Cause An Uproar: Social Marketing Strategies for National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative

A friend of mine, Crystal Cierlak, and I created a social marketing campaign improvement proposal for National Geographic’s Cause An Uproar campaign. Also, please check out our companion prezi for graphics and visuals representative of the content and suggestions in the proposal. This was SUPER fun. Also, we got 110% on it. That is fun too!

Cause An Uproar: Social Marketing Strategies for National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative

            National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative is a campaign aimed at preserving the world’s declining big cat population using education, various conservation efforts, incentives, and awareness. The program suggests several steps, the first of which is to halt the decline of lions by 2015, and to facilitate the growth of the population to self-sustaining levels thereafter. With a variety of partnered groups, including the IUCN Lion Working Group and conservationists from various groups in Botswana, members of local and national groups are encouraged to join the efforts. As such, we have worked to facilitate the growth of this important effort, by producing a social marketing campaign analysis including a constructive and critical look at the current campaign website, as well as offering research supported ideas for improvement and growth.

Gardner’s Seven R’s

Howard Gardner, a noted cognitive psychologist, in his book Changing Minds (2006), suggests that encouraging change includes steps which he calls the seven R’s. An effective campaign for behavior, and ultimately attitude, change successfully utilizes these principles. We have used these principles as the backbone of our analysis. Understanding how these principles affect change allows us to continue to reassess the effectiveness of any attitude and behavior change campaign. That is, after all, the purpose of social marketing.

Reason gives the consumer a focus; it communicates the purpose for the change. Reason appeals to those who deal in logic. Tools such as analogies, comparisons, cause and effect relations, and debates may lead consumers to the conclusions sought after. In this case, the Big Cat Initiative (BCI) stresses the decay of the big cat population. An example of this can be found in the ‘About’ section of the Cause An Uproar site. While this site includes reasons for big cat conservation, this is an area which lacks in content.

Research is defined by the amount of information collected to support the reasons given. If an argument does not have supporting documentation, it has nothing to stand on. Research provides this documentation. Though the arguments given for facilitating this change are somewhat weak, the research has clearly been done by the BCI. On the ‘Main’ page, towards the bottom, facts about big cats are separated by cat type. However, as one of the goals of this campaign is global education, information could be more clearly disseminated throughout the site; educating readers at every point in their journey.

Resonance relates to the emotional connection that the consumer has to the material or change. Making the information relevant to the consumer encourages a personal interest in the cause. When someone sees themselves as directly affected, they are more likely to join the fight. This site features two notable activities which bring the big cats home to the consumer. First, the activity “Little Kitties for Big Cats” collects five dollars for the upload of a picture of a consumer’s kitten. This project simultaneously collects monetary donations, and allows consumers to connect the attachment to their kittens at home with the big cats elsewhere. Second, the site invites consumers (specifically children in this case) to write letters to the big cats. In doing so, children are afforded the opportunity to feel a personal connection with the animals. These are  brilliant examples of bringing home the message, and using conditioning to create resonance.

Redescriptions are reiterations of the story being told. This is important because, just as there are several types of learners, there are several ways to present an argument. The BCI uses videos, pictures, and case studies to reinforce the need for action. However, the layout of the site makes these redescriptions difficult to find, and somewhat labor intensive to experience.

Resources and Rewards relate to the gain that a consumer receives from participation; whether it is informational, emotional, or tangible. Sometimes, getting someone to change their attitudes or behaviors is as easy is helping them understand, or see the value in what they personally receive from the change. Just as with resonance, if a change is personally connected to them, they are more likely to partake. There are small rewards for donation and participation included in the BCI. These include descriptions and pictures of grants and their impact, and the pictures of the kittens which appear when the five dollars are donated to the little kitten effort. Another small incentive is the presentation of the avatars of Facebook users who have ‘liked’ the site. Seeing their faces on the front page of the site, and knowing that others see your face as well, gives consumers the emotional reward gained from prosocial behavior.

