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Bumpers and Teasers

Joan Schleuder, Alice White, and Glen Cameron’s study looks at if nightly news broadcast bumpers and teasers act as primes to prepare viewers to pay more attention to certain stories when they air.  The study also examines whether or not viewers remember information better when it is presented in stories that are primed compared to stories that are not primed.

According to the article, “bumpers” are defined as “previews or some of the stories that will be covered during the broadcast.”  “Teasers” are defined as previews occurring just before commercials that “tease” viewers and show them stories that will follow the commercials.

The study discusses priming in the context of the spreading activation theory.  This theory views the mind as a “network of thoughts, feelings, and prior memories interconnected by associative pathways.”

The study’s hypotheses were: “Mean reaction time will be slower (indicating higher attention) to news stories that have been double-primed primed with teasers, or primed with bumpers than to stories that have not been primed,” and “Visual and verbal recognition scores will be higher for stories that have been double-primed, primed with teasers, or primed with bumpers than for stories that have not been primed.”

Forty-six University of Texas undergraduate communications students participated in the study for course credit.  Subjects were divided into two groups of 23 students each. Both groups watched three 20-minute newscasts containing bumpers and primes.  After each newscast, visual and verbal recognition tests were given.  One of the groups was also given a secondary task while watching the newscasts which consisted of pressing a button as fast as possible every time they heard a tone.  Attention, visual memory, and verbal memory were all measured.

Results showed a priming effect in bumped and teased stories compared to stories without bumps or teasers.  Teased stories received the most viewer attention and were remembered better than the other primes and no-primed stories.  Results showed bumpers and teasers help viewers remember verbal components of stories, but they do not help viewers remember visual components.

The article makes me wonder if I’m truly watching the news or just passively watching the news.  As with broadcast, so much of the story is visual (packages, clips, etc…).  And with more and more news being on the Internet, users can watch their news (like broadcast), read their news (like newspapers), or listen to their news (like radio).  All of these worlds come together online.

I believe it would be interesting to find research on how online news components (interactive graphics, videos, etc…) prime users or affect how much they remember about a particular story.


Schleuder, J., White, A., & Cameron, G. (1993, Fall 93). Priming effects of television news bumpers and teasers on attention and memory. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 37(4), 437

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