Attribution theory and adverstising effectiveness



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Attribution theory has been heavily researched in the psychological literature. It has been proven useful in explaining the reactions of subjects in psychological laboratory experiments. It has not, however, been previously tested in an advertising field experiment. For this dissertation, a factorial experiment was conducted to determine the effects of advertising context on the perception of an advertisement. Kelley's attribution variables were used to define four dimensions of context; consensus, consistency over time, consistency over modality and distinctiveness. Kelley's theory was then tested by doing covariance analysis of the subject's perceptions of an advertisement using Kelley's dimensions as independent variables. Step-wise regression was used to determine the relationship between the perception of an advertisement and the effectiveness of the advertisement. The ten hypotheses which were tested can be summarized with two statements: a) The context in which an advertisement occurs will influence an individual's perception of that advertisement in a manner which can be predicted from Kelley's theory. b) The perception of an advertisement will influence the belief change resulting from that advertisement. Kelley's attribution theory did not prove to be dependable for explaining perceptions of advertisements. The perception of an advertisement was, however, shown to have a significant effect on advertising effectiveness. It was concluded that additional research is needed before attribution theory can be widely applied to advertising problems. In particular, research is needed on the effectiveness of Kelley's dimensions when they are applied in the advertising copy instead of the context. Attribution theory is currently being actively researched. Hopefully, it will prove to be of significant practical applicability.