Real World Events include the utilization of situations which occur on broader scales which facilitate change. The BCI has, on their ‘Main’ page, news articles from around the globe which relate to their efforts. Though real world events are not always plentiful, taking advantage of the learning experiences, or changes which those events inadvertently cause, strengthens the argument made by the campaign. There is not much control over the availability of content in this area, so the news sections, though small and somewhat under exposed, is a thoughtful inclusion.

Resistances denote the reasons why this change may not take place; things which work against a cause. Resistances may include ease of use of the product, reward availability, monetary insufficiencies, etc. Careful contemplation of these resistances, and planning contingencies for them, allows the campaign to overcome many of them. The BCI does this by the inclusion of a variety of ways to contribute and clearly articulating the needs/goals of the campaign. Again, the site format reduces the visibility and ease of use, which is, in and of itself, a major resistance.

Reinforcing the Seven R’s: Suggestions for Improvement

While a sense of urgency is certainly important, educating the public about why big cat species need swift and lasting conservation efforts  must instead appeal to their reasonable intellect. The information in the ‘About’ section should include answers to questions such as ‘What happens to an area’s ecological system when these cats are gone?’, ‘What other species are affected by the declining numbers of big cats?’, and ‘How does even a little bit of support help in the long term?’ In the commercials for Cause an Uproar, the narration states that if we do not act now to protect species of big cats, we will one day speak of them the way we speak of dinosaurs now. This reasonable line of thinking is a good starting place but deserves explication on the website.

It is also unclear who the target audience is. The same approach to educating adults does not necessarily apply to children, for obvious reasons. While there is a section ‘For Kids’, much of the content on the site seems to be a combination of adult and youth content. Separation of the site for kids from the site for adults (e.g., rather than a tab for children, redirecting the user to a completely separate site just for children), allows the reasoning to be clear for each target demographic. Where the urgent message currently presented might work for a child’s level of reasoning, more specific information, such as that turned up by research, could be advantageously aimed to reason with the adult demographic.

Documented research need not be confined to a column of text and an accompanying cartographic image. A great majority of the website appears to be targeted at children, perhaps with the aim of eliciting their young minds to adopt a stance on big cats early in life. This may also ensure they will be long-time partners of positive change for the Big Cat Initiative. As such, research presented to children should appeal to their young minds by being interactive as well as educational.

Again, being mindful of the target audience allows the research collected to be representative of what appeals to that audience. If the target audience is children, research presented on the website should be two-pronged: fun and educational. Alternatively, if the target audience is the adult demographic, the research collected should appeal to them. This is another aspect in which separating out the sites may benefit the cause: two sites, two demographics, more room to affect change in more consumers. This also, however, means potentially more work and more capital invested. The good news is that BCI has seemingly done most of the research necessary for both demographics.

Also inherent in the separation of sites, is the opportunity to create content that further resonates with two varied target audiences. Utilizing the varying sensibilities and concerns of each demographic, to convey the most appropriate message, would allow BCI to resonate with target audiences appropriately. If a consumer isn’t exposed to a resonating message immediately, there is nothing keeping them interested, and therefore nothing encouraging them to contribute.

In fact, resonance may well be the most important principle where consistent repeat donations are concerned. Consider the “foot-in-the-door” concept: ask something small of a consumer first, and once they have committed to that small request, they are more likely to commit to something more substantial. Take, for example, ‘Little Kitties for Big Cats’. In this scenario, the initial commitment (i.e., paying five dollars to upload a picture of their kitten) has been made. The consumer is therefore more likely to engage in a second activity (were one to be plainly and readily available) because they were a part of, and saw results from, the first commitment. In tandem with the “foot-in-the-door” concept, producing more and varied content that resonates with the consumer on a deeper level that is appropriate to their particular demographic, will create an opportunity to increase consistent and repeated donor support.

While it is clear that a large variety of resistances were considered by the BCI team, we have found one that consistently affected our research: website build. While there is a plethora of valuable and educational content on the website, it is difficult to find and, in most cases, seems haphazardly placed. Rather than indirectly forcing the user to explore the website like some puzzle with an unknown picture, content should be made readily available from a top-level portion of the website. While pages are currently labeled, the menus are layered with menus from other parts of the National Geographic website. This makes redirecting an accidental click, or attempting to further self-explore the site, very challenging.

