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ISSN : 2287-1063(Print)
ISSN : (Online)
The Journal of Advertising and Promotion Research Vol.2 No.1 pp.5-38

Gender Effects of Communicator and Recipient on Response to Relationship Violence Public Service Announcements

Hye-Jin Paek, PhD * , Kaoutar Tbatou, MA, Thomas Hove, PhD
Department of Advertising and Public
US Consulate General in Casablanca Public Affairs Section - Dar America
Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Hanyang University


The gender of a message’s communicator and his or her recipients mayplay a critical role in audience responses to persuasive messages, especiallywhen the message deals with a gender-sensitive topic such as relationshipviolence. Guided by source credibility, gender schema theory, and thematch-up hypothesis, this study examined main and interaction effects ofcommunicator (voice-over) gender and recipient gender on the responseto a relationship violence public service announcement (PSA). Messageresponse refers to source credibility, perceived effectiveness, attitude towardthe issue, and behavioral intention. Results of an online experimentamong 223 college students show that the gender of the communicator significantlyaffects perceived source credibility, such that the female communicatorwas perceived as more credible than the male communicator.The gender of the recipient has a significant impact on attitude toward theissue of relationship violence. But no interaction effects of communicatorand recipient’s gender were found on any of the response variables.Relationship violence has become alarmingly widespread and frequentall over the globe. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO)identified relationship violence in 2002 as the most frequent of all violenceforms that women face in the world, including rape and sexual assault. Inthe United Stated, a yearly average of about 4 million women experienceassault by an intimate partner (American Psychological Association,1996). These alarming statistics provide sufficient reasons for communicationresearchers to understand the nature of the issue, identify messagefeatures that work for different types of audiences, and thereby develop effective relationship violence prevention campaigns. Undertaking thesetasks, the current study takes account of the relationship violence issue’suniquely gender-sensitive characteristics. Within the context of heterosexualrelationships, relationship violence usually involves a man and awoman, with the victim in most cases being the woman (US Departmentof Justice, 2007). Acknowledging this context, we investigated how thegenders of the communicator and the recipient independently and jointlyaffect recipients’ response to relationship violence prevention PSAs.Message response refers to recipients’perceived source credibility, perceivedeffectiveness, attitudes toward the issue, and behavioral intention,all of which are found to affect actual campaign effectiveness (e.g., Paek,Hove, Kim, & Jeong). Our investigation is guided by theoretical conceptssuch as source credibility, the match-up hypothesis (Kahle & Homer, 1985)and gender schema theory (Bem, 1981).Existing literature documents that the gender of either a message’s communicatoror its recipient could affect perceived source credibility (e.g.,Markham, 1988), attitudes (e.g., Lori & Pradeep, 2003), and behavioralintention (e.g., Nysveen, Pedersen, & Thorbjornsen, 2005). However, fewstudies have examined interaction effects of communicator and audiencegender in gender-sensitive issues such as relationship violence. The findingsof this study are intended to meet the need to develop relationship violenceprevention campaigns that target bystanders.



1) Relationship Violence as an Important Study Topic

 For present purposes, relationship violence refers to “homicides, rapes, robberies and assault committed by intimates [including] current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, including same-sex relationships” (USDepartment of Justice, 2007). It concerns people across various generations, races, and social strata, and it could involve men or women, heterosexuals or homosexuals (Hotaling & Sugarman, 1986; Waldner-Haugrud & Gratch, 1997). While the perpetrator of relationship violence could be either male or female (National Coalition against Domestic Violence, 2009), statistical evidence suggests that women are at much higher risk of being victims than men (Saunders, 1986). Additionally, the most severe forms of violence are perpetrated by males rather than females (Makepeace, 1983). Relationship violence has considerable consequences for both individuals and society. At the individual level, both the victim and the abuser are affected. Abusers might face legal liabilities, psychological distress, self-inflicted injuries, decreased levels of concentration and productivity at work, or even the loss of employment (Gerlock, 1999). For victims, physical consequences of relationship violence span from bruises to serious or lethal injuries (Whitman & McKnight, 1985), as well as reproductive health problems such as unwanted pregnancies, vaginal and cervical infections, bleeding during pregnancy, and low birth weight after delivery (Curry, Perrin, & Wall, 1998). Victims are also likely to suffer enduring psychological effects, including mental disorders and depression, low self-esteem, high levels of psychological distress, substance abuse, and a loss of control over their lives (Berry, 1998; Cascardi & O’Leary, 1992; Heise et al.,1999; Levendosky & Graham-Bermann, 2001; Umberson, Anderson, Glick & Shapiro, 1998). Children who are exposed to relationship violence have high risks of suffering social, emotional, and academic consequences (e.g., see reviews by Holden, Geffner & Jouriles, 1998; Jaffe, Wolfe, & Wilson, 1990). In addition to these immediate effects, research strongly suggests that relationship violence can be transmitted and perpetuated from one generation to the next (Gelles & Conte, 1990).

