Instilling Positive Beliefs about Organ Donation: An Information Processing Approach

Gerardo Jose Moreira, University of Texas at El Paso


The number of those seeking a kidney donation in the United States continues to increase while the number of donors is not growing at the same rate (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services USDHHS, 2010). The lack of donations is more prevalent in low health literate communities which suffer from misinformation and ultimately negative beliefs toward organ donation. Thus, it is important to understand how marketing efforts can effectively change individuals’ beliefs about organ donation. Drawing on the Self-Determination Theory and Schema Theory, I proposed that the effectiveness of health education programs, which is to motivate individuals to be involved with organ donation, can be increased by creating interventions that engage individuals’ senses. I used the term sensory activation to capture the number of senses being activated (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic). I proposed that sensory activation is related to message recall and motivation. According to Schema Theory, sensory cues are batches of information that can be stored in memory, thus affecting recall. The more senses involved in an experience, the more nodes of information available for recall, and the higher the likelihood that recall will affect motivation structures. Thus, I hypothesized that the relationship between sensory activation and motivation is positive, and, yet, mediated by recall. In addition, research findings in sensory marketing suggest that the relationship between sensory strength and recall should be stronger for individuals with low, rather than high, health literacy. Low health literate individuals lack the cognitive ability to understand and interpret the information provided, hence, sensorial information allows them to recall the message. For high health literate individuals, understanding the message is relatively easier, hence, the addition of sensorial cues may lead to disinterest. That is, high health literate individuals may disregard additional sensorial information due to redundancy. Therefore, I hypothesized that the relationship between sensory activation, recall, and beliefs will be stronger for low, rather than for high, literacy individuals. Lastly, Schema Theory suggests that individuals tend to simplify multiple information cues and form abstract knowledge structures. Instead of storing (and recalling) multiple information cues independently, individuals convert multiple pieces of information into abstract concepts. This abstraction process increases over time because it is easier to remember concepts rather than multiple batches of detailed information. Thus, I hypothesized that, in the long term, recall of specific information will be higher for individuals with high, rather than low, health literacy. High health literacy individuals can incorporate specific information into existing knowledge structures. Low health literacy individuals lack knowledge structures to further develop. Accordingly, low health literacy individuals will create an abstract representation of the experience. That is, low health literacy individuals will not remember specific information, but will remember the event in broad terms (abstractly). Consequently, overtime, the motivation will be stronger for high, rather than for low, health literacy individuals. I tested my hypotheses by conducting a 3 (Sensory Strength: sight, sight + hearing, sight + hearing + touch) × 2 (Literacy: low, high), between-subjects factorial design. Sensory activation was manipulated, while health literacy was measured. I conducted the study in three phases. Phase 1 included a questionnaire of health information, motivation, beliefs, learning styles, and psychological measures prior to the experiment. Phase 2 included the manipulation of sensory activation and a questionnaire including manipulation checks and dependent variables. Phase 3 included a follow-up questionnaire two weeks later. This dissertation, although having non-significant findings, adds to marketing literature by involving information processing and testing the role of sensory cues in message recall and motivation. Also, this work sheds light on the interplay between individual differences and the cognitive processing of sensory cues. To practitioners, this study provides normative recommendations regarding the design health interventions. Specifically, it is suggested that interventions should activate several sensory cues in order to enable short-term recall among low health literate consumers. Similarly, trends in the data suggest that health educators increase health literacy, as health literacy is a predictor for long-term recall and behavior modification. Finally, this work informs advertising professionals on how to apply sensory marketing in health promotion.

Subject Area

Marketing|Communication|Public health|Health education

Recommended Citation

Moreira, Gerardo Jose, "Instilling Positive Beliefs about Organ Donation: An Information Processing Approach" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10683171.