In general, it should not take more than two clicks to find the most relevant information and content on the website. There are two consequences to not making this content readily available: 1) if a user does not know the content exists and they don’t happen to come upon it, they will miss out on what valuable information the content has to offer, and 2) if a user spends too much time trying to find content they may give up and leave the website altogether. In order to facilitate the separation of content by target demographic, as well as ease of site use, we propose the following adjustments.

Cause An Uproar: A Site Focused on Kids

Cause An Uproar has a tremendous opportunity to create an awareness campaign that will not only appeal to adults who are able to help now, but also to children and young adults who can create a lasting bond with, and facilitate the continued presence of, big cats throughout the world. Done properly, a social media and networking campaign targeted towards children and young adults can be the catalyst of that desired lasting bond.

The proposed campaign addition is comprised of five main components: character, story, game, socialization, and awareness. Each component is explained below in detail, along with examples of how each component can be accomplished. These changes are based on readily available content from the Cause An Uproar site, and necessitate only a small amount of extra work for implementation.

Character

We’ve created a character to serve as an amalgamation of everything The Big Cat Initiative and Cause An Uproar stands for: Teagan Tigress. Teagan is a young tigress with an appetite for knowledge and a passion for big cats. She travels the globe to study various species of big cats with the purpose of finding solutions to their declining populations. She can serve as a role model to young minds who want to make a difference in the lives of big cats everywhere. Allowing for a role model or authority, someone children (and even adults where appropriate) can look up to or identify with, adds not only resonance, but helps to act as an easily identifiable resource for guidance along the learning and helping path. The creation of a heroic character may also serve as a springboard for developing a transmedia promotional campaign incorporating a cartoon show, products, further games, and much, much more!

Story

Teagan Tigress is an example of a character that could be the heroic narrator of the story which introduces youth to the plight of the big cats worldwide. In her various travels around the world – from the Americas to explore Puma concolor, a.k.a., the cougar, to Southeast Asia to explore Neofelis nebulosa, a.k.a., the clouded leopard – she has amassed a generous amount of information in the journal she travels with. The journal itself can be utilized as an encyclopedic reference guide; something akin to a Wikipedia-like resource, and would encourage students to participate in post modernistic information gathering and distribution, as well as media literacy. This is very useful for kids and young adults who are stronger learners visually and proactively, as well as reinforcing traditional literacy. These additional elements take little to no additional effort, but encourage a more hands on approach to learning, allow youth to better articulate and share the message implicit in the campaign, and creates a learning environment that parents can be comfortable letting their children explore. With a few beautiful graphics, information can be shared in a visually pleasing way that facilitates a variety of learning and processing styles.

Game

Design a game that anyone can play on the website: The Chronicles of Teagan Tigress! Imagine a storyline such as the following:

Have you seen Teagan Tigress? The last time we heard from Teagan, she was camping out by the Amur River. However, that was almost a week ago! We sent out an expedition team to search for Teagan, but all they were able to recover was her trusty journal. Can you help us? Take her journal and look for clues as to where Teagan might be. Don’t worry! We’re sure you won’t go missing too! (At least, we hope you don’t.)

Using one clue from the game prompt (i.e., Teagan was last seen camping along the Amur River), is the first of many steps that will create a tangential learning experience. In order for the player to begin their journey, they must know where to start. They can search through Teagan’s journal to find a reference to Amur River. This tells them where to start, and the clues lead them on a scavenger hunt. Maybe they’ll have an extremely rare sighting of an Amur leopard while they’re there, and maybe they’ll have to learn something about the Amur leopard being the most endangered big cat in the world, in order to discover the next clue about where Teagan is! Including facts, images, an engaging storyline, and other opportunities for tangential learning (e.g., not one, but two Amur leopards are at the Santa Barbara Zoo in California), can create a deeper learning experience, which can, in turn, be further augmented by visiting real and accessible places throughout the country (in the form of pictures, videos, or wiki entries).

