Research Publication Roundup: September 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.

Associate Professor Allison Lazard and colleagues have been particularly busy publishing health communication research. More details on these studies are listed below, along with a list of other recently published or presented scholarship by UNC Hussman faculty and students.


Hall., M.G., Grummon, A.H., Lazard, A., Maynard, O.M., Smith Taillie, L. (2020) Reactions to graphic and text warnings for cigarettes, sugar-sweetened beverages, and alcohol: An online randomized experiment of U.S. adults. Preventive Medicine. 137, 106120.

Using an online survey, the researchers aimed to examine reactions to graphic versus text-only warnings for cigarettes, sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol. In this study, graphic health warnings performed better than text-only warnings on several predictors of behavior change. Graphic warnings were equally effective for cigarettes, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages. Overall, warnings for cigarettes generally out-performed warnings for sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol.

Horrell, L., Knafl, G., Brady, T., Lazard, A., Linnan, L., & Kneipp, S. (2020) Communication cues and engagement behavior: Identifying advertisement strategies to attract middle-aged adults to a study of the chronic disease self-management program. Preventing Chronic Disease. 17, 190413.

Low- and middle-income, middle-aged adults have high rates of disease and death from chronic disease, yet their participation in self-management programs is low. This may be because advertisements for such programs often target elderly, predominantly white, affluent adults. This study used data from a randomized controlled trial to identify advertisement cues to engage low- and middle-income, middle-aged adults in the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. An advertisement cue of taking control of one’s future, including when paired with a cue of financial security, was significantly associated with study enrollment, as was motivation to enroll.

Klein, E., Macisco, J., Lazard, A., Busho, A., Oslock, A., & Worley, B. (2020). Framing pregnancy-related tobacco cessation messages for women of reproductive age. Addictive Behavior Reports. 12, 100290.

Communicating harms of smoking and benefits of quitting to tobacco users to motivate cessation is critical to reduce the burden of tobacco-related disease. Most messaging strategies focus on health risks of smoking using loss framing, but positively framed messages to increase confidence in quitting have shown promise for some smokers. This study examined the impact of message framing on perceived effectiveness of targeted, pregnancy-related smoking cessation messages among pregnant and not-pregnant smoking women of reproductive age. The researchers found that female smokers had slight preference for gain-framed messages. Positively framed messages show promise to promote smoking cessation among women.

Kowitt, S., Cornacchione Ross, J., Jarman, K., Kistler, C., Lazard, A., Ranney, L., Sheeran, P., Thrasher, J., & Goldstein, A. (2020). Tobacco quit intentions and behaviors in response to COVID-19. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 17, 5368.

Combustible tobacco users appear to be at greater risk for serious complications from COVID-19. This online study (n = 777) examined cigar smokers’ perceived risk of COVID-19, quit intentions and behaviors during the current pandemic. Three-quarters of the sample perceived they had a higher risk of complications from COVID-19 compared to non-smokers, but far more participants reported increasing their tobacco use since COVID-19 started versus decreasing their tobacco use. Black or African American participants, participants who reported using a quitline, and participants with higher COVID-19 risk perceptions had higher intentions to quit using tobacco due to COVID-19, and higher odds of making a quit attempt since COVID-19 started.

Lazard, A. (2020). Design cues for tobacco communication: Heuristic interpretations and usability of online health information about harmful chemicals. International Journal of Medical Informatics. 141, 104177.

Many people have a poor understanding of the numerous chemicals in tobacco products that cause severe health harms. The U.S. government must display a list of these harmful chemicals for the public. Using an online experiment, this study examined the impact of website designs on participants' interpretation and use of the information. Displaying risk indicators increased website usability by encouraging users to rely on colors to interpret the risk of the chemicals. Public disclosures of chemicals in tobacco products could be optimized with color-coded risk indicators and layouts placing chemicals near the harms they cause.

Smith, M. K., Cao, B., Fu, R., Zhao, Y., Liu, C., Lazard, A., & Tucker, J. (2020) Leveraging crowdsourcing for HIV testing posters: A visual content analysis and cognitive responses among Chinese men who have sex with men. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 47(9), 580-586.

Extensive research has informed a deep understanding of the link between visual design and consumer behaviors, providing a useful framework for assessing associations between HIV-related health posters and viewer responses. A content analysis of HIV posters from a series of nationwide crowdsourcing contests, as well as Centers for Disease Control posters from an online poster database, shows that crowdsourced posters are better designed and use more coded language than government posters but do not differ in terms of visual persuasiveness.

Zhao, X., & Fink, E. L. (2020). Proattitudinal versus counterattitudinal messages: Message discrepancy, reactance, and the boomerang effect. Communication Monographs.

A boomerang effect involves the movement of a message recipient's belief, attitude or behavior in a direction contrary to the advocated position in the message. To better understand belief boomerang effects, the researchers conducted an experiment (N = 458) testing the effect of message discrepancy on belief boomerang and the mechanism underlying it. Results showed that a counter-attitudinal message resulted in belief boomerang, while a pro-attitudinal message resulted in persuasion. The results suggest the significance of examining the boomerang effect as an outcome distinct from a failure to persuade.


116th American Political Science Association’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition
September 10-13, 2020 | Virtual

Bratcher, T., & Czabovsky, J. (2020). Code-switching candidates: Political communication, identity, and podcasts. Presented at the Political Communication pre-conference, American Political Science Association.

Brooks, E. (2020). Party above all?: The effects of polarization and partisan identity on political message perception. Presented at the Political Communication pre-conference, American Political Science Association.

Nenque, A. (2020). Self-recruitment, authenticity and urgency: Women running for state and local office post-2016. Presented at the Political Communication pre-conference, American Political Science Association.

Reddi, M. (2020). Negotiating Indian-American identity in the political sphere. Presented at the Political Communication pre-conference, American Political Science Association.