2) The Need for Research on Testing PSA Messages with a Gender-Specific Topic

 Despite the considerable attention sociologists and psychologists have paid to relationship violence, little research is available that offers guidelines from a communication perspective on how to increase the effectiveness of relationship violence communication campaigns. Testing the kinds of relationship violence messages that work for different target audiences can boost the effectiveness of the messages, which constitute the core of relationship violence prevention campaigns.


1) Effects of the Communicator’s Gender on Message Response

 Many communication researchers have examined the effect of the communicator’s gender on source credibility. In many situations, male communicators are perceived to be more credible than female communicators. This hypothesis was confirmed across various dimensions of source credibility, even when the content of the message was exactly the same (e.g., Newcombe & Arnkoff, 1979; Markham, 1988). In Newcombe and Arnkoff’s study (1979), the results were attributed to the difference between male and female communicators’ speaking styles, which in turn affected the recipients’ attitudes towards the communicators. In Markham’s study (1988), the difference in source credibility was attributed to sex-role stereotypes that cause males to be perceived as having higher levels of expertise than females in various situations. Additionally, Oakley (2000) found that the expertise of the speaker is perceived to be higher when the speaker is male than female. Oakley provides various explanations including gender-role stereotypes and gender difference in speech style. The speaker’s gender has also been found to influence different types of attitudes. For example, a study conducted by Debevec and Lyer (1986) concluded that the communicator’s gender can act as a cue that shapes recipients’ perceived gender image of a product, which in turn influences the recipients’ attitude toward the product. The findings hold only when the product already had a gender image, as opposed to neutral products.

 Specifically, the effect found by Debevec and Iyer’s study (1986) was that attitude toward the product and purchase intention, were higher when the gender of the communicator contrasted with the gender image of the product. In other words, the participants had a better attitude and higher purchase intention when a male communicator advertised a female-perceived product, and vice versa. The authors explain these findings by the fact that individuals are increasingly sensitive to stereotypical gender roles, and are more inclined to accept contemporary gender portrayals in ads. Therefore, the mismatch between the communicator’s gender and the product’s gender image represented a “progressive role portrayal,” creating a better attitude and higher purchase intention.

 Although that last finding may seem to contradict the current study’s rationale, this is not the case. While the current study’s message is gender-salient, it does not have any specific gender-image. It is true that females are most frequently the victims and males most frequently the perpetrators of relationship violence (Saunders, 1986). But this does not negate two important considerations. First, the issue of relationship violence can affect both genders (Makepeace, 1983). Second, communication campaigns need to suggest that both genders need to do their part to solve the problem (Flood, 2006). For these reasons, the issue of relationship violence is gender-sensitive and gender-salient, but an exclusively female or male image cannot be attached to it.

Communicator gender has also been found to affect behavioral intention. For instance, many studies support the idea that male communicators have a higher ability than female communicators to produce behavioral compliance with their advocated message (Eagly, 1983). 

 In this study, the communicator is the PSA’s voice-over. Also called an off-camera commentator or narrator, a voice-over is defined as an announcer who is not on camera but whom the audience listens to while watching a video’s visual actions (Imber, 2000).

