Document Type

Senior Honors Project

Publication Date



This paper provides a historical overview and experimental exploration of psychology in the field of advertising. It will address four prominent psychologists who shared their psychological knowledge with the advertising field, as well as an empirical study examining current psychological persuasion techniques. These include the use of color, subliminal messages, and misrepresented facts and statistics. Knowledge of these techniques (persuasion knowledge) was tested to determine if an educational intervention could increase participants’ persuasion knowledge, and if the knowledge would negatively influence participants’ attitudes towards advertising. Sixty-three participants were randomly assigned into the advertising condition or the control condition. Each group viewed a PowerPoint presentation and answered survey questions about advertisements and their advertising attitudes. Results showed that advertising participants scored significantly higher on persuasion knowledge test questions than the participants in the control group. A significant difference in participants’ self-reported understandings of the advertisements’ persuasion techniques was found in one ad and in the opposite direction than expected. Qualitative data illustrate participants had difficulty applying their persuasion knowledge. There were no significant differences between groups regarding advertising attitudes or product attitudes. Future research should consider modifying the educational intervention to help participants apply their knowledge by recognizing techniques in advertisements.