Studying the effects of persuasion knowledge and internet literacy on user behaviour online

Poosalingam, Jyotsna
Waiguny, Martin
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

The purpose of this research study is to evaluate if user behaviour is affected when Persuasion Knowledge is activated in an online environment compared to a mobile environment. To determine the answer to this research question, the researcher has chosen to use a 2 by 2-experimental design. The elements of the design are 2 environments (mobile vs. desktop) by 2 ad states (disclosed vs. non-disclosed).

The research study moves on to explore the information currently available on the topics of Persuasion Knowledge and Internet Advertising Literacy. One of the assumptions made in this study is that the more Internet-literate a consumer, the more influence this would have on their behaviour when Persuasion Knowledge is activated. The Literature Review examines critical pieces of work, where researchers have explored the various elements involved in creating an online environment, and advertising within that online environment. Further literature looks at the specifics of online advertising, and how consumers react to this relatively new medium of advertising. This literature is used to support the 7 hypotheses generated based on the assumption that Persuasion Knowledge does affect user behaviour, and that this behaviour is further affected by the satisfaction levels of the consumer with the search results, and the literacy levels of the consumer as well.

The experimental design used to collect data was in the form of an online survey distributed to anonymous participants by CINT, a panel management company. The researcher created a mock up of a search engine that would be familiar to regular Internet users, and placed ads in various positions in declared as well as non declared states to determine whether or not Persuasion Knowledge was activated for the participants, and which ad state caused a higher degree of click through behaviour.

The data was analysed using Hayes process for SPSS and yielded significant findings, although they were contrary to the expectations and hypotheses of this research study. Persuasion Knowledge was found to be activated while a consumer is in the online environment, and to be an influencer with regards to consumer behaviour. However, satisfaction levels were found to be contrary to the expectation of this research study, where they were higher when the ads were clearly disclosed, however, satisfaction did not affect click behaviour at all.

Likewise, Internet Advertising Literacy was also found to be contrary to the expectations of this research study. Literacy was highest in the desktop environment, and this did not translate easily to the mobile environment, as different satisfaction and literacy levels on mobile did not affect the click through behaviour of consumers.

This research study is limited by the fact that it is addressing only pure text Paid Search ads. These concepts have an application to Content Advertising as well, and have been identified as a gap in research, with the potential to be explored in more detail.

User behaviour in online search , Persuasion knowledge in online advertising , Persuasion knowledge and advertising literacy , Internet literacy and user behaviour
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