The role of television news leads in learning from television news: The effect of anxiety-inducing leads and the lead as advance organizer on attention and memory for the news

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Pamela J. Shoemaker


Leads, Learning, Anxiety-inducing, Advance organizer, Attention, Memory

Subject Categories

Communication | Journalism Studies | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This experiment seeks to explore the effect four different manipulations of the television news lead (a production variable) produce on attention to and recall (learning) of information from the stories the leads introduce. The study is seen as essentially exploratory in nature, given the apparent absence of prior examination of the effect this specific production variable might have on attention and recall. Subjects were 18 to 21 year old college undergraduates, randomly selected for participation from a pool of students responding to an advertisement for the study, and randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions (order of lead presentation). Mass communications students were excluded from the study as potentially biased in their response to media messages. Forty-two subjects took part in the study. Four manipulations of the television news lead were presented: an affectively neutral lead, an anxiety-inducing lead, an advance organizer lead, and a combination lead (anxiety-inducing and advance organizer form). The within-subjects factor was the types of target leads. The between-subjects factor was the order of lead and story presentation. State anxiety was measured using a six item, short form of the State-Trait Anxiety Index. Attention was measured using secondary task reaction time. Recall (learning) was measured using aided recall questions (multiple choice). The study predicted that both the anxiety-inducing lead and the advance organizer lead would increase attention, improve processing of information, and result in greater recall (learning) of story information. The majority of the results were in the hypothesized direction, but relatively few tests reached statistical significance. The results varied across the two conditions (orders of presentation of the target leads). The difference may be attributable to the difference in cognitive effect produced by state anxiety and the advance organizer form. The results were encouraging enough to recommend exploring the strength of the relationships by replicating the study with a larger sample.


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