Research Publication Roundup: October and November 2020

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.

Professor Seth Noar and Assistant Professor Lucinda Austin teamed up to discuss several communication challenges that have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic, published as a part of a Health Communication special issue on the pandemic. 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.


Austin, L., Overton, H., Bortree, D., & McKeever, B. W. ('11) (2020). Examining the rage donation trend: Applying the Anger Activism Model to explore communication and donation behaviors. Public Relations Review.

Using a national survey, the researchers explored how individuals’ anger and efficacy predict attitudes toward political and social activism, related communication behaviors and financial support behaviors. Findings show efficacy predicted action-taking better than anger in most cases. While anger directly predicts attitudes and communication behaviors, it also partially predicts efficacy.

Chen, Y. R. R., & Zhao, X. (2020). Digital Dialogue in Online Brand Communities: Examining the Social Network Outcomes of Brands’ Dialogue with Facebook Users. Telematics and Informatics.

Information and communication technologies enable an organization to speak to and develop relationships with its stakeholders on digital platforms. How organization-stakeholder digital dialogue affects the relational network of an organization’s online community remains largely understudied. Employing a social network perspective, the  researchers conducted large-scale analyses of Facebook data of multiple brands from 2017 to 2019 to examine the impacts of this dialogue on brand-centric networks. Findings show that organization-stakeholder digital dialogue fosters organization-stakeholder and stakeholder-stakeholder ties, increases a brand’s popularity in its Facebook community and enhances the network efficiency of a brand’s Facebook community.

Cornacchione Ross, J., King, J. L., Lazard, A. J., Noar, S. M., Reboussin, B. A., Jensen, D., & Sutfin, E. L. (2020). Developing pictorial cigarillo warnings: Insights from focus groups. Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

The Food and Drug Administration selected six text-only warnings for cigarillos to be implemented on packaging and advertising. Pictorial warnings are more effective at discouraging cigarette use than text-only warnings, yet no research exists for cigarillos. The researchers sought to understand what types of images might be most effectively paired with cigarillo text warnings, with a focus on young adults, who have the highest rate of cigarillo use. Through five focus groups with 30 young adult cigarillo users and susceptible nonusers, they identified several principles to inform the selection of images to pair with the FDA-required cigarillo text statements. These insights may also apply to pictorial warnings for other tobacco products.

Duffy, E. W., Hall, M. G., Dillman Carpentier, F. R., Musicus, A. A., Meyer, M. L., Rimm, E. B., & Taillie, L. S. (2020). Nutrition claims on fruit drinks are inconsistent indicators of nutritional profile: A content analysis of fruit drinks purchased by households with young children. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Fruit drinks are the most commonly consumed sugar-sweetened beverage among young children and carry many nutrition-related claims on the front of packages. The aims of this study were to describe the prevalence of nutrition-related claims on the front of 2,059 fruit drink packages purchased by households with young children and to examine the association between claims and the nutritional profile of fruit drinks. Almost all fruit drinks sampled had at least one nutrition-related claim on the front of the package. Claims are prevalent on fruit drinks purchased by households with young children. The researchers suggest this is concerning, given prior research demonstrating that claims can mislead consumers.

Grummon, A. H., Hall, M. G., Mitchell, C. G., Pulido, M., Mendel, J. R., Noar, S. M., Ribisl, K. M., & Brewer, N. T. (2020). Reactions to messages about smoking, vaping, and COVID-19: Two national experiments. Tobacco Control.

The pace and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with ongoing efforts by health agencies to communicate harms, have created a pressing need for data to inform messaging about smoking, vaping and COVID-19. In this study, the researchers examined reactions to COVID-19 and traditional health harms messages discouraging smoking and vaping. In an online smoking message experiment and vaping message experiment using a national convenience sample of 810 U.S. adults, results showed that messages linking smoking with COVID-19 may hold promise for discouraging smoking and may have the added benefit of also discouraging vaping.