 Focusing research on voice-overs is important for three main reasons. First, even though voice-overs are very frequently used in commercial ads and cause-related PSAs, few studies have examined audience response to this specific message feature. In fact, even when previous studies examined the effects of communicator-recipient gender, the communicator used in those studies either delivered the message in written form (e.g., Bochner & Insko, 1966), appeared on screen (e.g., Caballero & Pride, 1984), or was co-present in the experiments (e.g., Berscheid, 1966). When other studies focused on the communicator strictly as an audible voice, the message was not an ad or PSA but rather a long lecture or a speech (e.g., Gorenflo, Gorenflo, & Santer, 1994). Given this research context, the current study may be among the first to examine the effect of communicator-recipient similarity using a voice-over as the communicator.

 Second, testing message response when the communicator is a voice-over is fundamentally different from testing it when participants can see or interact with the communicator. For example, many previous source credibility experiments allowed participants to see the communicator either on screen or co-present in the same location (e.g., Berscheid, 1966; Woodside & Davenport, 1978). Other source credibility studies provided the participants with information about the communicator, for example biographical details or photo (e.g., Caballero & Pride, 1984). While this design was adequate for the purposes of those studies, it also implies a risk of confounding elements such as physical attractiveness, body language, or even style of dress. Commonly, people are exposed to ads or PSAs in which they know little about the person who is speaking as the voice-over. But one of the few things we can often detect is the voice-over’s gender. Accordingly, this study tries to test response to a PSA within conditions similar to those in which people would typically encounter it. The only thing that will be known about the voice-over is its gender, which can be inferred from the voice itself.

 Third, when campaigners design PSAs, they need to choose a type of voice-over that is an appropriate match to the advocated behavior. Such a choice may be as important as the “image”of a message or a brand, and the degree to which a voice-over is likeable or convincing may make a big difference in the audience’s response to the message. To find evidence that could inform such choices, we raise the following research question:

 RQ1. Will a male or a female voice-over produce more favorable responses to the message with respect to source credibility, perceived effectiveness, attitude toward issue, and behavioral intention?

2) Effects of the Recipients’ Gender on Message Response

 The gender of message recipients can also affect their own perceptions of a message’s persuasiveness, especially when the message is gender-specific. For instance, Smith (1984) maintains that there is a difference between women and men both in the way they use violence and in the degree to which they approve of it. He explains this difference by a mix of biological and social causes that make men more inclined to choose forceful options, while women tend to choose moderate options.

 Another finding with greater relevance to the present study confirms that gender particularly affects attitude towards relationship violence. A study by Locke and Richman (1999) concluded that, when compared with men, women show a stronger sympathy with the victim of violence and rank the issue as more serious. Fleming and Petty (1997) found that gender had an impact on attitude toward the message. Their experiment revealed that both male and female message recipients had a more positive attitude toward messages that matched their own gender identity.

 In addition, researchers have identified gender as a moderator of behavioral intention. One study found that the direction of males’ and females’ behavioral intention differed according to the nature of the message and of the advocated task (e.g., Nysveen, Pedersen, & Thorbjornsen, 2005). Another study found that females tend to conform to assigned behaviors more than males, not due to the traditionally believed effects of gender roles but rather depending on the nature of the task or the situation (Sistrunk & McDavid, 1971).

 Because of the inconsistency of findings about the role of recipient’s gender in shaping behavioral intention, this effect is examined trough the following research question.

 RQ2. Will male or female recipients have more favorable responses to

the message with respect to source credibility, perceived effectiveness, attitude

toward issue, and behavioral intention?

3) Interaction between the Genders of Communicator and Audience

 In light of the literature about the main effects of communicators and recipients’ genders on message response, an interesting issue to examine is whether the interaction of these genders affects message response. More specifically, the interaction effect concerns what happens when the genders of the communicator and the recipients match or mismatch, and how this affects message response. If a message is gender-sensitive and gender-salient, it could produce more chances that the interaction between the communicator and recipients’ gender would affect their responses (Kempf & Palan, 2006). Two theoretical concepts can account for such an interaction effect: the match-up hypothesis (e.g., Kahle & Homer, 1985) and gender schema theory (Bem, 1981).

 The match-up hypothesis has been traditionally used in advertising and proposes that the endorsers of a particular product are more effective when there is a “match” or a “fit” between endorser and product (e.g., Kahle & Homer, 1985). This “fit” occurs through a particular match-up factor that makes the endorser appropriate for the product he or she endorses. For example, an ad of an athletic product would be more credible if the endorser is a sports professional rather than an ordinary model or celebrity who is not known for athleticism. Such a match-up can increase the endorser’s effectiveness (Kamins, 1990; Till & Busler, 2000).

