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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Communication Studies (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Susan E. Morgan

Second Committee Member

Tyler Harrison

Third Committee Member

Cong Li

Fourth Committee Member

Nicholas Carcioppolo

Fifth Committee Member

Matthew Schlumbrecht


The ability of clinical trials and research studies to produce valid and generalizable results are harmed by low accrual rates. While there are a number of barriers which impede participation, it is important to improve potential participants’ understanding of concepts related to clinical trials to ensure informed consent or refusal. Animations were proposed as a medium to help patients to better understand and navigate clinical trials. The present study consisted of an experiment comparing several communication strategies (animations, brochures with visuals, brochure without visuals, and materials from the NIH), with several key concepts useful to understand inform consent and trial participation (placebo, randomization, patient protection, steps to enroll). The experiment was based on the principles of the Cognitive Affective Theory of Multimedia Learning, the Elaboration Likelihood Model, The Heuristic Systematic Model, and the literature on technology acceptance. Several hypotheses assessed the effects of animation on individuals’ perceptions and cognitive responses. Cognitive absorption was proposed as a mediating variable to explain the discriminant effects of animations over traditional communication strategies. A total of 1194 cancer patients’ and survivors’ responses were analyzed. Overall, all of the experimental conditions were more effective than the materials from the NIH. There are four other key findings from this research. First, lay language proved to be fundamental to improving both knowledge and attitudes toward clinical trials, regardless of the channel used. Second, animations were an effective strategy to communicate about clinical trials and medical research concepts, particularly for individuals with low motivation to process this information. Third, animations elicited more positive emotional responses in comparison with the materials from the NIH. Finally, cognitive absorption mediated the relationship between the channel used and how individuals responded to the messages. The dissertation concludes with the a discussion of the implications of these findings as well as a trajectory for future research.


Animation; clinical trials; placebo; randomization; patient protection; elaboration likelihood model