Guidry, J., Austin, L. L., O’Donnell, N. H., Coman, I., Lovari, A., & Messner, M. (In press.) Tweeting the #flushot: Beliefs, barriers, and perceived threats during different periods of the 2018-2019 flu season. Journal of Primary Care and Community Health.

Influenza epidemics happen every year, and the most effective way to prevent seasonal influenza is vaccination. In recent years, misinformation regarding vaccines abounds on social media, but the flu vaccine is relatively understudied in this area. Using a quantitative content analysis, the researchers explored the content and nature of influenza information that is shared on Twitter, comparing tweets published in the early flu season with those posted in peak flu season. Findings show the presence of high barriers to flu vaccine uptake increased significantly from early to peak season, including an increase in the mention of conspiracy theories. Flu vaccine related tweets appear to vary in misinformation level and density throughout the flu season.

Hedrick, A. (2020). One Direction real person fiction on A textual analysis of sexual consent. Feminism & Psychology.

This study focuses on the dominant scripts for sexual consent represented in popular fictional stories of celebrities written by their female fans. A textual analysis was performed on a subset of the most read real-person fiction stories—a type of fan fiction—about the popular boy band One Direction from an online fiction-writing platform with an extensive user base of teenage girls and young women. Verbal negotiations of sexual consent were frequently featured in these stories. However, several themes emerged to blur clear distinctions between the presence and lack of consent: hesitance or unease for sexual interactions, assumption of a partner’s sexual consent, unclear identification of sexual assault, aggressive language to describe sexual interactions and normalization of sexual actions that surprise a partner. A number of rape myths were also prevalent throughout the stories.

Jensen, M., Dillman Carpentier, F. R., Adair, L., Corvalán, C., Popkin, B., & Taillie, L. S. (2020). Examining Chile’s unique food marketing policy: TV advertising and dietary intake in preschool children. Pediatric Obesity.

The Chilean government implemented the first phase of a comprehensive marketing policy in 2016, restricting child‐directed marketing of products high in energy, total sugars, sodium or saturated fat. To examine the role that "high-in" TV food advertising had in the effect of the policy on consumption of "high-in" products between 2016 and 2017, the researchers obtained dietary data from 24-hour diet recall measured in 2016 (n=940) and 2017 (n=853), pre- and post-policy, from a cohort of 4- to 6-year-old children. Results show preschoolers' exposure to "high-in" advertising and consumption of "high-in" products decreased post‐policy.

Jin, Y., Iles, I. A., Austin, L., Liu, B. ('06), & Hancock, G. R. (2020). The Infectious Disease Threat (IDT) Appraisal Model: How perceptions of IDT predictability and controllability predict individuals’ responses to risks. International Journal of Strategic Communication.

This study proposed and tested a new infectious disease threat appraisal model, focused on mapping individuals’ coping strategy preferences as predicted by how predictable and controllable they perceived the disease to be. Using an online experiment of 1,032 U.S. adults, these findings further provide insights into what information-seeking strategies and infectious disease threat coping behaviors individuals prefer, thus suggesting how public health authorities and risk communication professionals can optimally communicate about infectious diseases to help individuals understand these situations and respond appropriately.

King, A., & Lazard, A. (2020). Advancing visual health communication research to improve infodemic response. Health Communication.

During public health crises like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there is a need to amplify and improve critical health communication messages. This need is due to pandemics producing infodemic conditions, meaning the public is oversaturated with information of questionable accuracy and utility. The strategic use of visuals can improve the quality of health communication during public health crises and lessen the unintended effects of infodemic conditions. In this essay, the researchers review previous research providing insights for effective use of visuals and advocate for more systematic research on visual misinformation and visual narratives.

Kresovich, A., & Noar, S. M. (2020). The power of celebrity: Meta-analysis of the relationship between audience involvement and behavioral intentions. Journal of Health Communication.

This meta-analysis of 14 studies examined audience involvement processes and their influence on health behavior intentions in the context of celebrity health events. Findings suggest that those who most feel a sense of attachment or affinity for a celebrity or media persona may be the ones who are most likely to modify their behavioral intentions in the wake of a celebrity health event. Results highlight the need for health practitioners to recognize the role of audience involvement in celebrity health events and to better assess how to harness these opportunities to promote healthy behaviors.

