The Sleeper Effect

Youth Specialties
December 8th, 2010

Have you ever taught a message, hoping for impact, and had it fall flat? Never fear… the Bible teaches that some seeds planted get bundled with weeds and don't develop while other seeds planted reap a powerful harvest. (Matthew 13:24-30) We've known this for generations and so it's a little funny to see people studying it now. 

The Sleeper Effect

There's this really cool theory in social sciences called The Sleeper Effect. Here's a little background from what started the research back during World War II when the military was trying to understand the effect of its propaganda movies on soldiers:


While the films were informative and did strengthen some existing attitudes, experiments showed they were extremely unlikely to make soldiers more optimistic about the war in general (Hovland et al, 1949).

In retrospect this should have come as little surprise, since the soldiers knew these were propaganda films designed to change their attitudes, so their defenses were up.

What they did discover, though, was that some of the films did have an effect on soldiers after months had passed. While attitudes didn't change immediately, subtle shifts were picked up nine weeks later. US soldiers who watched one film about The Battle of Britain showed little extra sympathy towards the British five days later, but, after nine weeks, they had softened. Yale University's Carl Hovland and colleagues called this the 'sleeper effect'.

Read the rest at Lifehacker

If this theory is really true, how would it impact your teaching methodology in youth ministry? 


Youth Specialties

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