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Changes in Social Representations Resulting from a Media Campaign


The television advert depicted a typical Maltese family discussing organ donation during dinner. ... Besides the adverts, many presenters of popular discussion ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Changes in Social Representations Resulting from a Media Campaign

Changes in Social Representations Resulting from
a Media Campaign
  • Mary Anne LAURIDepartment of Psychology
    University of Malta, MALTA. mary-anne.lauri_at_um.e
  • and
  • Josef LAURIDepartment of Mathematics University
    of Malta MALTA.

  • This paper addresses the problem of organ
    shortage in organ transplantation and discusses
    how his problem can be mitigated through public
    communication campaigns. Specifically it will
    discuss how the social representations which the
    public have of organ donors can be changed
    through a national campaign promoting organ

Formative Research Before Campaign
  • The findings presented in this paper are part of
    a wider research project on an organ donation
    campaign carried out in Malta (Lauri, 2001). The
    research carried out before the campaign involved
    the use of surveys, interviews, focus groups and
    analysis of the media. The research reported here
    analyses part of the data collected through focus

Formative Research Before Campaign
  • The two main aims of the campaign were to
    increase the level of knowledge on organ donation
    and to encourage people to carry the donor card
    thereby pledging their organs after their death.
    Great emphasis was directed at the perceptions
    which people had of organ donors because research
    had shown that positive perceptions of organ
    donors and organ donation were the best
    precursors of people becoming organ donors.

The Campaign
  • The campaign made use of all important media
    channels available at the time in Malta. In
    particular, the campaign team made use of
  • Print Media
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Direct advertising as well as Public Relations
    were used.

The Print Media
  • The initial phase of the campaign targeted the
    print media. Public service announcements
    promoting the campaign appeared on all
    newspapers. These included a form which the
    public could use to request information, a
    picture of a donor card, and a form to register
    ones name in the National Organ Donor Register.
    Newspapers featured press releases, interviews
    with people who had donated organs and also with
    those who had received organs.

  • During the third week of the campaign, radio was
    included. Radio is the ideal medium for instant
    feedback. People could phone during programmes on
    organ donation aired on different radio stations
    to ask questions and get immediate answers. The
    radio campaign was strengthened by three
    40-second public service announcements made by
    well-known Maltese public personalities.

  • Use of television started in the fourth week of
    the campaign. Advertising during prime time was
    used to give the widest possible coverage to the
    campaigns messages. The television advert
    depicted a typical Maltese family discussing
    organ donation during dinner. The family
    environment was used to emphasise that organ
    donation should be a family decision. The leading
    role was performed by a television personality
    who anchored a popular weekly television

Public Relations
  • Besides the adverts, many presenters of popular
    discussion programmes, both on radio and
    television, accepted to discuss the topic of
    organ donation in their programmes. This put the
    topic on the public agenda. This phenomenon was
    further reinforced with the coverage of all media
    events related to organ donation on the major
    news bulletins seen by a big number of Maltese

Indicators of the Success of the Campaign
  • There were many indicators of the success of the
    organ donation campaign. The number of people who
    carried a donor card went up from 9 of the
    population before the campaign to 17 after the
  • The number of kidney transplantations
    performed in the year following the campaign went
    up from 4 in the year before the campaign to 14
    in the year after the campaign

Other Indicators
  • There were other indicators of the success of
    the campaign. In this paper we will only discuss
    the changes in social representations which took
    place amongst the focus group participants.
  • Since this study was not experimental, it is
    difficult to say that the changes registered in
    the social representations towards organ donors
    were the result of the campaign. We can only
    claim that the campaign was probably one of the
    main instigators of the changes in social
    representations of organ donors.

