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Adolescents’ self-reported level of dispositional advertising literacy: how do adolescents resist advertising in the current commercial media environment?


Adolescents Resistance strategies Age differences Dispositional advertising literacy Media device ownership

Publication details

Year: 2018
DOI: 10.1108/yc-02-2018-00782
Issued: 2018
Language: English
Volume: 19
Issue: 4
Start Page: 402
End Page: 420
Authors: De Jans S.; Hudders L.; Cauberghe V.
Type: Journal article
Journal: Young Consumers
Publisher: Emerald
Topics: Literacy and skills; Content-related issues
Sample: A representative sample of 2,602 adolescents (12-18 years of age) from 11 high schools, equally divided by gender. Schools were recruited with a geographic scatter (urban versus rural). Different classes of different grades from each school took part in the study. The socio–demographic representativeness of adolescents was pursued for the total sample by weighting the variables gender and grade.
Implications For Educators About: Digital citizenship
Implications For Stakeholders About: Industry
Other Stakeholder Implication: Advertisers


This study aims to examine adolescents’ (between 12 and 18 years) perceptions of their knowledge and skills related to advertising (i.e. dispositional advertising literacy). More specifically, adolescents’ beliefs about their recognition and understanding of advertising (cognitive facet), their emotional reaction to advertising (affective facet) and their moral evaluation of advertising (moral facet) were investigated together with their beliefs about the way they resist advertising.</jats:p> A large-scale survey was conducted, taking information from 2,602 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 years. The findings show that adolescents believe they can recognize advertising reasonably well and have a moderate understanding of it. They tend to be negative toward advertising, perceive it as an unfair practice and claim to resist it strongly. In addition, adolescents’ self-reported moral and affective advertising literacy positively affect advertising resistance. Adolescents’ cognitive advertising literacy increases with the number of different media device types owned, and cognitive and moral advertising literacy increase with age.This study is one of the first to examine adolescents’ beliefs about their dispositional advertising literacy. Most previous studies examined advertising literacy among young children (under 12 years) or adults after exposure to a specific advertising format (i.e. situational advertising literacy), while this study focuses on adolescents’ self-reported levels of cognitive, moral and affective dispositional advertising literacy. In addition, the focus on resistance strategies to examine how adolescents resist advertising is unique.


"Adolescents believe that they have a high moral advertising literacy, while their cognitive advertising literacy scores are the lowest but still fairly high and above the mid-point of the scale. It may be that adolescents have the idea that they know a lot of advertising and that they are critical but that this is not the case in reality or for all advertising formats. Firstly, adolescents claim to resist advertising largely by empowering themselves against it, rather than by avoiding or contesting it. The results suggest that adolescents believe that they are most likely to reassure their own existing attitudes to resist an advertising attempt when exposed to it, and that they are less likely to resist an advertising attempt by physically, mechanically or cognitively avoiding it or by refuting the attempt. However, cognitive advertising literacy is positively related to the avoidance strategy, while it is negatively related to the contesting and empowering strategies. Secondly, adolescents’ ownership of a greater variety of media devices is positively related to their belief that they are better able to recognize and understand the advertising to which each device exposes them. This is in line with the socialization theory who emphasize that minors’ advertising literacy increases with experience. In addition, the better adolescents are at recognizing and understanding advertising, the more often they try to avoid it. However, the same improved recognition and understanding also leads to a reduction of both contesting and self-empowerment. Finally, adolescents believe that they gain cognitive advertising literacy and become more skeptical toward advertising as they grow older. This is linked to children’s cognitive and moral development. While better recognition and understanding of advertising ensures more advertising avoidance, less contesting and less empowerment, more skeptical attitudes toward advertising ensure more advertising avoidance, more contesting and more empowerment." (De Jans et al., 2018, 415-417)

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