The influence of measurement operations in affecting attitude-behavior change : perspective from a real-life dental hygiene situation



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The present study was one part of a comprehensive, natural setting investigation. The central purpose of this phase of the study was to examine the effect of the dependent variable (a photographic technique) on oral hygiene behaviors. This was partially intended as a replication of an earlier study (Evans et al., 1974). Two other independent variables were also evaluated. The experimental procedure employed a pretest-treatment-posttest design. Both pretest and posttest observations were measurements of cleanliness of teeth as indicated by a chemical agent which, when rinsed in the mouth, stained areas of bacterial plaque concentrated on the teeth red. A method- of rating photographs of the stained teeth was developed in earlier studies and used here as an indicator of actual tooth-cleaning behavior. Sixth grade students (n = 205) from three parochial schools in the Houston area were employed as subjects. The experimental conditions included a multi-media program developed to increase oral hygiene through education and this program plus an elaborate reinforcement condition designed to maintain changed behaviors over time. The control conditions included a group which received only all pretest and posttest measurements and another group which received only the final two posttest measurements. The experimental treatments were initiated - one week following the pretest observations. The posttest observations occurred six weeks, nine weeks, twelve weeks, sixteen weeks, and thirty-two weeks following the start of the experimental treatments. It was hypothesized that repeated measurements would result in increased tooth cleanliness; secondly, the multimedia program would greater increases in tooth cleanliness than measurements only; and thirdly, that the program-plus-reinforcement condition would result in greater increases of tooth cleanliness than the program only and would maintain cleaner teeth over a longer period than the other conditions. The first two hypotheses were partly supported by the data, although very clean teeth exhibited by the subjects in the condition which received only the final two measurements threatened the validity of these conclusions. Possible explanations for this group's unpredicted scores were presented. The third hypothesis was not supported, although the program-plus-reinforcement condition was shown to initiate changes in behaviors more rapidly than the other conditions. Both experimental conditions were shown to be slightly superior to the measurements-only condition in maintaining cleaner teeth. Some reflections on field studies were also offered.



Teeth, Care and hygiene, Behavior modification