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3. Initial stage (basic paper)

An outstanding public opinion researcher has been engaged to undertake the 8-month assignment of making a critical survey and analysis of the considerable public opinion research literature (well over 1,000 studies), relating it to the effective communication of safety messages, and the drafting of a basic paper on guidelines and standards for safety communications.

This initial presymposium paper will deal with the avenues of communication (newspapers, magazines, radio, television, posters, face-to-face, etc.) and content approaches, including: General vs. specific

Humor Explicit vs. implicit

Threat-appeal (scare) Order of presentation

Emotional vs. factual Negative vs. positive

Repetition Prestige-authority approach

Duration of effect Slogans

Believability The initial paper will be addressed to five objectives:

To develop a comprehensive bibliography of materials pertaining to the effective communication of safety messages (abstracted according to a standardized procedure using standardized criteria) and to establish a reference file on studies in this field to be used currently as well as in the future.

To describe critically the scope and depth of the current state of empirically derived knowledge relating to the effective communication of safety messages.

To generate principles of effective communications for safety and to document such principles from the research that has been done in the communications of persuasion.

To develop guidelines for programing in safety. 4. Developmental stage (critique papers)

In June of 1963, the basic paper, developed in the initial stage (above), will be sent to 18 specialists in the fields of social research, psychology, sociology, press, broadcasing media, advertising, and safety public information. (Accompanying the basic paper will be a background paper on the nature of the highway traffic safety problem-which will be given major emphasis in the study, outlining what we in traffic safety are trying to accomplish in terms of knowledge, attitude, and behavior.) Each of the 18 specialists will from his own perspective evaluate the basic paper and develop additional material. 5. Plenary stage (symposium)

A. Participants.-Symposium participants will be limited to approximately 60 traffic safety information specialists; communication theorists, researchers and academicians; and press and media specialists (from radio, television, newspapers, periodicals). It will include the 18 noted above. The symposium will be held September 16 and 17 at the University of Denver.

B. Symposium format.—All participants will receive the basic paper and the traffic safety background paper) in June of 1963. All participants will receive the critique papers by September 1, 1963.

The symposium will be divided into three workshop panels meeting three times. Each panel will have approximately 20 participants, with balanced representation from the areas outlined above.

In each of three sessions of each panel two critique papers will be summarized by their respective authors, each to be followed by discussion. (Note that while during the symposium period, each panel will specifically discuss only six critique papers with the authors, all participants will have had a prior opportunity to read all 18 critique papers and can integrate the information accordingly.) Each panel will have a chairman and a secretary (to be selected by the steering committee.)

i Dr. Harold Mendelsohn, Denver University, widely known and respected sociologist in the fleld of communications, has agreed to take on this assignment. Dr. Mendelsohn is professor and director of research in the Radio-Television Department of the University of Denver. Dr, Mendelsohn has had extensive experience in all phases of communications research as associate director, Marketing and Social Research Division, the Psychological Corp., associate director of marketing communications research, McCann-Erickson, Inc., advertising; research associate, Bureau of Social Science Research of the American University, Washington, D.C.; and as a survey analyst with the International Broadcasting Service of the U.S. State Department. Dr. Mendelsohn has written numerous articles on communications research and public opinion. His paper on evaluating the process of communications effect received an award for original research proposals recently from the Television Bureau of Advertising, Dr. Mendelsohn received the Ph.D. from the Graduate Faculty of the New York School for Social Research; the M.A. from Columbia University; and the B.S. from the City College of New York.

The symposium will conclude with a plenary session at which the three chairmen will report on their respective panel discussions. 6. Final report

The final report, to be prepared immediately following the symposium, will be a distillation of the basic paper, the background paper, the critique papers, and the panel discussion (all of which will be tape recorded). Working with a committee of the symposium, the study director will be responsible for the final report. 7. Budget

The approximate costs for the study are as follows: Initial search and basic paper.

$14, 000 Travel and accommodations for 10 academicians.

3, 400 Honorariums for papers.

2, 500 Symposium accommodations..

300 Mimeographed materials and postage.

2, 000 Other printing-

1, 000 Publishing of proceedings in book form.

5, 000 Presymposium meetings.

700 Staff travel

1, 500 Staff overhead.

11, 800 Miscellaneous..



42, 700 Safety Communications Study Sponsored by National Safety Council Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in cooperation withThe Advertising Council, Inc.

Council of State Governments Advertising Research Foundation, Inc. International Association of Chiefs of American Association of Motor Vehicle Police Administrators

National Association of Broadcasters American Association of Retired Persons National Education Association American Automobile Association National Foundation American Bar Association

National Health Council American Cancer Society

National Highway Users Conference American Heart Association

National Society for Crippled Children American Medical Association

and Adults American National Red Cross

National Society for the Prevention of American Newspaper Publishers Asso- Blindness ciation

New York University, Center for Safety American Public Health Association Education American Trucking Associations, Inc. Northwestern University, Traffic InstiAssociation for Aid of Crippled Children tute and Transportation Center Association of American Railroads Television Bureau of Advertising Automotive Safety Foundation

U.S. Bureau of Public Roads
Chamber of Commerce of the United U.S. Public Health Service

Columbia University, safety research

and education project at Teachers



PERTINENT RESEARCH (A research prospectus submitted to the National Safety Countil by the University

of Denver)


In light of its ever-increasing activities in safety, the National Safety Council has commissioned the University of Denver to undertake a critical analysis of pertinent research in mass communications for the following purposes:

"To develop a comprehensive bibliography of materials pertaining to the effective communication of safety messages (abstracted according to a standardized procedure using standardized criteria) and to establish a reference file on studies in this field to be used currently as well as in the future.

