Research Publication Roundup: Summer 2019

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.

Below is a list of recently published or presented scholarship by UNC Hussman faculty and students.


Barker, J. O., Kelley, D. E., Noar, S. M., Reboussin, B. A., Cornacchione Ross, J., & Sutfin, E. L. (2019). E-cigarette outcome expectancies among nationally representative samples of adolescents and young adults. Substance Use & Misuse, 1-10.

E-cigarette use among American adolescents and young adults has significantly grown in recent years. This research offers the first nationally representative comparison of what adolescents and young adults believe will happen if they use e-cigarettes. Results show that believing e-cigarettes would be enjoyable is the strongest predictor of use for both adolescents and young adults. Beliefs about the negative health effects of e-cigarettes predicted reduced use more strongly for young adults than for adolescents. While young adults were less likely to use e-cigarettes if they associated vaping with being a smoker, this did not seem to matter as much to adolescents.


Brewer, N. T., Jeong, M., Hall, M. G., Baig, S. A., Mendel, J., R., Lazard, A. L., Noar, S. M., Kameny, M. R., & Ribisl, K. M. (2019). Impact of e-cigarette health warnings on motivation to vape and smoke. Tobacco Control.

A prevailing hypothesis is that health warnings for electronic cigarettes could drive people away from vaping and toward smoking cigarettes. Through a national convenience sample of 2,218 U.S. adults who used e-cigarettes, cigarettes or both, this research considers an alternative hypothesis that e-cigarette warnings discourage both vaping and smoking. Results show that e-cigarette health warnings, including health hazards (other than nicotine addiction) and imagery, may motivate users to quit vaping and discourage smoking. This study found no support for the hypothesis that e-cigarette warnings could encourage smoking cigarettes.


Comello, M. L., Francis, D. B., Hursting, L., Swarner, E., & Marshall, L. H. (2019). Values of cancer survivors and the supportive role of recreational video games. Journal of Health Psychology, 1359105319871663.

Value-affirming activities have been linked to positive health outcomes and improved ability to cope. For cancer survivors who regularly play video games, could games have potential to affirm values? The researchers surveyed gameplaying survivors and included an open-ended question asking about values and the extent to which they perceived gameplaying as supporting values. A majority of respondents perceived gameplaying as supporting values or offering other benefits, contributing to a richer understanding of survivors who gameplay.


Green, A. C., Driezen, P., Noar, S. M., Hammond, D., & Fong, G. T. (2019). The impact of adding and removing warning label messages from cigarette packages on adult smokers’ awareness about the health harms of smoking: Findings from the ITC Canada survey. Tobacco Control.

Adding messages to cigarette health warning labels about the harms of smoking increases awareness of these health facts, but little is known about the impact of removing messages. This is the first study to directly investigate the impact of adding and removing messages from cigarette health warning labels on smokers’ awareness of harms. Data were drawn from nine waves of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Canada Survey, a national representative cohort of adult smokers (n=5,863) conducted nearly annually between 2002 and 2013-2014. Adding messages to health warning labels increases smokers’ awareness of health facts, but removing messages decreases awareness. These findings demonstrate the importance of carefully considering the implications of adding, and especially removing, messages from health warning labels, and the importance of regularly revising warnings.


Jo, C. L., Noar, S. M., Southwell, B. G., & Ribisl, K. M. (2019). Effects of e-cigarette advertising message form and cues on cessation intention: An exploratory study. Journal of Health Communication.

A common message in e-cigarette advertising is that e-cigarettes can be used anywhere. Advertisements often express this message implicitly (e.g., "Whenever, wherever") alongside images of e-cigarettes that physically resemble combustible cigarettes, which may cross-cue combustible cigarette smoking cognitions and behavior. Through an exploratory study with U.S. adult smokers (n = 2,201), the researchers randomized participants' viewing of e-cigarette advertisements to investigate three combustible cigarette outcomes: smoking cessation intention, smoking urges, and immediate smoking behavior. This research found that the implicit e-cigarette use anywhere message evoked greater smoking urges. Participants exposed to the implicit message also perceived cigarette smoking to be more prevalent and, in turn, reported greater intention to quit smoking.


