Type of Document Dissertation Author Martin, Tait Jeffrey URN etd-04102006-164357 Title Information Processing and College Choice: An Examination of Recruitment Information on Higher Education Web Sites Using the Heuristic-Systematic Model Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Communication, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Arthur Raney Committee Chair Beverly Bower Committee Member Laura Arpan Committee Member Steve McDowell Committee Member Keywords
- Colleges and Universities
- Higher Education Recruitment
- Information Processing
- College Choice Process
- Heuristic-Systematic Model
- Web Sites
Date of Defense 2006-02-27 Availability unrestricted AbstractRecent studies have shown university Web sites are the primary source of information for students when choosing a college to attend. Since Web sites are fast becoming a key tool in the search for a university, then the information being presented on these Web sites should be analyzed as a persuasive message.
This dissertation examines the presentation of information on higher education Web sites through the Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM) of information processing. The HSM proposes when information perceivers are presented with a message, they will either cognitively process the information by carefully analyzing the message arguments (systematic processing) or draw conclusions about the information based on personal “theories” triggered by an attribute of the message (heuristic processing). The presented research uses two experiments to test information processing and its effect on attitude formation on university Web sites.
In experiment one, message elements on a university Web site were manipulated to determine the attitude effects of the inclusion, absence or combination of a student photograph, a quote from a student and statistics about the university. Participants (281) provided data to test five research questions and four hypotheses. In experiment two, the amount of student testimonials on the site and language type were manipulated. Participants (328) provided data to test one research question and five hypotheses. The Web sites in both experiments used texts and images from real university sites in an effort to increase the ecological validity.
Findings from each study showed both the type and amount of message elements presented on college Web sites had an effect on the measures of attitude toward the university and intent to acquire more information about the university. Specifically, the belief that prospective students have a “higher education heuristic” is presented and discussed in terms of an integrated model of college choice and information processing.
The dissertation closes with a listing of specific recommendation for higher education policy makers for presenting information on their institution’s Web sites, along with study limitations and opportunities for future research.
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