The Henderson Britt Heritage: Attending (2/6).

This post is post 2 of 6, that deal with Steuart Britt Henderson’s extensive universe on psychological principles on marketing and consumer behavior. 

Stueart Henderson Britt is for communication psychology and sociology what Philip Kotler is for marketing management (yes, that is about it, imo). 

The communication principles, that I will introduce to you below, and in a row of forthcoming posts, are quotes from his famous book “Psychological Principles of Marketing and Consumer Behavior”, Lexington Books, D.C. Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1978. See Library Thing. 

Britt breaks down the area in 1) exposing, 2) attending, 3) perceiving, 4) learning and remembering, 5) motivation and 6) persuading, and that is the structure that we are going to stick to as well. 

Each area are subdivided  into a) message and medium variables,  and b) variables within the audience. We will even stick to that. The section below onexposing is far the smallest section of the lot. There are much, much more to come. 

The numbering of the principles are mine, and so are the brackets that refer to the page numbers in his book.  I will not comment on these principles at present. The idea, however, is to use the principles as anchors for specific discussions later on.  

Britt’s work will constitute the main source for the resource area called naturalistic human science (or social science).  Please go here for further information. 

You may argue that Britt specifically talks about advertising, and not more broadly on communication. Well, here is how I see it: Britt’s primary objective is marketing and consumer behavior, but the the validity of his principles go beyond that and into communication in general. 

For important issues on copyright, please read this post

2. Attending 

Message and Medium Variables  

2.1 (64-65) Complexity.

A more complex message will not have as high a level of attending as a simple one, unless it is novel or is of high interest to the audience.

2.2 (65-67) Contrast. 

A message containing a contrast to the environment in which it appears, is more likely to result in attending by members of an audience, than a message that is harmonious with the environment.

2.3 (67-68) Contrast in Type

Audience members will more likely notice and find more appealing typography that contains contrasting elements as well as unifying elements, than typography that contains contrasting elements exclusively or unifying elements exclusively. 

2.4 (69-70) Material design. 

Audience members will more likely attend to materials that are based on good design characteristics — balance, proportion, sequence, unity, and emphasis — than those of poor design, with the exception that if the materials are very badly designed, then attending will occur.

2.5 (70-71) Design in Typography. 

Audience members find that certain typefaces facilitate legibility more than others. 

2.6 (71-76) Marketing Examples of Design in Typography. 

Audience members find that the use of italics retard reading more than normal print, and they prefer normal print over italics.  

2.7 (76-77) Intensity. 

An intense message will be more likely attended to by audience members than a message that lacks intensity, that is, lacks strenght and emphasis.

2.8 (76-77) Preconception of the media.

An audience member’s preconceived ideas of the purpose, friendliness, and credibility of the medium will more likely affect the degree of his positive of negative attending to its message than id he had no preconceived beliefs concerning the medium.

2.9 (77-78) Message and Media Distractions. 

An audience member who is highly attentive to the medium will more likely decrease his attention to the message than if he pays little attention to the medium.

2.10 (78-79) Position in Print Media. 

No superiority has been definitely established for position in the print media. The value of a specific position depends upon the amount of audience traffic flowing past it. 

2.11 (79) Position in Broadcast Media.  

Vast audience differences occur between different positions – times and adjacent programs – in broadcast media because the sized of the audiences vary greatly according to the position, as do the demographics of the audience and the cost of the position.  

2.12 (79-80) Length of Message and Attention Span.

 An audience member’s attending decreases as the length of the message increases, other factors, such as interest, being equal.

2.13 (80-81) Print Message Length 

Audience members are more likely to attend to a message if sentences are short, to the point, and do not have difficult meanings than if the sentences are long and ambiguous. 

2.14 (81-82) Number of Thought Units. 

Audience  members can remember headlines better if there are few thought units in the headline then if there are many.

 2.15 (82) Duration.

If a message is presented over a long period of time, it will more likely be attended to than if each aspect of the message is presented all at once. 

2.16 (83) Postdecisional Barriers

When audience members attend to one part of a message, they are more likely to decrease their attending or completely screen out other parts of a message than if they attend to the message as a whole; that is, postdecisional barriers are created. 

 Variables within the Audience.

2.17 (85-86) Physical Condition. 

message that ordinarily would be attended when an audience member is well rested or relaxed is likely to be passed by when he is physically or mentally fatigued. 

2.18(86-87) Special Physical Conditions. 

Poor physical conditions of audience members may reduce their attending capacity; but if these specific physical conditions are related to the subject of the message, the audience’s attending capacity will increase.

2.19 (87) Chronological Setting. 

An audience member may increase his attending to messages at certain times of the day, certain days of the week, particular seasons, or certain times within the nation, region, or community. 

2.20 (87-88) Distraction of Environmental  Setting.

An audience member will more likely attend to a message if he has few distractions in his environment than if his attending is divided. 

2.21 (88-89) Expectancy. 

Past experience often determines what is attended to and can prevent attending to messages that are not expected or to which members of the audience are not accustomed. 

2.22 (89-90) Attempts to Reduce Dissonance. 

Attending is selective; and when cognitive dissonance arises, an audience member seeks to reduce dissonance by referring to past actions.  

2.23 (90-91) Processing Inflow of Information. 

The higher the priority that an audience member places upon processing inflow of information, the less processing will be available for his output. 

2.24 (91-93) Relevance and Interest Value. 

At the time of exposure, the more interested an audience member is in the subject of a message, the more relevant the message becomes and the more attending it receives than if the message content were not relevant or interesting. 

2.25 (93-94) Ease of Categorization. 

A message that is highly relevant and familiar to an audience member is more easily categorized than one that is irrelevant and unfamiliar. 

2.26(94) Sex Differences. 

The sex of audience members influences the orientation of their attending to certain messages. 

2.27 (95) Social Role Differences. 

The social role of an individual audience member has s significant bearing on the manner in which he will attend to certain information. 

 2.28 (95-96) Pleasant Messages.

The more interested an audience member is in pleasant messages, the more likely he will be to ignore and avoid unpleasant messages.

2.29 (96-97) Enjoyment of Novelty. 

If a member of an audience has personality characteristics that incline him to novelty, or if he has no particular message-type preference at the time of exposing, then novel stimuli, although at the outset irrelevant, may become relevant or pleasant or both.


Next section will be on perceiving. It will follow soon. 

Steuart Henderson Britt’s papers are at Northwestern University, Evanston, USA.


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