I study media processes and effects related to emotions and beneficial outcomes, such as improved health behaviors, decreased stigma toward outgroups, and increased civic engagement.

I take a discrete, functionalist approach to researching emotion. That is, I look at emotions that differ based on automatic cognitive appraisals and subsequent action tendencies.

Most of my work is based on experimental methodology, although I also use surveys, content analysis, linguistic analysis, and the occasional qualitative approach to gain insight into the role of emotions in media processes and effects.

Some general research questions I am attempting to answer include:

  • Given ethical and efficacy-related concerns associated with using fear appeals, how might positive and mixed emotions be employed in messages aimed at persuading individuals to change their health-related attitudes and behaviors?
  • How do mixed emotional experiences (i.e., a simultaneous experience of positive and negative affect) from viewing media impact media effects?
  • In what ways do health and environmental media evoke emotions in audiences, and how do those emotional responses impact risk perceptions, individual behaviors, policy support, and social sharing?
  • How do stories about individuals (i.e., exemplars) impact emotional, cognitive, and behavior reactions to media that ask audiences to take action, particularly if the exemplars are celebrities?
  • How do character/audience involvement processes, such as identification and parasocial interaction, interact with and/or affect emotions and emotion-related processes, such as empathy, to shape audience perceptions and actions?

I approach these questions largely on the micro-level. I am a media psychologist trying to discern not just how but also why we react to media the way we do. I love numbers, and to answer these questions I enjoy using path analysis and structural equation modeling.

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