King, A. J., Lazard, A. J., & White, S. R. (2019). The influence of visual complexity on initial user impressions: testing the persuasive model of web design. Behaviour & Information Technology, 1-14.

Shortly after viewing a webpage, users form initial impressions of it. These initial impressions influence how much users will use and return to a site. Researchers have understudied how objective design features (e.g., visual complexity) influence subjective perceptions of website content and the favorability of initial user impressions. In this study, the researchers examined how a website's visual complexity influences perceptions of its visual informativeness, cues for engagement, favourable initial impressions, and behavioural intentions in a sample of young adults (N = 277). Results suggest that the persuasive model of web design is useful for linking objective design features with subjective design perceptions to better understand favorable initial user impressions.


King, J. L., Lazard, A., Reboussin, B. A., Ranney, L., Cornacchione Ross, J., Wagoner, K. G., & Sutfin, E. L. (2019). Optimizing warnings on e-cigarette advertisements. Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

This study examines the impact of visual optimizations on recall of the FDA-mandated e-cigarette advertisement warning text. Through a survey experiment of 1,854 young adult e-cigarette users or susceptible non-users recruited via Amazon's Mechanical Turk, the researchers found that visual optimizations such as color may influence warning text recall and should be considered for new warnings. It is possible the newly mandated e-cigarette advertisement warnings, which are required to occupy at least 20% of the ad, are currently novel enough to attract attention.


Lazard, A. J., & King, A. J. (2019). Objective design to subjective evaluations: Connecting visual complexity to aesthetic and usability assessments of eHealth. International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 1-10.

The visual complexity of a website is influential for users’ first perceptions and subsequent use of eHealth. This research compares how design complexity and feature complexity affect users’ evaluations of web aesthetics and antecedents for technology acceptance. Findings illustrate that not only what is shown but also how this information is displayed had a significant impact on users’ impressions. When the visual information was well-organized (higher design complexity), users rated the websites as more aesthetically pleasing, easier to use, and more useful. Similarly, providing individuals with more content (higher feature complexity) also led individuals to believe the websites were designed well, more dynamic, and had greater usability. Health websites with more visual information organized according to design principles are rated as more appealing, without sacrificing perceived usability.


Lazard, A. J., Pikowski, J., Horrell, L., Ross, J. C., Noar, S. M., & Sutfin, E. L. (2019). Adolescents’ and young adults’ aesthetics and functionality preferences for online tobacco education. Journal of Cancer Education, 1-7.

As cigarette use rates decline among adolescents and young adults, public health officials face new challenges with high use of non-cigarette tobacco products (NCTPs). Online tobacco education is a potential solution to discourage use, yet limited information is available for how online media should look and function. This study aims to fill this gap by conducting focus group interviews to identify adolescents and young adults' aesthetic and functionality preferences for online tobacco education (phase 1) followed by interviews to assess a NCTP education website developed (phase 2). The researchers found preferences for use of font and colors to highlight tobacco information in organized designs. Interactive features (quizzes) motivated engagement, and participants desired responsive designs that function similarly across devices. Public health researchers and educators should apply these preferences to help create a tobacco-free future for youth.


Lee, T. H., & Comello, M. L. G. (2019). Transparency and industry stigmatization in strategic CSR communication. Management Communication Quarterly, 33(1), 68–85.

Researchers have become increasingly interested in the strategic value of transparency in corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication in recent years. However, transparency research in CSR communication is still scarce. Little research has examined whether the effects of transparency may depend on contextual factors, such as whether an organization is associated with a stigmatized industry. This experiment examined the effect of CSR messages on supportive communication intent, purchase intent, and skepticism. Results reveal a main effect of transparency on purchase intent and a main effect of stigmatization on skepticism. Most importantly, there was an interaction, such that a higher level of transparency reduced skepticism when a more stigmatized industry was involved.


