Date of Award

August 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Chris Lawson

Committee Members

Susie Lamborn, Jacqueline Nguyen, Kyongboon Kwon


Advertising Literacy, Argumentation, Critical Thinking, Persuasion Knowledge


The goal of this study was to promote the development of persuasion knowledge in third and fourth graders by examining children’s interpretation and production of persuasive messages through an instructional intervention. Two interventions were delivered to students that focused on the skills associated with critical thinking (e.g., evaluating effectiveness of arguments, writing a persuasive argument using valid reasoning, and understanding the persuasive intentions and tactics of advertisements). One intervention used advertising as the instructional tool, such that students were taught about the purpose of advertising, advertising tactics, and the companies and advertisers behind the ads. Students learned that ads are created to persuade people to think or do something. Additionally, students learned to ask questions about what information may be missing from the ad. A separate group of students participated in the Argumentation Intervention, which taught the basic components of an argument and the concept of biases. Students were taught the importance of using compelling evidence to support their side of a topic and how others’ perspectives must be acknowledged when developing an effective argument. Both studies assessed the same areas to examine the scope of each intervention. Measures of children’s conceptual advertising knowledge and attitudes toward advertising in a pre-posttest design were used to identify changes in these areas. Students also participated in tasks that measured changes in their ability to evaluate argumentative messages and develop a written persuasive argument. These activities measured their use of tactics to create a persuasive argument and their ability to identify the more effective argument.

Beyond improving their written persuasive arguments, participants in the Argumentation Intervention significantly increased their understanding of selling intentions and understanding of persuasive tactics used in advertising . Those in the Advertising Literacy Intervention showed a significant improvement on their inclusion of others’ perspectives when writing a persuasive argument in addition to making gains to their understanding of selling and persuasive intent and skepticism toward advertising. The ability of participants in both interventions to generalize what was explicitly taught to new domains is encouraging for educators who aim to instill critical thinking skills in students. The current study provides important insights into effective instructional strategies for increasing children’s understanding and application of persuasion knowledge in everyday contexts.