Socialization

With a heroic character in place, a story for her to tell, and a game in which kids can be transported to a rich learning environment, an element of socialization adds to the higher end of the target audience age range. The game itself can serve as a large component of a social network site where young explorers (users) can get together to share clues about where Teagan may be, what they have discovered about big cats, and share ideas they’ve come up with to combat the various issues affecting the population of big cats (e.g., poaching and a variety of human and environmental factors). Another approach may be utilizing already existing social networking sites, such as Facebook, Google, or Twitter. Allowing users to share their progress, facts that they found interesting, or hints about Teagan’s whereabouts allows not only socialization, but word of mouth advertising, and positive reinforcement; it enhances the feeling of resonance. Best of all, these sites are already a part of the Cause An Uproar campaign.

Conclusion

By creating a tangential experience for the user, as well as enhanced and separated sites with content aimed at specified target audiences, Cause An Uproar and the Big Cat Initiative will promote awareness in a manner unlike most other campaigns. When learning and awareness is fostered via means of entertainment, the capacity for growth is exponential. Consumers are spending a great deal of time online. Appropriating a small chunk of that precious time for the much needed opening of hearts and minds to the issues plaguing big cats across the globe, allows for the global awareness articulated in the goals of the BCI. With some minor adjustments to the current content, the addition of a website specifically aimed at youth, and continual reinforcement of support, the Big Cat Initiative can implement a campaign that will provide edutainment to the future minds of our nation while encouraging continued support, of an adult target audience, for the preservation of the beautiful big cats we all love so much.

References

Floyd, D. (Writer) (2008). Brain training: Video games and tangential learning [Web]. Retrieved

from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN0qRKjfX3s

Gardner, H. (2006). Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other

people’s minds. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Kotler, P., & Lee, N. R. (2008). Social marketing: Influencing behaviors for good. (3 ed.).

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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IREX Consulting: Youth Theatre for Peace

When considering the McKenzie-Mohr (2000) model of successful psychological involvement in social marketing, we find that the Youth Theatre for Peace (YTP) (2011) successfully incorporates several of presented principles. As youth make up approximately half of the population of Tajikistan (Tackling Community Issues on Stage, 2011), IREX, with the support of USAID has created this project in order to train educators, implement student participation in Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT), and facilitate the presentation of these forum theatre performances throughout communities in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The stated goal of the YTP is to successfully affect a sustainable community change in the prevention of conflicts via forum theatre.

Forum Theatre is a type of play in which audiences are encouraged to participate in resolution. The core of the story is scripted to present an identifiable conflict via the protagonist, which the protagonist is unable to overcome. The audience is then asked to suggest possible alternative solutions, and those are played out (Forum Theatre, n.d.)

YTP addresses barriers both internal (e.g., educating individuals via scripted plays then soliciting participation for critical consideration of how the problems may be resolved) and outside the individual (e.g., creating a summer camp which trains students and educators, providing continued guidance, and facilitating touring) (McKenzie-Mohr, 2000).

No information is given regarding any specific attempts at identifying barriers, nor pilot studies that may have been used to evaluate potential alternative programs. However, examples of social change via forum theatre are widespread (Forum Theatre, n.d.; Houston, Magill, McCollum, & Spratt, 2001; Youth Drama Clubs Shed Light on North-South Tensions, n.d.), and may have motivated the assumed effectiveness of the medium. If these steps were not taken in this specific case, this is certainly one thing I would recommend. McKenzie-Mohr (2000) points out that these are steps which are often overlooked.

Case studies were provided as evaluative materials, as well as, presumably, agents for reinforcing support and donations. However, a final evaluation was provided (Youth Transformed: Final Evaluation Of Youth Theatre For Peace Released, 2011) which cites the use of focus groups, comparison groups, surveys, and the like.

