An Experimental Examination of
Students’ Attitudes Toward
Classroom Cell Phone Policies
Alexander L. Lancaster & Alan K. Goodboy
This study examined the manipulation of instructors’ persuasive messages to introduce
classroom cell phone policies to college students. Guided by Chaiken’s (1980, 1987)
heuristic-systematic model, we predicted significant differences in students’ systematic message processing and favorable attitudes held toward a cell phone policy based on the number of
arguments presented and involvement (i.e., motivation). Using a 2 (number of arguments:
high; low) 2 (involvement: high; low) experimental design, 101 undergraduate students
participated by watching a video-recorded persuasive message about a hypothetical cell phone
policy. Results indicated that participants did not differ significantly in systematic or heuristic
message processing based on the assigned condition but held more favorable attitudes toward
the cell phone policy when assigned to the lower number of arguments condition.
Keywords: Attitudes; Cell Phone Policies; Heuristic-Systematic Model; Message
Recent research (Finn & Ledbetter, 2013; Johnson, 2013; Ledbetter & Finn, 2013) has
examined the effect of instructor characteristics and technology policies on instructor
credibility and learner empowerment. Finn and Ledbetter (2013) identified three types
of instructor technology policies: encouraging, discouraging, and laissez-faire policies.
An instructor’s policy on student cell phone use in the classroom is important to
Alexander L. Lancaster (MA, California State University, Long Beach, 2012) is a doctoral candidate in
the Department of Communication Studies at West Virginia University. Alan K. Goodboy (PhD, West Virginia
University, 2007) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at West Virginia University.
Correspondence: Alexander L. Lancaster, Department of Communication Studies, West Virginia University, P.O. Box
6293, Morgantown, WV 26506; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Communication Research Reports
Vol. 32, No. 1, January–March 2015, pp. 107–111
ISSN 0882-4096 (print)/ISSN 1746-4099 (online) # 2015 Eastern Communication Association
consider because students who use their mobile devices in class take less-detailed notes,
recall less lecture information, and receive lower scores on exams (Kuznekoff &
Titsworth, 2013). Additionally, Johnson (2013) found that students’ use of cell phones
to engage in computer-mediated communication (CMC) during class time (i.e., to
text) was a threat to student engagement and called for instructors to find ways to abate
such behavior. It is important to examine how instructors communicate these policies
in classrooms, as students may respond differently to a policy depending on how it is
presented to them. Therefore, this study explores students’ perceptions of cell phone
policies that instructors present with persuasive messages.
Chaiken’s (1980, 1987) heuristic-systematic model of information processing
(HSM) is a dual-process model of persuasion that posits that individuals can process
a message in one of two ways: systematically or heuristically. Systematic processing
occurs when a receiver is motivated to process all argument-relevant pieces of
information presented in a message. Heuristic processing relies on a few informational cues to come to a judgment on the message (Todorov, Chaiken, & Henderson,
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