Affective, attitudinal, and cognitive responses to music in modern U.S. political advertising

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This dissertation investigated attitudinal, affective, and cognitive responses to musical and message content in modern U.S. political advertising by manipulating musical tempo, message valence, and music-message congruity as a function of musical modality in a within-subjects laboratory experiment. Conceptually, the present research adds to the understanding of the effects of music-message congruity by comparing it to music-message ambiguity; modally congruent messages featured either major- or minor-key musical content (when positive or negative, respectively), while musical content in modally ambiguous messages did not contain sufficient information to be classified as either major- or minor-key. Methodologically, a novel design was devised with the intent to control for verbal-visual content and isolate responses to musical content in the context of advertising messages. This design produced unexpected confounds for several of the dependent variables, particularly tests of memory and self-reported affective response. Initial findings were insignificant, with the exception of attitudinal measures relating to hedonic evaluation, which found significant main effects for music-message congruity and message valence, as well as an interaction between message valence and tempo, in the expected directions. Subsequent analysis of facial electromyography data along the zygomaticus major and corrugator supercilii muscle groups found that participants differed significantly in their responses to the independent variables based upon their level of political sophistication. Politically sophisticated participants exhibited psychophysiological affective contrast and the politically unsophisticated exhibited affective assimilation for the independent variables of music-message congruity, message valence, and musical tempo. The affective responses of political sophisticates that were inferred psychophysiologically were inconsistent with self-reported hedonic evaluation of the sample as a whole. These findings suggest that further research concerning the use of music as an affective cue is warranted, and that more thorough investigation of the role of political sophistication in affective and cognitive judgments be undertaken. Discrepancies between evaluative and psychophysiological results confirm the utility of response triangulation in experimental settings. For practical purposes, these results suggest the importance of utilizing affective content including music in different ways depending on the needs of the message and the level of topical sophistication estimated in the target audience.

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Mass communication, Psychology, Music