Research Publication Roundup: February 2021

A vibrant and collaborative interdisciplinary research culture at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media creates new knowledge, advances scholarship and helps reinvent media.

Assistant Professor Amanda Reid and Ph.D. student Pablo Miño recently published work in the International Journal of Communication investigating music therapists’ offline and online use of copyrighted music. More details on this study are listed below, along with a list of other recently published or presented scholarship by UNC Hussman faculty and students.


Baig, S., Noar, S., Gottfredson, N., Lazard, A., Ribisl, K., & Brewer, N. (2021). Incremental criterion validity of message perceptions and effects perceptions in the context of anti-smoking messages. Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

To select promising health messages, research has often relied on scales assessing the perceived message effectiveness of two related constructs, message perceptions (persuasive potential) and effects perceptions (potential for behavioral impact). The researchers sought to examine these constructs using an experiment with 703 U.S. adult smokers who received anti-smoking or comparable control (littering) messages on their cigarette packs for three weeks. They argue scholarship on anti-smoking messages may benefit from focusing on effects perceptions to characterize potential for behavior change.

Brosso, S. N., Sheeran, P., Lazard, A., & Muscatell, K. A. (2021). Harnessing neuroimaging to reduce socioeconomic disparities in chronic disease: A conceptual framework for improving health messaging. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Socioeconomic status-related health disparities persist for many chronic diseases. Those with lower socioeconomic status exhibit greater risk of disease or death than those with higher socioeconomic status. One likely contributor is disparities in health messaging efforts, which are currently less effective for motivating health behavior change among lower socioeconomic status individuals. The researchers describe a conceptual framework to improve health messaging effectiveness in lower socioeconomic status communities. They argue health messages emphasizing the benefits to others (versus the self) of engaging in behavior change will be more effective among lower socioeconomic status individuals.

Dillman Carpentier, F. R., & Mazandarani, F. (2021). Portrayal of human sexuality as entertainment. In P. Vorderer & C. Klimmt (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Entertainment Theory (pp. 463-478). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

This essay reviews the scholarly literature on the nature of sexual depictions in entertainment media and discusses people’s attraction to, and enjoyment of, these depictions. Drawing from studies in entertainment, psychology and sexual motivation and drive, the historically wide appeal of sexual content in media is argued to be the result of a complex interplay of biological, psychological and social interactions that guide how we fulfill our needs from media.

Hong, H., Lee, S., & Tian, Q. (2020). The influence of international education experience on host country-related outcomes: An analysis of Chinese students’ relationships with South Korean universities. Sustainability.

Recognizing the globalization of higher education institutions, this study examined the influence of university–student relationships on host country-related outcomes, including student attitudes, purchase intentions and policy support. The researchers conducted a survey with Chinese students who had studied or who were currently studying at South Korean universities. Its results showed a significant positive association between Chinese student perceptions of their relationships with host universities and their attitudes toward South Korea. Their positive attitudes also led to intentions to purchase Korean products and policy support for the Korean government.

Molyneux, L., & McGregor, S.C. (2021). Legitimating a platform: Evidence of journalists’ role in transferring authority to Twitter. Information, Communication & Society.

Studies suggest a growing interdependence between journalists and Twitter. What is behind this interdependence, and how does it manifest in news texts? The researchers argue that social media platforms, and Twitter in particular, have situated themselves as purveyors of legitimated content, a projection that journalists have not fully challenged and at times abetted. Instead, journalists rely on these platforms both for access to powerful users and as conduits to surface the words of "ordinary people." This practice treats tweets more like content, an interchangeable building block of news, than like sources, whose ideas and messages must be verified. Using a corpus of U.S. news stories with tweets in them, this study provides empirical evidence of the power of platforms to legitimate speech and shape journalism. This study illuminates journalists’ role in transferring some of the press’ authority to Twitter, thereby shaping the participants in and content of public deliberation.

Reid, A., & Miño, P. (2021). When therapy goes public: Copyright gatekeepers and sharing therapeutic artifacts on social media. International Journal of Communication.

This study offers new insights into sharing health-related information on social media, copyright gatekeeper motivations, and the emotional injury for improper takedowns of online content. In 18 in-depth interviews, the researchers investigate music therapists’ “copyright comfort zone.” In music therapy, using patient-preferred music yields superior therapeutic results. However, patient-preferred music is often copyrighted music. Therapists are comfortable using copyrighted music in private therapy sessions, but copyright concerns arise when recorded artifacts from therapy are shared online. Social media affordances permit sharing these recordings outside the private therapy bubble. These results show that music therapists discourage social media sharing and act as copyright gatekeepers not only to avoid legal liability, but also to forestall emotional harm to patients and families should these artifacts be subject to an online takedown notice.

Shelus, V., Frank, S., Lazard, A., Higgins, I., Pulido, M., Richter, A.P., Vandegrift, S. M., Vereen, R. N., Ribisl, K., & Hall, M. G. (2020). Motivations and barriers for the use of face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic: Messaging insights from focus groups. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Widespread use of face coverings is a key public health strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, few studies have examined why Americans use or do not use face coverings, and little is known about the most effective messaging strategies. Using six virtual focus  groups with 34 North Carolina residents, the researchers explored perceptions of face coverings, including motivations and barriers for use, and examined reactions to messaging promoting the use of face coverings. Participants reported high compliance with face covering recommendations but often did not wear them around family, friends and colleagues. The most prevalent motivation for the use of face coverings was to protect or respect other people, including high-risk populations and individuals. Barriers included physical and social discomfort, confusion or misinformation, low perceived susceptibility to COVID-19, and perceptions of identity and autonomy. Even among individuals who frequently wear face coverings, there are opportunities to improve compliance. Messaging should highlight how face coverings protect the wearer and others around them, normalize the use of face coverings in social settings and emphasize requirements. Positive messages that focus on unity, personal experiences and the rationale for face coverings are recommended.