News

Letter from the Director: September 2022

By Michelle AmazeenSeptember 7th, 2022

Back-to-School!

Welcome to the Fall 2022 semester at COM’s Communication Research Center! As our fellows embark on another academic year, generating new knowledge through research and theory building, the CRC continues to facilitate these efforts to address society’s communication-related challenges.

Given Boston University’s commitment to involving students in research, the CRC will once again administer its SONA research participant pool facilitating fellows’ efforts to recruit students. The SONA pool gives students an opportunity to become involved with various research activities across COM while earning course credit for doing so. Instructors who are interested in including their courses in the Fall 2022 SONA pool should reach out to our Lab and Research Manager, Lindsy Goldberg at lindsyg@bu.edu.

Our fellows also have access to the CRC’s biometric technology which include devices for measuring heart rate, sweat levels in the skin, and eye movements. We have software for the experimental design, execution, and analysis of these psychophysiological measurements. Lindsy has been certified by iMotions on use of this technology and will be offering training workshops for interested students and faculty. For a quick primer on demystifying biometrics, you can read more here.

As a means to help fellows provide thought leadership, the CRC will be continuing its Media and Technology Survey. Monthly survey questions are administered by Ipsos, the market research company, using their eNation Omnibus, a nationally representative online survey that measures attitudes and opinions of 1,000 adults across the United States. We piloted the program in February 2022 on the topic of media trust. You can read the results here. If you have an idea for a topic for a future survey, please email me (mamazeen@bu.edu).

To engage our community, the CRC will be hosting numerous events this fall. Our Colloquium Series, which originated in 2009, consists of monthly research presentations that highlight current and original research of faculty in COM. We are pleased to announce our Fall Colloquium Speakers:

September – Dr. Patrice Oppliger (Thursday, September 22nd at 3:30 pm)
October – Dr. Charlotte Howell (Thursday, October 27th at 3:30pm)
November – Dr. Chris Chao Su (Friday, November 4th at 3:30pm)

Every semester, the CRC also invites a distinguished scholar from outside the university to share their outstanding scholarship, expertise, and experience with the BU community. In recognition of the pioneering and inspirational contributions of Dr. Melvin L. DeFleur to the field of mass communication research and his service as a venerable and inexhaustible member of COM, the faculty members of the CRC have named the DeFleur Distinguished Lecture Series in his honor. We are pleased to announce that our Fall 2022 DeFleur Distinguished Lecturer will be Dr. Sarah Banet-Weiser who will be joining us on Wednesday, October 19th at 4:00 pm. More details about all our speakers and their topics are forthcoming.

We are also pleased to announce that the CRC will be co-sponsoring a panel with COM’s Career Services on Careers in Communication Research (Thursday, October 13th at 5:00 pm). The panel will include COM alumni discussing their current research jobs and offering tips to students about how to enter the burgeoning field of communication research.

Finally, the CRC has some new faces we would like to welcome. We have four new faculty research fellows:

Dr. Nivea Cannali Bona, Lecturer, Media Science
Dr. Katy Coduto, Assistant Professor, Media Science
Dr. Pablo Miño, Assistant Professor, Public Relations
Dr. Emily Saidel, Lecturer, Television Studies

We also have 3 new PhD student fellows:

Nicole Hash
Dongpeng Huang
Yihan "Danny" Jia

Returning on our staff this year with Lindsy is Jenna Vigre (MS in Advertising) as well as a new staff member Rachel Schlesinger (MS in Media Science).

Whether you are new to the CRC or a returning member we wish you a productive and satisfying semester filled with opportunities for growth and new learning.

Letter from the Director: July 2022

By Michelle AmazeenJuly 27th, 2022

Letter from the Director: July 2022

Demystifying Biometrics

As part of our mission, the Communication Research Center offers state-of-the art technology to facilitate our fellows’ ability to advance theory and methods in addressing society’s challenges. Some of this technology involves psychophysiological measurement and analysis tools. To help explain and demystify this technology, I’ve turned to the CRC’s Lab and Research Manager, Lindsy Goldberg.

Amazeen: "Biometric technology" sounds very avant-garde as does "psychophysiological measurements." How would you explain this technology in layperson's terminology?

Goldberg: I’ve found that the best way to explain these is to start by deconstructing and contextualizing the word “biometric”. When researchers choose to use these technologies, they’re looking to measure something biological in human subjects. In these particular cases, the bodily attributes we’re measuring are physiological in nature, which refers to a function of living organisms. Psychophysiology refers to the study of how physiological measurements that are collected via biometric devices (like heart rate, sweat levels in the skin, or eye movements) can explain psychological phenomena (Potter & Bolls, 2012).