Executive Summary

References:

Forum Theatre. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.attempt-eu.org/uploads/media/FORUM_THEATRE.pdf

Houston, S., Magill, T., McCollum, M., & Spratt, T. (2001). Developing creative solutions to the problems of children and their families: Communicative reason and the use of forum theatre. Child and Family Social Work6, 285-293.

McKenzie-Mohr, D. (2000). Fostering Sustainable Behavior Through Community-Based Social Marketing. American Psychologist, 55(5), 531-537.

Tackling Community Issues on Stage. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from: http://www.irex.org/news/tackling-community-issues-stage

Youth Drama Clubs Shed Light on North-South Tensions. (n.d.). USAID. Retrieved from: http://www.irex.org/sites/default/files/USAID%20Success%20Story.pdf

Youth Theatre for Peace. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from: http://www.irex.org/project/youth-theater-peace

Youth Transformed: Final Evaluation Of Youth Theatre For Peace Released. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from: http://www.irex.org/news/youth-transformed-final-evaluation-youth-theater-peace-released

Kaw Lah Films

The plight of the Karen who are indigenous to Burma led to several epiphanic moments for me. Exploring possible causes via analysis using Garner’s (2006) factors may lead to more epiphanies. I only hope that one day I can use media as effectively, and to such valiant ends as these.

Cease Fire (Kaw Lah Films, 2009) is a film created by an indigenous film group which strives to educate the Karen, as well as those outside Burma, about self-determination, steps toward freeing the Karen of the oppressive SPDC tyranny under which they “live”, and examples of courage in the face of SPDC adversity. The most striking notion expressed in this chapter is the idea that the international audience can best help by not giving charity to those struggling, but by supporting their self-determination. Allowing them the support to brave this tyranny and overcome the Burmese themselves by standing up for themselves.

Because it is important the Kaw Law to encourage self-determination, the audience I believe is targeted by Kaw Lah, is the indigenous Karen. Were Kaw Law Films able to distribute this message to those Karen struggling to survive, the factors in play would be using reason, research, resonance, real world events, and redescriptions.

Kaw Law uses reason by examining facts about historical populations, land control, military, and previously enjoyed rights; basic rights owed to humans. They use research by seeking out specific examples of rape, death, forced abandonment of homes and villages, case studies, etc. This kind of information would resonate with audiences who have lived through similar examples of tyranny. Real world events (in the case of Cease Fire they specifically highlight the cease fire ordered in January of 2004) give examples of how no self-determination leads to even worse consequences (e.g., no Karen military to defend the Karen ended in much more abuse and violence). Finally, filming the events and distributing them throughout villages and Karen refuges allows for redescriptions of the events and stories which seek to encourage self-determination.

The Kaw Law media group relays a variety of stories; courage, loss, abuse, and accomplishment. Their message doesn’t ask for hand outs, rather it asks for the intolerance of abuse and the courage to reject that abuse. It asks for us, as an international audience, to become aware and supportive, while refusing to enable. The fact that Kaw Lah Films are willing to go into dangerous places, interviewing Karen, and braving Burmese, shows their drive towards self-determination as well; a great example to those who may not know a world where it is acceptable to stand up for yourself.

References:

Gardner, H. (2006). Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kaw Lah Films. (2009) Cease fire. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL6F93A963CC913B16&feature=player_embedded&v=ZOH529OwYZo

Think Geek: Oh, Trust Me… I DO!

I'm a 'Smart Mass'!

Social validation occurs when we feel as though what we’re doing follows the social norm. When we have the ‘approval’ (implicitly or explicitly) of our peers, we are more likely to want/do/say something. Social validation can work on websites as well. User ratings, comments, and feedback in whatever other form it may take, influences our decisions whether we know it or not. (Weinschenk, 2009)

One website that uses social validation very effectively, is Thinkgeek.com.

A purveyor of all things g33ky, Thinkgeek.com uses several forms of social validation; some that are mentioned by Weinschenk (2009) and some that are not. For example, Thinkgeek.com uses Facebook “liking”, and announces how many people have “liked” each item. They also have customer comments just under the product. Thinkgeek.com also promotes the idea tthat the customers are all a family of sorts; wayward nerds in search of a place to call home, and they’ve provided that home along with our own monkey, Timmy. Following this lead, which not only Thinkgeek.com utilizes for social validation (e.g., Timmy and the staff think you’ll like a Spiderman hoodie, etc.), but the customers also use it in comments (e.g., A Think Geek girl knows when to ‘Bazinga’, etc.).

