The psychological mechanism of agenda setting: developing a cognitive process model to test consumer perception of cause-related marketing Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 22, 2019
  • Yu, Jason Jusheng
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media
  • Over the past few decades, media-effects research has been persistently criticized for its lack of explanatory mechanisms, as has the theory of agenda setting. Scholars have been attempting to redevelop the theory of agenda setting by using various psychological concepts, such as priming and accessibility, to explain the mechanism of agenda setting. These challenges are not tenable because they lack explanations of the integral and detailed structure of the agenda-setting process and because they fail to provide convincing empirical evidence. They underscore the need for systematic development of new causal models to clarify the integral psychological mechanisms of the agenda-setting process and its consequences. This dissertation hypothesizes a cognitive-process model of agenda setting and provides empirical evidence through an experimental study of consumer perception of cause-related marketing (CRM). It was found that when the motivation for CRM was manipulated as public-serving in message stimuli (i.e., public-serving was the salient attribute), participants rated public-serving as the purpose to employ CRM more important than firm-serving and responded to the public-serving statement faster than to the firm-serving statement, and vice versa when firm-serving was manipulated as the salience attribute. This finding indicates that the agenda-setting process has two parallel outcomes, temporary attribute accessibility and attribute importance. The study also suggests that attribute importance is a stable outcome and predicted the consequences of agenda setting while temporary attribute accessibility is not reliable and has no association with agenda-setting consequences. While it did not matter whether participants responded to one attribute faster than to the other, those who rated public-serving more important than firm-serving were more likely to infer public -serving as the motive for CRM and consequently had more favorable attitudes toward the firm that uses CRM and were more intended to buy its brand. These mechanisms distinguish agenda setting from priming and accessibility because priming is part of the cognitive process of agenda setting and accessibility is part of the outcome in the cognitive process of agenda setting. The consequence mechanism revealed in this dissertation implies that other psychological processes such as causal attribution might mediate agenda-setting effects, in that the results indicated that causal attribution was the direct consequence of the agenda-setting process, while the attitudinal consequence was indirectly related to attribute importance.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Shaw, Donald Lewis
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

This work has no parents.