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Research

Faculty members and graduate students in the Department pursue and produce research that spans a wide range of the Communication discipline. 

Research within the department is generally focused in three broad curriculum areas:

  • Communication Science & Social Cognition,
  • Public Relations & Strategic Communication, and
  • Rhetoric & Political Culture

The Department of Communication is also home to the Mark and Heather Rosenker Center for Political Communication & Civic Leadership and the Center for Health and Risk Communication

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COMM Presents 2021 Departmental Awards

Faculty and graduate students receive awards for research, teaching, and service.

Communication

Dates:
A collage of 2021 Award Winners.

To see a full list of 2021 award recipients, visit https://communication.umd.edu/about/awards-honors

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The Influence of Stigmatizing Messages on Danger Appraisal: Examining the Model of Stigma Communication for Opioid-Related Stigma, Policy Support, and Related Outcomes

This study used the model of stigma communication in two online factorial experiments.

Communication

Author/Lead: Victoria Ledford
Contributor(s): JungKyu Lim, Kang Namkoong, Junhan Chen, Yan Qin
Dates:

Drug overdose is a leading cause of injury and death in the United States, and opioids are among the most significant of causes. For people with opioid use disorders (OUDs), opioid stigma can lead to devastating consequences, including anxiety and depression. Still, mass media may stigmatize people with OUDs by ascribing stigmatizing labels (e.g., “opioid addict”) and other stigma features to those individuals. However, it is unclear how these stigmatizing messages influence public perceptions of people with OUDs and public support for rehabilitation and Naloxone administration policies. The model of stigma communication (MSC) provides a framework for understanding these relationships. This study used the MSC in two online factorial experiments, the first among college undergraduates (N = 231) and the second among Amazon Mechanical Turk workers (N = 245), to examine how stigmatizing messages about people with OUDs influence stigma-related outcomes. Results reveal that opioid stigma messages influence different outcomes depending on the content of those messages. Classification messages with a stigmatizing mark (e.g., “Alex appears unkempt”) and label (e.g., “opioid addict”) led to greater perceptions of dangerousness and threat in both studies. High stigma classification messages also led to an increased desire for behavioral regulation and social distance in Study 2. Structural equation modeling in Study 1 also supported the applicability of the MSC in the opioid context. Implications for health communication theory development and practice are discussed.

A cover from the journal Health Communication

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Impact of Self-Affirmation on Responses to Health Warning Messages: Does Consideration of Future Consequences Matter?

An experimental study in which 925 African American smokers were instructed to self-affirm (or not) prior to viewing graphic cigarette warning labels.

Communication

Author/Lead: Xiaoli Nan
Dates:
HC Cover

Self-affirmation theory has inspired numerous studies that have tried to understand the effects of self-affirmation on defensive processing of threatening health messages and subsequent behavior. Despite the overall positive effects of self-affirmation, psychological processes through which self-affirmation exerts such impact remain unclear. We examined Consideration of Future Consequences (CFC) as a potential moderator of the effects of self-affirmation on responses to graphic cigarette warning warnings, in an attempt to shed light on the psychological processes. We conducted an experimental study in which 925 African American smokers were instructed to self-affirm (or not) prior to viewing graphic cigarette warning labels. We found that smokers with stronger present time orientation (PTO) experienced higher defensive responses as measured by anger, perceived message manipulation, and message derogation, after viewing graphic cigarette warning labels; whereas smokers with stronger future time orientation (FTO) reported less message derogation. PTO interacted with self-affirmation in predicting defensive processing measures, such that self-affirmation reduced message derogation at lower levels of PTO and increased message derogation and perceived message manipulation at higher levels of PTO. Self-affirmation also had a conditional indirect effect on smoking intentions and intention to quit smoking through measures of defensive processing. We discuss implications of our study.

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More than just a variable: COVID-19 and the call to complicate communication education research

To help instructors create more inclusive and equitable classrooms, communication education scholars need to advance interpretive research agendas that center students and instructors’ lived experiences and consider the context teaching/learning occurs in

Communication

Author/Lead: Drew Ashby-King
Dates:
CECover

The coronavirus pandemic brought to light the numerous challenges faced by students that are often not considered in the classroom (e.g., food/housing insecurity, limited Internet access). The rapid transition to online learning shattered the perception that the classroom is independent of greater societal and institutional contexts. Shifting courses online midsemester brought into focus various inequities present in higher education and how they influence students’ experiences in the teaching/learning process. To help instructors create more inclusive and equitable classrooms, communication education scholars need to advance interpretive research agendas that center students and instructors’ lived experiences and consider the context teaching/learning occurs in.

Increasing Perceived Risk of Opioid Misuse: The Effects of Concrete Language and Image

Using a factorial online experiment, this study found that messages using concrete language made people think more concretely about the negative consequences of opioid misuse.

Communication

Author/Lead: Yan Qin
Contributor(s): Junhan Chen, Kang Namkoong, Victoria Ledford, JungKyu Lim
Dates:
HC Cover

Risk perception is a critical determinant for individuals’ health behavior change, especially for behaviors with distal future consequences. Building on construal-level theory, this study investigates if and how thinking concretely about the negative consequences of opioid misuse influences people’s risk perception toward opioid misuse. Two message cues – images and concrete (vs. abstract) language – are proposed to influence concrete thinking and perceived temporal distance, which in turn influence risk perception directly and through negative affect. Using a factorial online experiment with Amazon Mechanical Turk workers (N = 220), this study found that messages using concrete language made people think more concretely about the negative consequences of opioid misuse. Perceived concreteness, in turn, increased risk perception and negative affect. Negative affect also increased risk perception. The use of images decreased perceived temporal distance, which in turn, changed risk perception through its influence on negative affect. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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The Meaning of Numbers: Effect of Social Media Engagement Metrics in Risk Communication

Findings suggest that high engagement metrics show more considerable influences on willingness to read the full news story, bandwagon perception, and perceived newsworthiness than low engagement metrics.

