More human than human: The impact of programmed emotional cues on motivation, information processing, and perceived source credibility in computer-mediated distance learning lectures

Date of Completion

January 2009


Mass Communications|Education, Technology of




This study examines the use of certain design elements in on-line distance learning lectures that may increase a student's motivation and learning. In particular, it examines the impact of emotionally-charged syncretic cues, such as laugh-tracks and animated facial expressions, on subjective norm perceptions, perceived source credibility, message processing and motivation to learn. The findings show that the socio-emotional cues impacted perceptions of source credibility and source trustworthiness in lectures where the source does not seem very bias. When the source was perceived as highly biased, the cues had a direct effect on Subjective Norm perceptions regarding the teacher's and other student's view of the material. Subjective Norm perceptions appear to play a prominent role in on-line learning environments. In every condition tested, perceptions of the teacher's view of the materials impacted the Message Learning stage in the Information Processing model. Favorable beliefs regarding what other students might think of the material increased the intention to watch more lectures. Stylistic preferences showed an impact on the entire learning process. There was evidence of a causal chain in which stylistic preference increased attention, attention increased clarity, and clarity increased assessed lecture quality. There was a second chain from stylistic preferences to attention to message clarity to competence to trustworthiness. This second chain resembles the one in the persuasion literature that stretches from dynamism to clarity to competence to trustworthiness. The results indicate that viewers processed the message heuristically rather than systematically, as stylistic preferences variable had direct effects that reached into each stage of information processing. The differences between the source focused model and the topic focused model offer insight into how viewer orientation influences the yielding processes of message learning. It appeared that a strong source orientation inhibited a content orientation. Although drawing viewer attention to the source inhibits systematic information processing and learning, increasing favorable Subjective Norm perceptions could improve attitude to the lecture and motivation to learn. ^