 The match-up hypothesis originally underlined the importance of matching factors between the communicator (endorser) and the endorsed product. One of the mechanisms for the match-up is congruence, which occurs when there is a match between the product and the endorser on a particular characteristic. This characteristic is often referred to as “the match up factor” (e.g., Till& Busler, 2000).

 In the context of relationship violence PSAs, it is important to consider gender as a match-up factor because the stimulus is a gender-salient message. Although physical attractiveness has been traditionally examined as the main match-up factor (Baker & Churchill, 1977; Kamins, 1990), previous research also found gender to be a factor that creates congruence between the product and its endorsers. For example, Kanungo and Pang (1973) concluded that there is a need for “fittingness” between the model used in the ad and the perceived “gender” of the product. The models they used were either a female, or a male, or a female and male together. Among the products they used were a car (perceived as male) and a sofa (perceived as female). Measuring participants’ attitude toward the product, the study found that the car advertisement featuring a male model produced positive attitudes among both male and female participants, while the sofa advertisement elicited positive attitudes among male participants when the model was female and negative attitudes among male participants when the model was male.

 The fact that gender can be a match-up factor supports our rationale for extending the match-up hypothesis by focusing on gender as the matching factor between the communicator and the recipient rather than the communicator and the product.

 While some studies have supported the importance of matching factors between the communicator and the product, others have supported the importance of matching factors between the communicator and the recipient. For example, Ryan and Giles (1982) examined the effect of matching ethnic origins between the communicator and the recipient. They found that listener attitudes toward both the message and the communicator are more positive when the listeners perceive that their own ethnic origins matched those of the communicator.

4) Gender Schema Theory: The Role of Gender Schema in Message Response

 According to Bem’s gender schema theory (1981), an individual can be described as gender schematic when they have a general tendency to process information based on gender-related associations. These gender-related associations serve as a “map” internalized by individuals since childhood and thereafter used to process gender-related information. It is this “map” that Bem calls a gender schema. One example of a gender schema’s effect is to make sex-typed individuals (feminine females and masculine males) tend to recall words and concepts in clusters that are consistent with their socially assigned gender role.

 Gender schemata are acquired in childhood and shaped by cultural and social expectations about the attributes of masculinity and femininity (Bem, 1981). While gender schemata can be present in any individual’s mind, they can differ from one individual to the next in the degree to which they are activated. A gender schema is activated when an individual is faced with a situation or a message in which gender is salient (Freedman, 1992). Once the gender schema is activated, it guides the individual’s cognitive processing to encode and organize information in terms of gender. This encoding and organization happens according to the “rules” of the gender schema that derive from the socially instilled distinction between maleness and femaleness that makes individuals evaluate information based on the cultural definition of what it means to be a “male” or “female” (Bem, 1981).

 Gender schema theory is relevant to the present study because it involves exposing participants to a gender-salient message. Accordingly, this theory can explain the mechanism through which gender becomes a factor affecting message response. Since the study participants are asked to watch a relationship violence prevention PSA, the gender salience of the message may trigger the gender schemata in their minds. This may cause gender to affect the recipients’ response to the message. Keeping in mind that gender is suggested in the present study as a match-up factor between the communicator and the recipient, it is expected that either a gender match or mismatch between the communicator and the recipient may result in different message responses. Based on this theoretical rationale, we propose the following hypotheses:

 H1: There will be interaction effects of communicator’s and audience’s gender such that (H1a) source credibility, (H1b) perceived effectiveness, (H1c) attitude toward the issue, and (H1d) behavioral intention will be more positive or higher when the genders of the communicator and the audience match, compared to when they do not match.


1) Study Design

 This study used a 2 between (male or female communicator) x 2 between (male or female recipient) factorial design to test people’s responses to two versions of a relationship violence prevention PSA: one with male voice-over and the other with female voice-over. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions, depending on whether their genders did or did not match with that of the communicator.