Communication

Author/Lead: Jiyoun Kim
Dates:
Communication Studies Journal

Using the health risks of nuclear plant accident as a context of enquiry, this study focuses on how peoples’ reactions to a piece of online news are affected by social media engagement metrics associated with the story. Based on the bandwagon heuristic, it assumes that online news with a high social media engagement metrics – high-sharing, -liking, and -commenting, show direct and mediated effects on respondents’ online news consumption and news sharing behavioral intention. Findings suggest that high engagement metrics show more considerable influences on willingness to read the full news story, bandwagon perception, and perceived newsworthiness than low engagement metrics. Also, news readership, bandwagon perception, and perceived newsworthiness served as mediators of the relationship between social media engagement metrics and news-sharing behavioral intention while there is no significant direct association found at the statistical level. The findings, however, indicate that social media engagement metrics affect when conditions are low-risk. The discussion highlights the theoretical implications of this research.

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Envisioning a Remembered Future: The Rhetorical Life and Times of The Manchurian Candidate

This article explores the rhetorical life and times of “the Manchurian candidate” in America’s rhetorical/political culture.

Communication

Author/Lead: Trevor Parry-Giles
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Barney, Timothy
Dates:
JPFT2

This article explores the rhetorical life and times of “the Manchurian candidate” in America’s rhetorical/political culture. It specifically addresses the lasting capacity of the “Manchurian candidate” to operate as a political trope, a signifier divorced fully from its original signified, yet still filled with meaning and power, particularly for ordering conspiracy rhetorics in contemporary political campaigns as an emblem of the “paranoid style” in American politics. The essay examines the conversion of the “Manchurian candidate” into a political trope, from its initial expression in its Cold War context and the subsequent rearticulations of the “Manchurian candidate” for audiences living in varied non–Cold War contexts. Ultimately, the migration of this narrative and its conversion over time into a political trope for active use in U.S. political discourse is a compelling example of the lasting influence of Cold War culture in the American consciousness as well as the malleability, the flexibility, of Cold War characters, cultural themes, and rhetorics.

‘Health literacy for all’: exploring the feasibility of an intervention to reduce health disparities among rural children

This study explores a health literacy intervention in two rural public elementary schools that have very different socioeconomic levels, educational achievement rates, and initial health literacy scores.

Communication

Author/Lead: Sarah Aghazadeh
Contributor(s): Linda Aldoory
Dates:
JACR1

Roughly one in five U.S. children live in rural areas and they are more likely than nonrural children to experience chronic illnesses, unfulfilled medical needs, and poverty – yet health literacy intervention research for rural children is lacking. Thus, this study explores a health literacy intervention in two rural public elementary schools that have very different socioeconomic levels, educational achievement rates, and initial health literacy scores. Findings show significant improvement in health literacy in the low-income school, such that the initial differences in health literacy between the two schools were no longer present at posttest (p < .001). There was a slight improvement in School 1 students' perceived confidence to communicate with healthcare providers, but School 2 students' communication confidence did not change from pre to post intervention. The hopeful outcomes suggest implications for future school-based interventions that teach young children about health communication, self-efficacy, and critical decision-making.

Tornado warning: Understanding the National Weather Service’s communication strategies

This study explores the National Weather Service’s communication through a multi-sited rapid ethnography that extends the fully functioning society theory.

Communication

Author/Lead: Brooke Fisher Liu
Contributor(s): Anita Atwell Seate
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Iles, Irina; Herovic, Emina
Dates:
PRR

This study explores the National Weather Service’s communication through a multi-sited rapid ethnography that extends the fully functioning society theory. National Weather Service field offices do not employ public information officers. Instead, forecasters predict the weather, craft messages, and build relationships with their publics. Scholars have called for public relations research that examines messages, including how crisis communication can help publics cope. Additionally, scholars have noted that all organizations need public relations, even if they do not employ formal public relations personnel. In our study, forecasters emphasized the need to build their publics’ tornado threat awareness and provided strategies to make weather science accessible. Forecasters discussed a variety of message strategies including avoiding fear appeals, humanizing the organization, and visualizing risks. Forecasters also built relationships with active publics through soliciting weather spotters and empowering them to prepare others for severe weather. Overall, findings expand knowledge about how organizations can employ strategic public relations to benefit society, thereby extending fully functioning society theory.

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Decisions to choose genetically modified foods: how do people's perceptions of science and scientists affect their choices?

This study explores the effects of food science perception on food decisions in the controversial case of genetically modified (GM) foods.

Communication

Author/Lead: Jiyoun Kim
Dates:

This study explores the effects of food science perception on food decisions in the controversial case of genetically modified (GM) foods. We examine (1) how scientific consensus and scientific deference affect the public perception of GM foods; and (2) how perception and healthy eating interest influence people's actual food consumption decisions. We categorized our samples into four groups based on different risk/benefit perceptions of GM food: tradeoff, relaxed, skeptical, and uninterested in the process of further data analysis.

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