs and emotions (sex and fear). Therefore the psycho physiological measurements should give good predictions of the outcome of the decision processes.

3. The result of decision scenarios C and D will not correlate with the psycho physiological measurements of positive versus negative emotional reactions.

-Decision processes depend on context. The contexts in scenario C and D are not directly related to basic needs and emotions. The decision contexts are more related to social and personal failure, family problems and concerns for people that you love.

4. The NeedScope probing in relation to decision scenario C and D will be more extended and elaborated than what is the case for decision scenario A and B.

-The decision processes in scenario C and D will to a greater extend depend on cognitive categories and cultural narratives than what is the case for the scenarios in decision processes A and B.

EMG/GSR AND NEEDSCOPE

EMG: In the literature electromyography is either presented as a supplement to GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) or as an improvement and replacement of GSR. GSR measures the autonomic reactions to stimuli, but you do not know whether the GSR reaction is positive or negative. What you get is a measurement of the strength of the reactionBthe level of arousal, but you still need the valenceBis it a positive or negative reaction? EMG is based on theories of interactions between the face and different emotions. The face is believed to both functions as displaying different emotions and as a feedback mechanism to the brain’s construction of emotions. This has been documented in several studies. Using EMG you measure the strength of the electric action potentials in different muscles in the face. Activity in the muscles called zygomatic is correlated with positive emotions whereas activity in corrugator is correlated with negative emotions.

In the research project both EMG and GSR will be used, trying to measure the emotional reaction to the stimuli.

NeedScope: NeedScope is a branded research tool used in market research. Another well-known method with similarities to NeedScope is IMPSYS.

Different sets of pictures with known properties related to projection and transference are used. The sets of pictures are tested and validated, as to the different emotions related to the different pictures. The method is very applicable to revealing the deep cognitive categories and cultural narratives associated with different stimuli at the feeling level.

Besides from choosing a picture from the different NeedScope picture sets that the respondents associate with a specific stimuli picture, the respondent is asked to elaborate and give reasons for matching the NeedScope picture and the stimuli picture.

In the research project NeedScope will be used, trying to capture the feeling reaction to the stimuli.

INDEX OF LITERATURE

Damasio: "Decates Error". Avons Books, 1995.

Damasio: "The feeling of what happens". William Heinemann, 2000.

Jensen: "The Dream Society". 1999.

Anders A. Rasmussen: "What is emotions?" in Contributions to marketing. Gallup Denmark, 1996.

Anders A. Rasmussen: "Projective laddering for FMCG". ESOMAR, 1999.

Hazlett: "Emotional response to television commercials: Facial EMG vs. self-report". Journal of advertising research, March/April 1999.

Ambler and Burne: "The impact of affect on memory of advertising". Journal of advertising research, March/April 1999.

Hussey & Duncombe: "Projecting the right imageBusing projective techniques to measure brand image". Qualitative Market Research, Volume 2Bnumber 1.

Griffiths: "What emotions really are". The University of Chicago, 1997.

HarrT & Parrot: "The Emotions". SAGE, 1996.

Larry Percy: "Advertising & Promotion Management". McGraw-Hill, 2000.

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Authors

Anders A. Rasmussen, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark



Volume

E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2001



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