2) Sample

 The participants were undergraduate students from four advertising classes at a large Midwestern university in the U.S. In agreement with their professors, they received extra-credit for participation. A total of 243 students completed the survey; 139 (57.2%) watched the male version of the PSA and 104 (42.8%) watched the female version. Twenty responses were eliminated from the data either because of inaccurate recall of communicator’s gender or self-reported duplicate participation. The remaining number of students was 223: 66.8% female; 77.1%White/Caucasian; and mean age of 20.

3) Procedure

 Two online questionnaires were hosted on and used for data collection. Each survey included a YouTube link to one of two different versions of the relationship violence prevention PSA used as a stimulus. The voice-over was male in one version and female in the other.  Each participant was randomly assigned to watch only one of the two versions. The survey comprised three parts. The first asked demographic questions about the participants. The second included the link leading to the assigned PSA. In the third and last part, the participants were asked to report their response to the PSA.

4) Stimuli

 The PSAs lasted 30 seconds each and were produced in a professional studio using professional equipment and actors/anchors. The video used for both versions shows a scene of physical and psychological violence between a man (perpetrator) and a woman (victim). The man shakes the woman violently while abusing her verbally and then slaps her face. The woman looks terrified, cries, begs him not to hurt her, and the man commands her to stop crying. Between shots, a screen appears with the caption, “Relationship violence should never remain a secret.”

 The PSA ends with a voice-over (communicator), female in one version and male in the other, which says to the viewers, “Once you know about it, it’s no longer just their business. They need your help.” This is followed by a supertitle that also addresses the viewers: “You can help them before their time runs out.” Finally, the phone number of the organization [Location] Safe Place is provided on screen.

 The only sounds heard in the PSA are those of the victim, the abuser, and the voice-over. Nomusic was included to avoid any confounding peripheral cues (Park & Young, 1986). Also, one aim of using a voice-over instead of an on-screen communicator was to avoid the confounding effect of physical likeability that could affect the participants’ response to the PSAs (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986).

5) Pretest

 The pretest aimed to answer four main questions: (a) whether viewers could accurately recall the gender of the PSA communicator; (b) whether the message was accurately understood by the viewers; (c) whether the viewers could correctly identify the intended audience as potential relationship violence bystanders; and (d) whether the viewers themselves felt targeted by the PSA as potential bystanders.

 Ten students who did not participate in the main study took part in the pretest, four males and six females who were randomly assigned to one of the two PSA versions. Six students (60%) watched the male version and four (40%) the female version individually, and then they were asked to take a pen-and-paper survey.

 Concerning the recall of the communicator’s gender, it was important to have most viewers recall it correctly because the rationale of the present study is based on both the genders of the communicator and the recipient, and part of it is based on how these genders interact. The pretest showed that 80% of its participants recalled the voice-over’s gender accurately.

 As for message comprehension, 80% of participants provided a very accurate explanation about the message, stating that it expresses the seriousness of relationship violence and invites the community to take part in reducing it. The remaining 20% provided general pro-social interpretations of the message, for example, “stop relationship violence,” but they did not state that it aimed to solicit bystanders’ help. However, all pretest participants correctly identified the intended audience to be bystanders.

 Overall, the pretest results indicated that the message and intended audience were clearly conveyed through the PSAs and that the genders of the communicators were recalled with basic accuracy.

6) Measures

 Hovland’s (1953) Yale Communication Model was used to measure source credibility based on two dimensions, “trustworthiness” and “expertise.” The procedure is derived from studies conducted by Sternthal et al. (1978) and Harmon and Coney (1982). To measure students’perception of the communicator’s trustworthiness and expertise, four seven-point semantic differential scales were used, ranging from -3 to 3. The items under trustworthiness were “not trustworthy/ trustworthy” and “bad/ good”; the items under expertise were “not expert in the issue / expert in the issue” and “not experienced / experienced.” Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) with the Principal Components Analysis (PCA) extraction method and eigenvalue criteria of >1 showed clearly one factor with 67.5% of total variance explained. Cronbach’s alpha was .83, indicating good to excellent reliability (e.g., George & Mallery, 2003; Leech, Barrett, & Morgan, 2008). The four items were averaged to construct the variable of source credibility (M= .18, SD= 1.09).