This technology uses sensors to detect physical changes and movements in the human body. These sensors are able to detect a variety of different physical changes and these technologies are used widely across many academic disciplines. Here at the CRC we have sensors that measure skin conductance (SCL or electrodermal activity), eye movements both on and off screens, and brain waves (electroencephalography).

Biometric research has been occurring in the communication field since the latter half of the 20th century, mostly in media effects research or as part of a specific subfield known as media psychology, but this is changing. For decades, these biometric sensors were more invasive to participants and conducting experiments using this equipment required extensive training, monitoring, and in-person resources. It is very exciting to have these newer versions that are so much less invasive and user-friendly.

We are excited to be able to offer the devices, software for experimental design, execution, and analysis to researchers who are interested in using the technology.

Amazeen: Can you give examples of how these types of tools might be used (for what purposes) for media research?

Goldberg: In a media research context, these devices are most effectively used alongside self-report measures to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how a stimulus elicits a response in a participant.

These tools are most useful in situations where participants might be more likely to adjust their behavior based on what is expected of them or lie on a self-report instrument. Some potential examples of such situations might include but are certainly not limited to:

Assessment of opinions on political candidates based on their ads, sexual attraction to potential partners on dating apps, or stress responses to horror film scenes.

These tools, especially eye-tracking, are also gaining ground in fields such as UX/UI research and design. User eye movements and click behaviors on web pages and app layouts are becoming increasingly valuable.

Amazeen: Are there any cool studies you've seen published that have leveraged this technology?

Goldberg: While CRC fellows have not yet published any studies that leverage these technologies, here are some of my favorites from other institutions:

Ansani, A., Marini, M., D’Errico, F., & Poggi, I. (2020). How soundtracks shape what we see: Analyzing the influence of music on visual scenes through self-assessment, eye tracking, and pupillometry. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 2242.

Millet, B., Chattah, J., & Ahn, S. (2021). Soundtrack design: The impact of music on visual attention and affective responses. Applied ergonomics, 93, 103301.

Ohme, J., Maslowska, E., & Mothes, C. (2021). Mobile News Learning—Investigating Political Knowledge Gains in a Social Media Newsfeed with Mobile Eye Tracking. Political Communication, 1-19.

Amazeen: Can you tell us about the certification you have and what that allows you to do?

Goldberg: With my iMotions certification, I am able to assist researchers who are interested in using biometric devices. This involves support and training in the iMotions software, which is digital experimentation software that allows you to run an entire experiment from one computer, including self-report measures.

I have the capability and knowledge base to not just assist in the use of devices, but also to train researchers on how to use the software and hardware, including helping to identify which psychophysiological measures may be most useful. I can also support data handling, visualization, and export.

Finally, we are very fortunate to have a relationship with iMotions and their brilliant customer support team, who are all researchers themselves. If there is a question I cannot answer or a request beyond what I can support, we have external resources that can also help.

Amazeen: Relatedly, does the CRC have any plans for offering training workshops for those interested in using this equipment?

Goldberg: Yes! I am currently working with iMotions to determine a training program design that fits our students and faculty. This equipment and software does take time to learn and requires a fair amount of diligent effort to execute a high quality experiment, but we do have plans to offer training sessions. Stay tuned!

 

Source: Potter, R. F., & Bolls, P. (2012). Psychophysiological measurement and meaning: Cognitive and emotional processing of media. Routledge.

 

Letter from the Director: June 2022

By Michelle AmazeenJune 15th, 2022

With the summer season upon us, I am reminded that college professors are often the envy of our non-academic friends who think we “get the summer off.” In reality, many of our CRC fellows work just as hard – if not harder – during the summer. To be sure, the summer months may have fewer demands, allowing us more time for reflection, data analysis, and writing. At the same time, some fellows do teach during the summer months, and many of us travel so we can share our research and see what others are working on. For instance, several fellows recently attended the International Communication Association annual conference which was held in Paris, France from the 25-30th of May. You can see a list of fellows’ research presentations in the CRC’s Spring newsletter.

As a major research institution, we are committed to involving undergraduate and graduate students in scholarly research so that they may understand the importance of generating new knowledge at Boston University. We are fortunate at COM to have our communication research participation pool that is managed by an online system called SONA. This software allows researchers to post available research opportunities for students who can learn about the various studies and decide whether they want to sign up. To encourage participation in research, faculty can either require their students to earn a certain amount of research credits as part of their grade or offer extra credit to their students for participating.