Studying Social Representations
  • Breakwell and Canter (1993) have argued that
    virtually every method known to social science
    has been used at some point in order to study
    social representations.
  • Ethnographic studies (e.g. Jodolet, 1991)
  • Experiments (eg. Abric, 1984)
  • Questionnaires (eg. Agostinos, 1990)
  • Interviews (eg. Molinari and Emiliani, 1990)
  • Focus groups (eg. Jovchelovitch and Gervais,
  • Free associations (e.g., Di Giacomo, 1980)

Studying Social Representations
  • Moreover, different researchers have used
    different tools to analyse the data. For example,
  • Multidimensional scaling (eg. Uzzell and Blud,
  • Correspondence analysis (eg. Hammond, 1993)
  • Cluster analysis (eg. Fife-Shaw, 1993)
  • Discriminant analysis (eg. Zani, 1993)

MethodologyFocus Groups
  • In the part of the study being reported on in
    this presentation, focus groups were used to find
    out the participants views of organ donation,
    organ donors and non-donors. Focus groups are an
    ideal tool to collect data when the purpose of
    the research is to elicit peoples own
    understandings, opinions, views and how these are
    elaborated and negotiated in a social context.

Sampling Procedure
  • Participants were recruited from different towns
    and villages from all over the island to avoid
    possible biases of particular communities. This
    was done by approaching people in supermarkets,
    asking them whether they were willing to take
    part in a discussion on organ donation as part of
    a research project. Those who accepted were
    invited to give the names of friends who they
    thought would be willing to accompany them for
    the discussion.

  • A letter was sent to 57 prospective participants
    giving them more information about the project
    and also the time and place of the focus group.
    The people were again reminded of the discussion,
    by telephone, one day before the focus group.
    Sixteen persons dropped out.
  • Each of the five groups was made up of eight
    people on average. They were evenly distributed
    between women and men, and between young and
    middle-aged people with different levels of

  • Participants were asked to discuss their views
    on organ donation, that is, whether they agreed
    or disagreed with the issue and the reasons why
    they agreed or disagreed. In the last part of the
    discussion they were also asked to talk about the
    type of persons who, in their opinion, were
    willing to donate organs after their death and
    the type of persons who were not. This was done
    through the use of photos with the aim of
    eliciting the perceptions which participants had
    of donors and non-donors.

  • Using photographs at the end of a group
    discussion instead of keywords, like in other
    studies (e.g., Di Giacomo, 1980), had two added
  • It made it easier for participants to assign
    freely, personality traits to donors and
  • The reasons given for choosing particular
    photographs would have been influenced by both
    personal and group beliefs aired in the focus
    groups. This interplay between personal beliefs
    and the beliefs of the group, mirrors the process
    that happens in everyday life in a community.

  • The photos depicted people of all ages, coming
    from different socio-economic backgrounds and
    depicting different lifestyles. For example,
    photos showed an older person working in the
    fields, an airline pilot, a young person playing
    the guitar, a woman with a child and a family
    around a dinner table. A few of the photos were
    of Maltese media personalities and public

Aims of Using Photos
  • Participants were asked to choose a photograph
    of persons who, they thought, would typically
    donate their organs and of those who would not.
    The aims of the exercise were two.
  • The first aim was to find out what traits
    people attributed to organ donors and non-donors.
    These trait descriptions revealed the
    characteristics which were associated with organ
    donors and non-donors.
  • The second aim was to find out whether these
    traits changed as a result of a campaign.

Perceptions Before and After the Campaign
  • The views of the participants were examined at
    two points, once before the launching of the
    campaign and once again, two months after the end
    of the campaign. The aim of this exercise was to
    see if there were any changes in the perceptions
    of the participants as a result of the campaign.
  • Of course a change in perceptions is often
    the result of a number of factors and the
    observed changes could not be solely attributed
    to the effect of the campaign.

  • For each photo chosen, the participants were
    asked to give reasons for their choice. The
    reasons given described traits which,
    participants perceived, donor would have.
  • The basic units of analysis which were recorded
    from this exercise were the traits which
    participants projected onto the person in the
    photo they had chosen. Each unit will be referred
    to as an utterance. A single participant could
    have produced more than one utterance.

Results (cont.)
  • This textual data was elaborated as follows.
    Each utterance was classified on two variables.
    The first variable DONOR classified (i) whether
    the utterance was intended to describe a likely
    donor or non-donor and (ii) whether it was used
    in a focus group before or after the campaign.
    This variable DONOR therefore had four levels
    Yes before, Yes after, No before, No after.

Results (cont.)
  • The second variable DESCRIPTION classified the
    reason expressed by the participant for choosing
    the photograph. In the first phase of the
    analysis, all the different traits attributed to
    donors or non-donors referred to by these
    utterances were analysed and synonyms were
    grouped together under one label. As a result, 35
    different traits were identified. These traits,
    for example old, kind and happy were the
    levels of the variable DESCRIPTION.

Coding Reliability
  • To test for coding reliability, a second coder
    was given the transcript from which the
    utterances were extracted and asked to classify
    them according to the 35 traits which had been
    identified in the first phase. The
    classifications carried out by the second coder
    matched with the first coding for 91 of the

Analysis of Data
  • Traits which were mentioned only once were
    discarded. This was done to eliminate one-off
    descriptions which did not represent shared
    ideas. This left 215 different utterances
    classified into 27 traits, which therefore became
    the levels of the variable DESCRIPTION. A
    contingency table showing the distribution of
    these utterances amongst the 27 traits and the
    four donor/non-donor levels is shown in Table 1.

Contingency Table for Variables Donor by

Correspondence Analysis
  • A correspondence analysis was then performed on
    the data.
  • The aim of correspondence analysis is to help
    show visually the relationships between the
    levels in a contingency table.
  • Correspondence analysis is a very appropriate
    tool within the context of this investigation of
    social representations because it is designed as
    an aid to interpretation and the
    researcher is never far from her own data.
    (Hammond, 1993)

Correspondence Analysis (cont.)
  • In correspondence analysis, the different levels
    of the two categorical variables are given scores
    on one or more dimensions. This is done in such a
    way that levels that are more alike will get
    similar scores. Therefore if the scores are then
    plotted as graphs, levels that are alike appear
    close to each other whereas levels that are
    dissimilar appear far apart.

Correspondence Analysis (cont.)
  • The ANACOR procedure in SPSS was used to carry
    out the correspondence analysis on the above
    contingency table. Four normalisation methods are
    provided by ANACOR. Canonical normalisation was
    chosen since the aim here was to analyse the
    similarities between the levels of DONOR and also
    between the levels of DESCRIPTION.

Correspondence Analysis Dimension 1 by
Dimension 2

A one-dimensional representation
  • To focus attention on representations of organ
    donors, a second analysis of the data was
    performed using only the utterances describing
    donors. Therefore the levels of the variable
    DONOR became two Yes before and Yes after.
    There were now 107 utterances, corresponding to
    21 different levels of the variable DESCRIPTION.
    A contingency table showing the distribution of
    these utterances amongst the 21 traits and the
    two donor levels is shown in Table 2.

Contingency Table for Variables Donors by
Description for utterances describing donors
A One-dimensional Representation
Analysis of Results
  • Analysing the results of Figure 1 and Figure 2,
    it is clear that before the campaign, donors were
    generally perceived to be young persons, people
    who care about others, who practise a sport, who
    love and appreciate life, and who are
    pro-environment. Public figures were very often
    chosen and perceived to be donors.

Analysis of Results
  • In the post-campaign focus groups, donors were
    perceived to be ordinary people manual workers
    and persons who have a family. They were also
    seen to be educated, analytic, happy, kind,
    modern and well-informed, who are generous and
    who are religious.

  • Before the campaign, donors were associated with
    particular categories of people public figures,
    young and sportive persons, professionals and
    people with good jobs. After the campaign it
    seems that donors were more readily perceived to
    be the ordinary person, a member of a family, and
    therefore possibly oneself.