The role of cognitive absorption in the persuasiveness of multimedia messages

Aurora Occa, Susan E. Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We propose cognitive absorption as a mental state that influences the processing of multimedia messages such as animations. An experiment was designed to assess (1) whether cognitive absorption is experienced when individuals view whiteboard animations; (2) the relationship between cognitive absorption and message elaboration; (3) the relationship between cognitive absorption and outcomes such as perceived argument strength, knowledge, and attitudes related to key concepts relevant to clinical trial participation. The study involved 927 cancer patients and survivors who were exposed to either whiteboard animations or brochures. Several interesting findings emerged. First, individuals experienced greater cognitive absorption while viewing the animations than when reading brochures. Second, cognitive absorption was associated with a systematic elaboration of the information provided by the animations. Third, cognitive absorption mediated the effect the animations had on individuals’ perceived argument strength and attitudes, but not knowledge. Theoretical explanations for the educational and persuasive effects of animations are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104363
JournalComputers and Education
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Biography: Dr. Susan E. Morgan (Ph.D., University of Arizona) is a Full Professor in the Communication Studies department in the School of Communication at the University of Miami and the former Associate Provost for Research. Her research interests involve the design and evaluation of persuasive messages targeting health behavior change in multicultural populations. Her research has been supported by over $9 million in grant funding. Dr. Morgan serves on the Editorial Board of five journals and is an active reviewer for 15 journals. She has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in the area of health communication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Clinical trial communication
  • Cognitive absorption
  • Message elaboration
  • Multimedia message
  • Whiteboard animation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (all)
  • Education


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