A series of experiments were conducted in which Road Safety Posters were displayed in a waiting room. Their effect was measured by: (a) amount of information from posters which was applied to interpretation of photographs showing faulty traffic situations (Use scores); and (b) amount of information contained on posters which could be recalled (Recall scores). An attempt was made to investigate reasons why on some occasions or with some subjects information was recalled more than it was used, and why on other occasions or by other subjects it was used more than it was recalled.
Four types of propaganda were displayed. Each had a significant effect on use scores, but there was no significant difference between effects of these four types on either use or recall. However, previous experience of subjects was shown to have a considerable effect on results. over-sixties, although comparatively bad at recalling propaganda, had use scores which compared favourably with those of younger subjects. subjects who had car-driving experience used information from posters to a significantly greater extent than non-drivers. On other hand, drivers did not recall propaganda any better than non-drivers. There was also a tendency for naval rating subjects to use more of information than they recalled and for students to recall as much or more than they used. When tests were applied up to a period of 14 days after display of propaganda there was a widening disparity between use and recall scores. At 14 days subjects still showed a slight tendency to use information although they were not able to remember it.
An attempt is made to explain these results by suggesting that when a subject is presented with an incidental learning situation, meaningfulness he extracts from material and his method of organizing it depends on his previous learned responses to similar material. Where his previous experience has entailed incorporation of information into his activity, then new material to be learned is likely to have meaning in relation to its practical application, a response which favours retention of information for use in other tasks, but not necessarily for recall. If his previous experience has been learning by memorizing, his response to new material will be organized accordingly; he is likely to learn in order to recall.