One very unique social validation technique Thinkgeek.com uses, is that hey actually encourage and promote photos of customers using the products they sell. The call this ‘Customer Action Shots’. On every item’s page, as well as the home page, there are photos that customers have sent in to model the product they’ve purchased from Thinkgeek.com. Weinschenk (2009) notes that the more we feel we know someone, and can relate to them, the more we trust their judgement. She notes that when we don’t have enough information about them, we tend to take their comments and suggestions into consideration less than we would have (2009). How better to “get to know” someone, than to see a picture of them in their natural setting? In addition, encouraging us to take pictures of ourselves using our products, promotes the feeling of family that Thinkgeek.com works so hard to provide.

Knowing that others are buying or using the same products that we are interested in, helps us feel confident in our decisions; particularly as consumers. Thinkgeek.com uses social validation to nearly its full extent. Many of Weinschenk’s suggestions to web designers, for how social validation can be used to promote sales, customer loyaly, and customer satisfaction, can be found here; a notion that Thinkgeek.com would take g33ky pride in.

References:

Thinkgeek.com. (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.thinkgeek.com/

Weinschenk, S. (2009). Neuro web design: What makes them click? Berkeley: New Riders.

Article Review: Effects of Songs With Prosocial Lyrics on Prosocial Thoughts, Affect, and Behavior

Theories, Methods, and Procedures

This study initially recalled research done pertaining to the measure of effect that media (specifically negative or violent media) has on behavior. For example, previous studies used the General Aggression Model (GAM) to determine whether violent video games led to aggression (Anderson & Bushman, 2002). Because correlational data was found to support the theory, using the GAM, a similar model to promote both violent and non-violent measures of effect due to media, called the General Learning Model (GLM), was created (Buckley & Anderson, 2006). At the time of the current study, that theory (GLM being a valid measure of prosocial media’s effects on the internal state of a participant, and whether that state then effects behavior) hadn’t been tested. The current study aimed to do so (Greitemeyer, 2009).

In addition, the current study used an experimental design to attempt to show that prosocial lyrics in music promote prosocial behaviors in participants. They did this in three experiments: one to measure increase in prosocial thoughts (a dependent variable, operationally defined as the number of prosocial words created via word fragments), one for increases in empathy (a dependent variable, operationally defined as the self-reported feelings for the author of two reviewed essays), and one for increases in action/behavior (a dependent variable, operationally defined by whether or not a P made a monetary donation). (Grietemeyer, 2009)

Experiment one sought to determine whether listening to prosocial lyrics, as opposed to neutral lyrics, would increase prosocial thoughts. Ps included 34 students (most of which were women) from a Germany university. Ps were randomly assigned to either the control or experimental conditions. In the control condition, participants listened to a neutral song, then completed a list of word fragments. They then answered two questions to control for the perceived prosocial content of the song they listened to. Ps in the experimental group did the same, with the only difference being the prosocial lyrics of the song. (Grietemeyer, 2009)

For experiment two, 38 students from a German university (again, mostly women) were asked to listen to a prosocial or neutral song, respective to which group they were randomly assigned to, after which they read two essays (which they were told were written by another, missing, participant). After reading these two essays, Ps were asked how they felt about towards the author with regards to sympathy, compassion, and soft-heartedness. The aim of this experiment was to determine the effects of prosocial music, as opposed to neutral, on empathy towards others. (Grietemeyer, 2009)

Experiment three sought to measure to what extent prosocial songs, as opposed to neutral ones, affected prosocial behavior. They did this by randomly assigning Ps (consisting of 90 German university students, most of which were female) to either the control group or the experimental group; differentiated again by whether they listened to prosocial or neutral songs. After listening to respective songs, Ps were offered the option to donate to a non-profit organization. After given two minutes during which they were left alone, participants were questioned about the perception of anything suspicious. (Grietemeyer, 2009)