Lazard, A. (2020). Social Media Message Designs to Educate Adolescents about E-cigarettes. Journal of Adolescent Health.

E-cigarette use is increasing among adolescents, despite potential harms. Social media messages are a promising way to educate youth about e-cigarettes, yet little is known about what message topics and formats will have beneficial impacts for message reception, reach, e-cigarette knowledge and beliefs about harms. Using an online experiment of adolescents aged 15 to 18, the researchers found social media messages led to greater knowledge and beliefs about the harms of e-cigarettes, regardless of format. The findings suggest social media campaigns are a promising e-cigarette education strategy to educate about e-cigarette harms, directly and potentially through peer-to-peer sharing.

Mahin, S. ('17), & Ekstrand, V.S. (2020). Old law, new tech, and citizen-created hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter and the case for provisional hashtag marks. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. 

Using #BlackLivesMatter as a case study, the researchers document the tensions and harms associated with trademarking online social movement hashtags. Grounded in the work of critical race theory and intellectual property scholars, this study analyzes the inconsistencies in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office application practice. The contradictions signal a limited understanding of the utility of citizen-created hashtags and online social movement slogans. They propose a provisional networked trademark that would grant limited protection to social movements to show that their marks demonstrate the kind of secondary meaning required for a traditional trademark.

Noar, S. M., & Austin, L. (2020). (Mis)communicating about COVID-19: Insights from health and crisis communication. Health Communication.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for the United States and the world. In this article, the researchers discuss several communication challenges that have arisen during the pandemic, with insights from the fields of health and crisis communication. They focus in particular on the lack of clarity in the U.S. response in terms of both what behaviors we are trying to change and how we are communicating about behavior change. While the mixed messages and contradictions have hampered the U.S. response thus far, they suggest that state and local health departments, public health organizations and citizens increasingly apply the communication field’s best practices to help calm fears, change behavior, and ultimately reduce suffering and save lives.

Reid, A. (2020). Social utility of music: A case for a copyright exemption for therapeutic uses. Cornell Journal of Law & Public Policy.

Music is more than simply entertainment; modern research shows that it can be an effective therapeutic tool. The social utility of music therapy is not often explored from a legal perspective, which is worrisome because copyright law directly affects this clinical discipline. This paper argues that the high social utility of music therapy coupled with the high transaction costs to license various uses of music justify a carveout under copyright law and suggests a statutory exemption for therapeutic uses of music is warranted.


American Folklore Society's Annual Conference
October 13-14, 2020 | Virtual

Linford, A. L. (2020). Distracted boyfriend: More than a meme. Presented at the American Folklore Society annual conference.

39th American Journalism Historians Association's Annual Convention
October 2-3, 2020 | Virtual

Linford, A. L. (2020). "They'll never make newspaper men": Early gendering in journalism, 1884-1889. Presented at the American Journalism Historians Association's annual convention.

National Communication Association's 106th Annual Convention
November 19-22, 2020 | Virtual

Austin, L. (2020). Corporate engagement at the crossroads of profit and purpose: CSA, CSR, and critical perspectives on the evolving role of public relations in social issue discourse. Presented at the National Communication Association's 106th annual convention.

Gibson, R. (2020). Media stereotypes at the crossroads: From ageism to xenophobia. Presented at the National Communication Association's 106th annual convention.

Romero Walker, A. (2020). Fantastical creatures as the "Other" in Guillermo Del Toro's "The Shape of Water": A queer phenomenology for empathy. Presented at the National Communication Association's 106th annual convention.

Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research's Annual Conference
November 20-21, 2020 | Virtual

Brooks, E. (2020). Trickle down polarization: An analysis of political party platform changes between 1960 and 2020. Presented at the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research's annual conference.

Reddi, M. (2020). Understanding hyphenated identities: Authentic Indian-American representation in American media. Presented at the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research's annual conference.