Through relationships that we have developed with producers, showrunners, nonprofits, and private research firms, we have been fortunate to gain access that allows us to assess the real-time impact of prosocial content integrated within popular media. Some of the shows that we have evaluated include 13 Reasons Why, Grey’s Anatomy, East Los High, The Conners, and Vencer el Miedo.
The concept of parasocial relationships, long-term, one-sided, emotional bonds individuals develop with media personae has sparked debates among scholars for nearly 70 years. Our research challenges the dominant understanding of parasocial relationship as a substitution for real life relationships, showing that people who are friendly in real life are also “friendly” when it comes to media representations.
We study the effects of discrete emotions (e.g., anger, fear, guilt, happiness, hope, and sadness), striving to meaningfully integrate emotion and cognition into the decision-making process. Drawing on functional accounts of emotion, we show the mobilizing power of negative and positive emotions, as well as their potential in persuasion.
Informed by cognitive psychology, our research emphasizes the desirable and undesirable effects of metacognitive (“thinking about thinking”) processing of information. This strand of research challenges the conventional assumptions that the effect of difficult- to-process message is mostly negative and undesirable, showing that such messages can stimulate active emotional and cognitive involvement.
Opportunities and Limitations of Fact-Checking
Fact-checking is one of the most popular innovations designed to address the prevalence of misinformation and improve public discourse. COM-PSI has provided some of the first empirical assessments of the efficacy of the fact-checking enterprise when disputed realities are involved. We are particularly interested to explore why and how people decide to fact-check and how these decisions translate into adoption of accurate beliefs.
Acknowledging that, just like reading and writing, difficulties with news media literacy can prevent adults from serving as functioning members of society, our research explores innovative approaches to improve these skills. The question guiding this line of research is how to encourage healthy skepticism without promoting cynicism and polarization.
A large part of our conception of social reality is influenced by vicarious experiences – by what we see, hear, and read – without first-hand knowledge. To this end, our research unpacks the potential of vicarious-affirmation as a novel, soft touch messaging strategy that is deployed to effectively communicate public health risk.