In all three experiments, researchers controlled for possible confounding variables in a variety of ways. For example, in order to control for whether a song was understood to be neutral or prosocial, researchers used songs in two languages (one English, and one German song each for control and experimental groups in all three experiments), as well as questioned Ps about perceived level of prosocial content. This was done not only during the actual experiments, but also in a pilot study. Additionally, researchers controlled for mood and arousal during the pilot study by asking Ps to rate their level of arousal and how well they liked the song. This led to the song choice. Researchers also controlled for possible effects that liking a song might have on thoughts, feelings, and behavior. They did so by measuring liking via questions submitted to Ps. Finally, because all three experiments had a greater number of female Ps, researchers compared results from both sexes to control for any possible effects thereby. (Grietemeyer, 2009)

Results and Discussion

            In experiment one, researchers found, after controlling for possible sex differences, that Ps in the experimental condition (M = 0.21, SD = 0.11) completed word fragments with significantly more prosocial words than did Ps in the control group (M = 0.14, SD = 0.08), t(32) = 2.05, p < .05. This suggested that prosocial songs do have an effect on prosocial thoughts. (Grietemeyer, 2009)

In experiment two, researchers found, via 2×2 ANOVA (song type compared with essay story), that a main effect for type of song had occurred. In other words, Ps in the experimental group rated their feelings about the author as significantly more empathetic, regardless of the essay (F(1, 36) = 6.51, p < .05, n2 = .15). (Grietemeyer, 2009)

In experiment three, researchers found that Ps in the experimental group were significantly more likely to donate money than those in the control group (x2(1, N = 90) = 4.56, p < .05). They reported that 53% of the experimental group donated, while only 31% of the control group donated. This suggested that prosocial songs do have an effect on prosocial behaviors. (Grietemeyer, 2009)

Researchers mentioned that while the hypotheses were supported in the sense that there was a significant difference in prosocial thoughts, feelings, and behaviors between experimental and control groups, the current study did not allow for an understanding of why the changes occurred. There was no way of knowing whether the changes were due to changes in the Ps’ internal states; there was no way to know what the exact cause of the change is cognitively. As such, researchers suggested that a measure of internal processes be taken in addition to the explicit measures used in this study.  (Grietemeyer, 2009)

Suggestions for further research include examining whether prosocial songs (and media in general) not only instigate prosocial thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, but whether they also serve to decrease aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Another suggested study for future research is that of long-term effects of media on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; the current study only looked at the short-term effects of prosocial media. (Grietemeyer, 2009)    

Reflection

            When reading this article, I was first drawn, naturally, to the claims made at the beginning of the results of the GAM. I am very wary of the aggression by way of violent video games claim. However, as a basis for additional studies, and as long as the measure is, in fact, reliable and valid, I can muscle my way through the irritation. The claims that correlational studies show cause and effect (i.e., violent video games promote aggression based on a correlational study), frustrates me excessively; far more than playing video games does. I found myself overly critical of the steps used to get through the justification of the research, however, knowing that this is not exactly the point, and agreeing that this research is necessary and has to start somewhere, I won’t dwell on these minor criticisms.

I had a few struggles with the actual measures used. As this study is was the beginning of a string of measures on prosocial songs’ effects on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, I understand that the research has to start somewhere, but in some instances I felt procedure could have been cleaned up a bit. For example, many of the questions asked to rate variables (e.g., the helpful or cooperative content of songs) seemed to prime responses from Ps. Another example of possible priming was the wording used at the end of experiment three, “Participants were told that it would be great if they would donate these 2 € but that it would be also fine if they did not donate. Upon saying this, the experimenter pointed at a box…. (Grietemeyer, 2009, p. 189)” If participants are all hearing the same spiel, regardless of which group they’re in, the priming becomes less of an issue. But I think it somewhat ironic that in a study where they are studying the effects of prosocial songs on prosocial behaviors, they’re using less neutral wording for the experimental procedure.

