Signal Ahead: A Content Analysis of Message Sensation Values in Vehicular Safety PSAs

Document Type


Publication Date



Journalism Studies


The effects of dangerous and risky driving habits have been a leading, albeit gradually decreasing, cause of death (National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2019). Numerous attempts to curb these risky behaviors have been attempted, to some degree of success, yet the problem remains (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2020; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2015). Research needs to identify programmatic changes to help assist in preventing incidents of impaired driving, distracted driving, and child car safety. These programs could take the form of audio public service announcements (PSAs). One issue with constructing these PSAs is that often the messages only elicit short-term changes because of the lack of an emotional trigger (Bummara & Choi, 2015). However, effective PSAs can be created to engage the listeners and convey enough emotion via message sensation value. Message sensation value is "the degree to which formal and content audio-visual features of a televised message elicit sensory, affective, and arousal responses" (Palmgreen et al., 1991, p. 219). The purpose of this novel analysis is to identify components of audio-only PSAs and how they "elicit sensory, affective, and arousal responses" (Palmgreen et al., 1991, p. 219). In order to research the construction of these messages, researchers conducted a content analysis of vehicular safety messages from the public service announcement database By analyzing these vehicular safety PSAs, we will explore how audio messages on texting and driving, drunk driving, and child car safety use audio message sensation values to increase engagement and thus behavior (Hennessy et al., 2012). This research is part of a larger study investigating the use of audio-only public service announcement construction for both academics and practitioners.

First Advisor

Travis Loof

Second Advisor

Kyle Miller

Research Area

Contemporary Media & Journalism

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