 Perceived effectiveness (PE) was measured using Dillard and Ye’s (2008) seven-point semantic differential scale that included four items: persuasive/not persuasive, effective/not effective, convincing/not convincing, and compelling/not compelling. EFA showed one factor with 58.75% of the variance explained respectively (α = .93). The four items were averaged to construct the variable of perceived effectiveness (M= 2.33, SD= .97).

Attitude toward the issue was measured using a seven-point semantic differential scale that ranged from -3 to 3 and included four items: trivial / serious, unimportant /important, not worth much concern / worth a lot of concern, and irrelevant / relevant (Paek et al., 2011). EFA showed clearly one factor with 85.20% of total variance explained (α = .93). The four items were averaged to construct the variable (M= .28, SD= 1.50). 

 Behavioral intention was measured with a seven-point Likert scale drawn from Bagozzi and Moore (1994) and modified to fit the context of relationship violence. The scale included the following six items: “how likely are you (1) to provide help to relationship violence victims? (2)to provide help to relationship violence perpetrators? (3) to seek information about relationship violence in general? (4) to seek information on how to help reduce relationship violence? (5) to share the video with your friends and family? (6) to call the number shown in the video? (-3= “not at all likely” and 3 = “very likely”). EFA showed clearly one factor with 57.88% of total variance explained (α = .84). The six items were averaged to construct the variable of behavioral intention (M= -.71, SD= 1.31).

 Table 1 reports descriptive statistics for all the message response variables per condition

<Table 1> Descriptive Statistics

7) Analytic Strategy

 To examine the main and interaction effects of gender on the four dependent variables, a series of Univariate Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was performed. When the analysis yielded statistically significant impacts, post-hoc mean difference tests were examined to determine the direction of the effect. Table 2 reports the ANOVA results.

<Table 2> Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) Test Results


1) RQ1. Effects of the Communicator’s Gender

 RQ1 asked whether male or female communicator (voice-over) would have a higher level of source credibility, perceived effectiveness, attitude issue, and behavioral intention. The two-way ANOVA showed that the communicator’s gender had a significant impact on source credibility(F (1, 218) = 10.19, p < .01). Pairwise comparison indicates that the female communicator was perceived to be more credible than the male communicator (mean diff = .50, p < .01). However, communicator’s gender did not significantly affect any of the remaining response variables.

2) RQ2. Effects of the Recipient’s Gender

 RQ2 asked whether male or female audience would have a higher level of source credibility, perceived effectiveness, attitude toward the issue, and behavioral intention. The two-way ANOVA indicated a significant impact of the recipient’s gender on attitude toward the issue (F (1, 218) = 26.91, p < .01), such that female recipients reported a higher attitude toward the issue of relationship violence compared with male recipients (mean diff = .70, p < .001). However, recipient’s gender did not affect the remaining response variables.

3) H1. Interaction Effects of Communicator’s and Recipient’s Gender

 Hypothesis 1 predicted the interaction effects of communicator’s and recipient’s gender in terms of source credibility (H1a), perceived effectiveness (H1b), attitude toward the issue (H1c), and behavioral intention (H1d). ANOVA results showed no significant interaction effect of communicator and recipient’s gender on any of those variables. Message responses did not differ regardless whether the genders of the communicator and the recipient did or did not match.


 This study examined the effects of communicator’s and recipient’s genders on message response. Message response refers to source credibility,perceived effectiveness, attitude toward the issue, and behavioral intention, all of which are known to affect actual behavior or actual campaign effectiveness. There were two main findings. First, the communicator’s gender had a significant effect on source credibility, such that the female communicator was perceived to be more credible than the male communicator. Second, the recipients’ gender also had a significant impact, but only on attitude toward the issue. Female recipients expressed higher attitudes toward the issue of relationship violence.

 The finding that the female communicator was perceived to be more credible than the male communicator has two implications. First, it supports previous findings that the gender of the communicator does affect source credibility. By contrast, second, it challenges previous findings about the direction of gender’s effect. While most source credibility research found that male communicators tend to be perceived as more credible than female communicators (e.g., Markham,1988; Newcombe & Arnkoff, 1979), the current study found the opposite.

 One potential explanation for the greater perceived credibility of the female communicator would be the PSA’s topic itself. Students may have attributed more credibility to the female communicator because women are more often the victims of relationship violence. This effect may have been boosted by the significantly positive correlation between attitude toward the issue of relationship violence and source credibility (.19).

 The recipient’s gender was found to significantly affect attitude toward the issue, such that females perceived the issue to be important and worthy of concern more than males did. One explanation for this finding could be that the issue is gender-sensitive because females’ greater likelihood to be victims of relationship violence makes them more concerned about it.

 As for the lack of any significant interaction effects between communicator’s and recipient’s gender on any of the response variables, several explanations are plausible.

 First, the fact that the recipients did not physically see or interact with the communicator, or that they did not listen to him or her for a long-enough time, may have weakened the degree of salience that would work with recipient’s gender. According to gender schema theory, gender schema is activated when a person is faced with a situation or message in which gender is salient (Freedman, 1992). When the gender schema is activated, it guides a person’s cognitive processing to encode and organize information in terms of gender. If we apply this logic to this study context, each subject’s own gender schema should have been more readily activated through the salient gender image of the communicator in the message, which would result in strengthening favorable message responses. But since the voice-over technique was used, the communicator’s gender image may not have had enough salience. In fact, in most previous studies where attitude toward the communicator was examined, the communicator was either a person who directly talked with the participants (Woodside & Davenport, 1974), or someone they saw on screen, or a combination of on-screen and audio communication (e.g., Kelman & Eagly, 1965). This implies that the ability to see and sometimes personally interact with the communicator may generate gender salience. The gender schema, however, may work better with the gender-sensitive topic of relationship violence rather than the gender of the communicator, resulting in no interaction effects between genders of the communicator and audience. Future research could involve multiple topics with and without gender-sensitive issues to see how gender schema really works for audience responses to the messages.

 Several limitations should be noted. First, some potentially confounding factors were not taken into consideration because the survey was conducted online. One such factor would be the mood of the audience at the time of the survey response, which has been shown to affect evaluation and information processing (Bagozzi, Gopinath, & Nyer, 1999).

 Second, since the PSA used in this study was produced for the purpose of this study alone, its production quality may constitute another limitation. Negative evaluations of the PSA by participants may have affected their response to the message itself. Future studies might avoid this limitation by using more professionally produced videos. Also, although the PSA of the present study was pretested, the focus was on detecting accurate recall of the gender of the voice-over and the comprehension of the message. Future research may improve this aspect by including PSA evaluation questions in the pretest, which could allow researchers to improve the PSA quality before conducting the study.

 Third, the present study treated all message response variables as dependent variables, including source credibility, perceived effectiveness, attitude toward the issue, and behavioral intention. Treating them all as dependent variables aims to keep the focus on the influence of gender on all the response variables, rather than on the influence of the variables on each other. However, previous research demonstrated that there are mediating effects that may take place between the response variables themselves. Not taking these mediating effects into consideration may have affected the results. Future research could explore further complex mediating and moderating relationships among these response variables.

 Despite these limitations, the findings suggest a set of guidelines for relationship violence prevention PSAs. First, while most previous source credibility research found that, in many contexts, male communicators have more credibility than female communicators, the finding of the present study highlights the effect of the nature of the message itself on source credibility. Accordingly, future relationship violence PSAs may be more effective if they use a female communicator. This implication is important because, within the context of persuasive messages, choosing the right communicator can be crucial to message success (e.g., Harmon & Coney, 1982; Sternthal, Dholakia, & Leavitt, 1978).

 Second, this study found that the recipient’s gender affects attitude toward the issue, such that females have a higher attitude toward the issue of relationship violence than males. This means that females, more than males, perceive the issue to be important and worthy of concern. However, since most relationship violence perpetrators are males, there is also a need to direct other potential awareness efforts toward male audiences. The aim would be to increase their attitude toward the issue and therefore make them more responsive to relationship violence prevention campaigns. In fact, some researchers have supported the importance of targeting men in order to decrease the spread of relationship violence (Flood, 2006).

 Developing and implementing effective campaigns are a daunting task, and dealing with gender-sensitive social issues such as relationship violence poses additional challenges to campaign practitioners. Understanding and using gender-appropriate communicators for appropriate target audiences could help generate more of the intended consequences.


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