Another confounding variable may be the stories used in the essays. The subject matter is vague enough that it may have been something similar to an occurrence with a variety of Ps, which may have unknowingly caused the increase in empathy. Relationships and sports injuries are not unusual, after all. A similar confound may be in experiment one, with the use of word fragments. There are those who may not have chosen prosocial words because they don’t have a well-developed lexicon, or aren’t good at word games. Whether a person uses a word that holds prosocial meaning, doesn’t necessarily mean there is not prosocial content to their thoughts.

Typically, it is easier for me to find holes in other researchers’ methods, as I am far less creative than I am critical. That being said, I was unable to think of any other measures of prosocial thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I feel that there is little external validity in this particular study, though I would intuitively agree with the findings. Empirically, however, students at a German university, and mostly female no less, is not a widely generalizable sample. Researchers could use a more diverse group to collect data, however difficult that may be. Construct validity, for what they claimed to be attempting to measure, seemed to be relatively high, though I think the third experiment would have higher construct validity than the other two experiments. I think that internal validity is also dependent on the interpretation of the person reading the study, as the measures seem to be focusing on very specific definitions of prosocial thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. But this is why we have operational definitions. Certainly, in relation to the research cited in the introduction, this study uses comparable means of measuring results. Results which, I would be hard pressed to come up with a better way of interpreting. That being said, I would have very much liked to have seen a chart of numbers as an appendix; the numbers seemed jumbled and somewhat hard to keep straight.

Overall, I love the concept of this study. I think that it is useful, particularly as a jumping off point for attempting to show the benefits that media can provide. If researchers continue to follow the path set off on in this study, we can continue to further understand the implications of various media and their effects on us mentally, emotionally, and physically.

References

Anderson, C., & Bushman, B. (2002). Human aggression. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 27-51.

Buckley, K., & Anderson, C. (2006). A theoretical model of the effects and consequences of playing video games. In P. Vorderer & J. Bryant (Eds.), Playing video games: Motives, responses, and consequences. (pp. 363-378). Mahway NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Grietemeyer, T. (2009). Effects of songs with prosocial lyrics on prosocial thoughts, affect, and behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 186-190.

It DOES Get Better.

In September 2010, the first It Gets Better videos were created. It Gets Better is a non-profit campaign that provides support to 3 different projects, all providing support for LGBT (as well as straight) teens struggling to remain safe from the harassment of others, as well as the threat of suicide. While the campaign has most of it’s focus on various videos (created by countless types of celebrities and authorities, students, and adults who have endured similar hardships or are supportive of every type of orientation or gender identity), there are other media employed as well. Social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), blogs, marches and vigils, bar and restaurant fundraisers, rallies, film festivals, clothing/merchandise, a book, television commercials and public announcements, theatre performances, as well as parades and walls where supporters can write messages, are examples of other media used to spread this decidedly prosocial message. (It Gets Better, 2011)

ZOMG I LOVE V NECKS!!

Several psychological concepts are used to spread this message via both central and peripheral routes. These include foot-in-the-door principle, celebrity status (which can account for both attractiveness or perceived credibility), speaker credibility (i.e., they have endured something similar, and are perceived as trustworthy), the emotional content of the message, the contact between people giving and people receiving the message, and two-step flow of communication. The message is meant to be persuasive because the plea for support is desperate. (Myers, 2010)

Since the site and the campaign have gone up, calls into The Trevor Project suicide hotline have increased drastically, and over $100,000 have been raised in support of LGBT youth. I believe that the project has done an amazing job of getting their message out, and will continue to grow beyond it’s first birthday. The continuing creativity of site supporters and creators means an increase in number of supporters, as well as the distance they will reach with their message. In my opinion, the sooner and the bigger, the better. (It Gets Better, 2010)

Resources:

Savage Love, LLC. (2011). It Gets Better. Retrieved from http://www.itgetsbetter.org/

Myers, D. (2008). Persuasion. In Social Psychology (10th ed.). (pp. 229-265). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill