Conceptualizing media stimuli in experimental research: Psychological versus attribute-based definitions

Chen-Chao Tao, Erik P. Bucy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This paper argues for a clearer conceptualization of media stimuli in experimental research and identifies 3 issues impeding our understanding of message processing: (a) assumptions bolstered by manipulation checks about homogeneity of response to media stimuli, (b) conflation of 2 different classes of variables - media attributes and psychological states, and (c) discrepancies between the conceptual model and operational-level hypotheses used to test research questions. To provide a more comprehensive framework for investigating media effects in experimental research, we argue for a clearer conceptual separation between message attributes and user perceptions and apply a mediation model of information processing to overcome the limitations of conventional approaches. Subjected to 2 empirical tests involving the assessment of Web-based media, the model finds an increase in explained variance in each instance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-426
Number of pages30
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2007


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