Marshall, L. H., & Comello, M. L. (2019). Stymied by a wealth of health information: how viewing conflicting information online diminishes cancer screening. Journal of Communication in Healthcare, 12(1), 4-12.

Confusing information about cancer screening spreads even within credible sources online, particularly around mammography and prostate antigen testing. One story may emphasize the benefits of screening, while another focuses on its risks. How does this contradiction affect readers of these stories? Across two experiments, this study found support for the notion that exposure to conflicting information decreases self-efficacy and response efficacy, potentially discouraging the likelihood of changes in behavior that could prevent cancer.


Qu, Y. (2019). Engaging publics in the mobile era: A study of Chinese charitable foundations’ use of WeChat. Public Relations Review, 101815.

WeChat, the most widely used social mobile application nowadays in China, marks the advent of a mobile communication age that has reshaped Chinese people’s lifestyles. Understanding Chinese nonprofits’ communication performance on WeChat is a rising field of study that calls for public relations scholars’ attention. Through a content analysis of the most transparent Chinese charitable foundations' use of WeChat, this study shows the dialogic potential of WeChat has not been fully used by Chinese foundations. The official accounts have been relatively successful in providing useful information for interested publics, but most of them still have not created a dialogic loop with their audience. In addition, certain communication strategies were identified in the posts to attract audience attention and to promote organizational activities, such as the incorporation of multimedia content and popular online events.


Riffe, D., Lacy, S., Fico, F., Watson, B. (2019). Analyzing media messages. New York: Routledge.

Analyzing Media Messages, Fourth Edition provides a comprehensive guide to conducting content analysis research. It establishes a formal definition of quantitative content analysis; gives step-by-step instructions on designing a content analysis study; and explores in depth several recurring questions that arise in such areas as measurement, sampling, reliability, data analysis, and the use of digital technology in the content analysis process. The fourth edition maintains the concise, accessible approach of the first three editions while offering updated discussions and examples. It examines in greater detail the use of computers to analyze content and how that process varies from human coding of content, incorporating more literature about technology and content analysis throughout. Updated topics include sampling in the digital age, computerized content analysis as practiced today, and incorporating social media in content analysis. Each chapter contains useful objectives and chapter summaries to cement core concepts.


Shaw, D. L., Minooie, M., Aikat, D., & Vargo, C. J. (2019). Agendamelding. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang US.

Authored by pioneers of agenda-setting theory and digital media researchers, Agendamelding: News, Social Media, Audiences, and Civic Community builds on the premise that people construct civic community from the information that they seek—as well as the information that seeks them—to trace the processes by which we mix, or meld, agendas from various sources into a coherent picture of the civic community in which we live. Using the presidential elections of 2008, 2012, and 2016, this book demonstrates how audiences meld the messages of newspapers, television, and social media to form a picture of the issues and candidates in the digital age. This book marks the 50th anniversary of the seminal agenda-setting study conducted in Chapel Hill in 1968.



115th American Political Science Association’s (APSA) Annual Meeting
Aug. 29 – Sept. 1, 2019 | Washington, D.C.

Adams, K., & Kreiss, D. (co-authors) (2019). Ideas are not frames: The antecedents of American identity politics. Presented at the Political Communication pre-conference, American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C.

McGregor, S., Barrett, B., & Kreiss, D. (2019). Barely legal: Digital politics and foreign propaganda. Presented at the Political Communication pre-conference, American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C.


11th Annual Conference on Innovation and Communications Law (CICL)
May 3 – 4, 2019 | Las Vegas, Nevada

Reid, A. (2019). Operationalizing fair use. Presented at the Innovation and Communications Law annual conference, Las Vegas, NV.