Date of Award

5-11-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. MaryAnn Romski

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not Public Service Announcements (PSAs) were an effective tool at modifying young adults’ perception of the r-word (the word “retard” or “retarded”). The PSAs included in this study were part of the Special Olympics’ “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. This study examined the efficacy of these PSAs by comparing three groups’ perception of the r-word: experimental group 1 who watched a PSA titled “It’s Not Acceptable” (PSA 1 group), experimental group 2 who watched a PSA titled “We Need a New R-word” (PSA 2 group), and a third control group who watched no PSA. The purpose of the control group was to gain a baseline of how today’s young adults perceived the r-word with no influence from PSAs. Six hundred and seventy-five participants were randomly assigned to one of the three groups. The two experimental groups watched their respective PSAs and completed the survey materials comprised of a consent form, their affective and cognitive responses to the PSA, their ratings of the r-word and their demographic information. The control group watched no PSA but completed the survey materials comprised of a consent form, their ratings of the r-word and their demographic information. This study then examined what the differences were between the three groups’ perception of the r-word. It was hypothesized that PSA 1 group would have a more negative perception of the r-word than PSA 2 group and the control group, due to PSA 1’s framing the r-word as similar to other minority slurs, and using affect to facilitate message acceptance. The PSA 1 group participants thought more about the argument within their PSA, and rated higher affective responses to their PSA, when compared to the PSA 2 group; however, PSA 1 group did not have a more negative perception of the r-word than the other two groups. Results found that the PSA 2 group perceived the r-word as significantly less respectful than the participants in the control group. These findings are discussed in terms of message design for future PSAs regarding the r-word

Available for download on Friday, February 01, 2019

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