“To describe critically the scope and depth of the current state of empirically derived knowledge relating to the effective communication of safety messages.

“To generate principles of effective communications for safety and to document such principles from the research that has been done in the communications of persuasion.

"To develop guidelines for programing in safety."

In addition, the study to be undertaken will serve as a position document to background a national conference on safety communications to be convened under National Safety Council auspices in the fall of 1963.

Finally, it is hoped that the study will serve to generate scholarly interest in the communications problems that are involved in producing and disseminating safety communication effectively.

The project will be carried out in two phases—an information-gathering phase and an analysis and interpretation phase.

Traditional techniques of library research will reflect the major effort in the information-gathering phase.

Supplementing the library research effort will be an attempt to uncover researches that have not been published but which have been conducted by business groups, welfare organizations, academic institutions, governmental bodies, and private research organizations. This effort will involve both formal and informal correspondence, meetings, and talks.

The process envisaged is one where one lead (e.g., an article containing a bibliography) points to others in sort of a snowballing effect.

At the point where information (1) begins to duplicate itself extensively and (2) becomes scant and extremely difficult to come by, further gathering of information will be discontinued.

All information is to be (1) noted, (2) cataloged, (3) cross-referenced, and (4) abstracted according to a standardized procedure using standardized criteria.

A filing system will be set up with an eye to (1) providing easy access to materials for the project and (2) to serve as a repository for future research efforts in the area of communicating effectively for safety.

Before undertaking an analysis of the material to be gathered, these works that are found to be irrelevant, based upon questionable methodologies, or merely confirmative of minute and specific findings that have been previously developed and elaborated upon will be excluded from the analysis.

The analysis and interpretation itself will be conducted within a general social psychological frame of reference that will seek to pull together variables relating to personality and social predispositions, perception, learning, motivation, actiondisposition, and “effects” in terms of systematic organizing principles.

The analysis and interpretation phase will culminate in a full narrative writeup that will describe in detail the procedures adopted, the findings, the generalizations that emerge from the findings, and guidelines for possible actions.

To a great extent the project's success will depend on the cooperation of the many people who are concerned with the effective communication of traffic safety messages. To these people the study now turns for suggestions, ideas, comments and criticisms, and for sources of information and researches. All such will be received most gratefully.


1. The need to define objectives for safety propaganda

All too often the objectives set for a mass communications program are unrealistic in terms of what they can actually accomplish. More often than not mass communications objectives either are not made explicit or are overambitious regarding the behaviors they can induce, maintain, or change.

Without explicit statements of communications objectives, it is almost impossible to evaluate whether communications under specific circumstances are effective or not.

Where explicit statements of objectives are available to guide evaluation, it is necessary to examine how realistic these objectives are in terms of our knowledge about the effects that can be produced by mass communications.

The study to be undertaken at the University of Denver will explore in detail the kinds of objectives that a program of mass communications in traffic safety can pursue with some promise of effectiveness. Within this rubric, careful consideration will be given to the following:

A. The complexes of variables, among which mass communications are but one, that can influence proper safety behavior.

B. The concept of the mass communications "campaign" and the accomplishment of short-term results as contrasted to the long-term persevering communications programs that can look forward to longer-range results.

C. Problems relating to gross saturation of mass audiences versus pinpointed communication appeal to specified subaudiences.

D. Problems relating to the creation of prior favorable climates of opinion that will serve to set the stage for greater ultimate receptivity of safety messages.

E. Problems relating to the “two-step flow” of communications from the mass medium source through the intervention of opinion leaders or peers to the ultimate message recipient. II. The application of communication theories to mass communication for safety

A thorough critical review of theories in mass communication as they pertain to communication for safety will be undertaken.

Among the theories to be discussed, analyzed and assessed are the following:

A. Behavioristic learning theories as propounded by Miller, May, Dollard, and Lumsdaine.

1. Learning from the mass media results from four principal psychological conditions-motivation, stimulus, participation, and reenforcement. B. Mechanistic information theories expounded by Wiener, Shannon, and Schramm.

1. Communication effect is a function of encoding, entropy, redundancy, noise, channel capacity, and decoding. C. Barrow's relative potency theory. The effectiveness of a message is related to the power of its symbols to overcome "interference” and to be comprehended.

D. Lewin's field theory. If behavior represents a reorganization of the individual's perceptual or cognitive field then communication is capable of affecting such reorganization to some degree. According to the manner in which the field is organized, the individual will act.

E. Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance. The existence of dissonance (i.e. inconsistency between the individual's beliefs, attitudes, values, etc., and what he experiences in the environment) is psychologically uncomfortable. Consequently where dissonance exists, the individual will either seek situations and information which will reduce it, or he will actively avoid situations and information that are likely to increase dissonance.

F. Mendelsohn's active response theory. Action-inducing communications are cumulative in their effects. Before action-inducing communications can influence behavior they must induce-cumulatively-learning, emotion, and action disposition among their audiences.

G. Personality Theories of McClelland and Atkinson. Stimulus strength (i.e. communications) must be related to individuals' motives and expectations in order to be effective.

H. Sociological “phenomonistic” theories of Klapper, Katz, Riley, Wright. Mass communications operate within a social nexus of complex variables. Consequently, where changes in taste, opinions, or behaviors are contemplated mass communications alone can be expected to be relatively ineffectual. III. Audience characteristics and dynamics that may serve either to implement or to

inhibit effectiveness in mass communication for safety It is evident from past research experineces in mass communication that the audiences for various communications "select themselves out” in terms of prior interest, beliefs, attitudes, values, sentiments, group identifications, self-images, psychological "blocks” and the like. As a consequence, it has been noted that much public information and propaganda “falls upon deaf ears.” That is to say, the very people who are considered prime targets for activation and conversion in most instances are least likely to be exposed to and to be affected by such communications. Thus, for example, we find in political campaigns that Democrats will tend to listen and react to the arguments propounded by the Democratic Party, while Republicans will be most likely to attend and react to GOP arguments; members of minority groups will generally attend and react to protolerance propaganda in far greater proportions than will those manifesting racial and ethnic prejudicies; the better educated rather than the poorly educated will tend to view "educational television.

If this holds true for mass communication in traffic safety, it is altogether likely that the very group of drivers who contribute disproportionately to traffic accident incidence is the group that neither customarily exposes itself to sound traffic safety messages, nor reacts favorably to such message when exposure occurs either consciously or by chance.

This is not to say that the self-selection principle is "negative" to the point of rendering mass communication for safety hopeless. Here, it should be recalled that safety messages no doubt serve to reenforce those people who are normally concerned with the problem, and continual reenforcement is generally salutory. In addition, in supplying the interested and informed with salient information and arguments, these very groups (e.g. teachers) can be mobilized to "reach" the uninformed and disinterested indirectly via interpersonal channels of communication rather than directly through the mass media.

The study to be undertaken will be addressed to a thorough exploration of the self-selection principle as it appplies to the effective communication of safety messages.

Here attention will be given to the factors that influence audience interest versus apathy; to the problems of motivation; to the mechanisms of psychological defense against propaganda; and to the dynamics of "persuasibility”; to the dynamics of projection and "disidentification” (e.g., traffic accidents always happen to the other guy'); to the influences of peer group pressures (e.g., nobody in my gang ever pays attention to those "square” speed limit signs); to the dynamics of cognitive dissonance touched upon above; to the possibility of overcommunication so that "being informed" begins to substitute for "doing something” about a phenomenon (i.e., the concept of the narcotizing dysfunction of mass communication); to dynamics of interpersonal dissemination of mass communication.

In addition, attention will be given to the differential mass media habits of teenagers, adult men, and adult women so that determinations of optimal media usage to reach subgroups can be made. IV. The relative effectiveness of variant content approaches and appeals in mass

communication for safety Past research in mass communications has indicated that certain forms and techniques of content presentation appear to be related to persuasiveness. Among the more important and oft-discussed materials within this rubric are those summarized and discussed by Joseph T. Klapper in his book, "The Effects of Mass Communications” (p. 113):

“1. Presenting only one side of an argument, as compared with presenting both sides;

“2. Drawing explicit conclusions as compared to leaving the conclusions implicit; 13. "Threat' appeals; 4. Repetition and cumulative exposure; "5. 'Canalization' and providing release from tension; “6. Order, emphasis, organization, and the like.”

Although the University of Denver study will review these mechanisms and devices as they may apply to mass communication for traffic safety, it is planned to explore many other problems relating to persuasive content forms and devices.

For example, attention will be focused upon slogans, humor, literal versus fantasy treatment, the concept of brevity in relation to attention span, color, emphasis, vague versus explicit treatment, illustration, captioning, sound, analogy, generalization, exaggeration, exposition versus dramatization, audience benefit, layout, rational versus emotional appeal, testimonial.

Particular attention will be paid to attention-getting and attention-holding devices in terms of the dynamics of perception.

The presentation to be developed within the overall category of effective content approaches will be organized around a discussion of the concept of mass communication “appeals” plus an exploration of the necessity for the propagandist to assume and maintain control over his communication so that all ele ments of content are integrated to serve the specific objectives to which such content may be addressed.


The purpose of this study is not one of merely presenting the wide array of materials that is available in mass communication research. Such surveys have been done and have been done well.

Rather, it will be the purpose of this study primarily to draw upon empirically derived information with an eye to developing sound guidelines for the production of effective mass communications in safety.

The sources to be examined will be experiments, surveys, exploratory researches and descriptive researches that have been conducted in the fields of safety, psy

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