In order to conduct research involving human subjects at COM, proposed studies must be approved by either BU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) or one of COM’s two internal review boards: the COM Research Review Board or the COM SONA Research Review Board. A description of when to use each of the review boards is available on the CRC’s website here. I would like to thank the faculty, staff, and grad students who volunteered their time over the last academic year by serving on these internal review boards: James Cummings, Michael Elasmar, Lindsy Goldberg, Lee Hair, Alexis Shore, Briana Trifiro, Chris Wells, and Denis Wu. These reviewers enable CRC fellows to collect research more quickly than the cumbersome and lengthy ¬ yet necessary – IRB process, while still abiding by the necessary standards. To maintain this research opportunity at the CRC, we will be looking for more volunteers this fall.

As we plan for the future of the CRC, two activities are in progress. First, all faculty and grad student fellows were invited to participate in our annual Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Survey. Data analysis is underway so that we can assess what is going well with the CRC and where we need to improve. Secondly, the CRC is planning to resume its monthly omnibus surveys with Ipsos in order to give fellows opportunities to survey US residents on timely topics of significance related to their research. This will foster opportunities for fellows to engage in newsworthy topics, enabling them to offer thought leadership while elevating public understanding on important issues. Results from our pilot survey are available here. Going forward, survey data will be made available on the CRC website (using your Kerberos password) for all CRC fellows.

To all affiliated with the CRC, I hope that the summer months offer you many sunny days with time to revitalize and refocus.

CRC Fellow Presentations at 72nd Annual International Communication Association Conference

By Lindsy GoldbergMay 25th, 2022

Congratulations to the many CRC Fellows who will be presenting their research at the 72nd annual ICA conference this week! Please see below for a list of presentations and follow us on Twitter for more!

Conference Theme (courtesy of ICA): The 72nd Annual ICA Conference theme One World, One Network‽ invites reimagining communication scholarship on globalization and networks. The use of the interrobang glyph - a superposition of the exclamation and question punctuation marks – seeks to simultaneously celebrate and problematize the “one-ness” in the theme.

Amazeen, M.A., Krishna, A., & Eschmann, R. (2022). Cutting the bunk: Comparing the solo and aggregate effects of prebunking and debunking Covid-19 vaccine misinformation. Paper accepted for presentation to the Mass Communication Division at the International Communication Association annual conference, Paris, France, May, 2022.

Cahill, T. J. (2022). Motivated to feel better: Motivations for the use of games in coping and emotional regulation. To be presented at ICA 22, Paris, France.

Cahill, T. J. (2022). Staying inside: Virtual reality use as a coping strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic. To be presented at ICA 22, Paris, France.

Chan, N.K., Su, C.C., Shore, A. (2022). Policy as Platform Power: Uncovering the Socio-Political Factors Behind Tiktok’s Evolution. Communication Law & Policy Division, the International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference.

Coleman, R., Wu, D. (2022).“There was blood coming out of her eyes . . .” -- Disgust, sadness, and happiness in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Journalism Studies Division, International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference. Paris, France.

Chen, H., Leon E., Jiang B., Wu X., Zhou Y., Mei L.M., Zhang S., Liu M., Su, C.C., Guo, L. (2022). Sovereign Debt Surveillance: An Analysis of Sovereign Debt Twitter Discussions During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Global Communication and Social Change Division, the International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference. (Student Project).

Cummings, J. J. & Wertz, B. (2022). Capturing social presence: Concept explication through an empirical analysis of social presence measures. Paper to be presented at the 72nd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (Human-Machine Communication Interest Groups). Paris, France.

Huang D.; Annecston D., Li J.X., Chou M., Shore A., Su, C.C., Prena K. (2022). HCI in digital journalism: Innovation in the Fitness Community: Managing Fitness Needs in a Post Pandemic World. Sports Communication Division, the International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference. (Student Project).

Ji, G, Tao, W. (2022). Channeling Employees’ Positive Moral Emotions in CEO Activism: The Role of Ethical Leadership Communication. Public Relations Division, International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference.

Krishna, A., Kim, S. (2022).Understanding the Roles of Party Identification and Political Cynicism in Predicting Relationship Dissolution Intention with Political Party. Public Relations Division, International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference.

Mays, K., Cummings, J. J., & Katz, J. (2022). The Perceived Robot Rights Entitlement Scale. Paper to be presented at the 72nd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (Human-Machine Communication Interest Group Pre-conference – “Bridging Worlds, Bridging Networks”). Paris, France.

Paik, S., Su, C.C. (2022). HCI in digital journalism: Exploring mobile news app design patterns through socio-technical infrastructures. Communication & Technology Division, the International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference.

Shore, A. & Cummings, J. J. (2022). Social influence on the map: The effect of social proof and reciprocity norms on mobile location obscurity decisions. Paper to be presented at the 72nd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (Information Systems Division). Paris, France.

Yu, R., Zhang, Y., Huang, S., Wu, D. (2022). Motivated Political Reasoning: Examining the Predictors and Flow of Fake News Advancement and Refutation Across Media Platforms. Mass Communication Division, International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference. Paris, France.

Wu, D., Huang, S., Yu, R., Zhang, Y. (2022). The “populist imbecile” vs. the “heartless shrew” --How polarizing election coverage was associated with Taiwanese voters’ evaluation of candidates. Journalism Studies Division. International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference. Paris, France.

Letter from the Director: April 2022

By Michelle AmazeenApril 25th, 2022

The Dark Side of Comedy

When the Boston University Communication Research Center was first organized in the late 1950s, some of its earliest research involved the study of comics.

Fears were so great in the U.S. about the potential harms of comic books on youth that Congress created a subcommittee to study their effects on juvenile delinquency.

Unlike the comics in books, newspapers, and magazines, a separate type of comics – the stand up kind – emerged as a phenomenon of study. Encompassed by the field of “humor studies,” researchers examined the psychological and physiological effects of humor – positive or negative – on individuals or groups of people.

At this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, audiences witnessed the dark side of comedy when Best Actor nominee Will Smith assaulted comedian and awards host Chris Rock on stage after he ad-libbed a joke about the hairstyle of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Given that CRC Fellow Dr. Patrice Oppliger is an Executive Board Member and Past President of the International Society for Humor Studies – and has even co-edited a book called The Dark Side of Stand-Up Comedy – it seemed fitting to get her perspective on how communication research can help us understand this media spectacle. Oppliger told me, “In putting together our book, we framed the contributions from academics and professional comedians focusing on the communication model components: sender (comedian’s background), message (type of jokes), channel (venues), and receiver (audience reception).” She explained,

These factors can also be used to analyze the “Oscar slap” heard ‘round the world on March 27, 2022. Issues of race and gender complicate matters as do the backgrounds of the players involved. Will Smith’s PTSD from not being able to protect his mother from his abusive father and Jada Pinkett Smith’s battle with an autoimmune condition and the loss of her hair culminated in Smith slapping Rock after he joked about her resemblance to the title character of the 1997 film G.I. Jane.

Talk radio and social media have been rife with mansplaining/whitesplaining about how the joke was harmless. There is perhaps more to the joke given the history of the actors involved. Years earlier, Rock made a disparaging remark about Jada’s #OscarsSoWhite boycott of the 2016 Oscars, joking that she had not been invited in the first place. Rock noted the 2022 joke was “a nice one.”

Aside from Netflix comedy specials, stand-up is generally performed in an intimate setting – in front of a live audience who have access to the performer. In The Dark Side of Stand-Up Comedy, we include stories of audience members attacking comics. Thus, assaults on stand-up comedians are not unprecedented. The juxtaposition of the Oscar slap highlights the difference between film comedy, where scripted lines go through several layers of editing, and the free-style stand-up stage (reports are that Rock improvised the line). There is also a tradition of roasting audience members at award shows. For example, earlier that night, Regina Hall made a humorous reference to Will and Jada’s open marriage. While her comment did not draw an assault from Smith, it may have primed his reaction.

Beyond the live audience (most of whom gave Smith a standing ovation after his Best Actor win), social media lit up with “Team Will,” “Team Chris,” and “Team Jada” tweets. The one-minute exchange presents fodder for academics and armchair analysts alike that will be debated for years to come.

Indeed, as evidenced from students in my CM180 “Understanding Media” class, their reception of the situation was decidedly mixed. We discussed the controversy on the day that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Smith would be barred from attending the awards ceremony for 10 years because of his “harmful behavior.” When eliciting feedback from students, they shared the following observations:

Student A: “10 years is too much. That’s a little extreme. 1 year would have been better.”

Student B: “On the one hand, 10 years is a long time. On the other hand, if we do not give the situation a proper punishment, those who observed the violence conducted by Will Smith will think that it’s okay to use violence to solve problems.”

Student C: “Will other actors be treated the exact same…like, is this the standard going forward?”

Student D: “I think there’s other people the Academy should also ban. There’s people in the Academy who have committed domestic violence –who have been prosecuted – and are still there.”

As clearly demonstrated by Smith’s reception of Rock’s joke – and the mixed reception of audiences wide and far to Smith’s response – humor studies and communication research can offer nuanced insights into the effects of humor on individuals and groups of people.