Research Publication Roundup: Summer 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.

Ph.D. candidate Yan Qu recently published work about the effects about multinational corportations' corporate social responsibility activites on country reputation. Qu also examined how individuals' personal discussion networks shape individuals' health information avoidance behaviors.

Ph.D. student Rhyan Vereen investigated the effectiveness of 17 social media interventions for health behavior change among populations with high health disparities. She also surveyed adolescents and young adults to characterize differences among current vapers, those susceptible to vaping, and those not susceptible to vaping. 

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.


Adams, E. T., Nabi, R., Noar, S. M., Evans, R., & Widman, L. (2021). Effects of emotional shifts on perceptions of addiction risk and efficacy: Testing the Know the Truth anti-opioid campaign. Health Communication.

The researchers in this study exposed middle school students to one of three versions of a "Know the Truth" anti-opioid campaign story. One story conveyed a static emotion, whereas the other two conveyed multiple emotions. Results indicated that participants exposed to the multiple emotion stories reported higher levels of hope and lower levels of fear than those who saw only the single emotion story. Results also indicated that conveying a threat emotion followed by an efficacy emotion may be superior to the inverse presentation order when communicating with young people about opioid addiction.

Baig, S. A., Noar, S. M., Gottfredson, N. C., Lazard, A. J., Ribisl, K. M., & Brewer, N. T. (2021). Message perceptions and effects perceptions as proxies for behavioral impact in the context of anti-smoking messages. Preventive Medicine Reports, 23, 101434.

To determine if messages’ persuasive potential or perceived behavioral impact is more useful as a proxy for the impact of tobacco risk messages, the researchers recruited 703 U.S. smokers to participate in a three-week trial. Results indicated that effects perceptions – but not persuasive potential – served as a proxy for the messages’ impact on quit intentions and six related behaviors. Effects sizes were small to medium. Future research should use effects perceptions, or perceived behavioral impact, messages in formative research on tobacco risk messages.

Jensen, M. L., Dillman Carpentier, F., Adair, L. Corvalán, C., Popkin, B. M., & Taillie, L. S. (2021). TV advertising and dietary intake in adolescents: A pre- and post- study of Chile’s Food Marketing Policy. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Chile implemented the first phase of a comprehensive marketing policy to reduce advertising of foods high in energy, sugar, sodium or saturated fat in 2016. In this study, the role of unhealthy TV food advertising was examined as a mediator in the association between policy implementation and adolescents' consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages between 2016 and 2017. Results indicated that both unhealthy food advertising on television and adolescents' intake of unhealthy foods decreased after the regulation was implemented. However, it is still unclear how much the advertising reduction, specifically, contributed to dietary changes, given that other restrictions (e.g., in-school food availability changes) were implemented in parallel.

Jin, Y., Lee, Y.-I., Liu, B., Austin, L., & Kim, S. (2021). How college students assess the threat of infectious diseases: Implications for university leaders and health communicators. Journal of International Crisis and Risk Communication Research, 4, 129–164.

Higher education institutions and their students face a wide range of threats from infectious diseases, with little theory guiding efficient and effective communication to motivate protective action taking. A survey of 842 students from two U.S. universities revealed that the type of infectious disease led to different patterns of threat appraisal and protective action taking intentions. Specifically, participants found sexually transmitted threats as significantly more predictable and more controllable than respiratory disease threats. Participants had higher intention to take protective action in response to respiratory threats, as compared to sexually transmitted threats. Emotion attribution linked participants’ appraisal and protective action taking intentions for both threat types.

Lazard, A., Collins, M. K. R., Hedrick, A., Horrell, L. N., Varma, T., Love, B., Valle, C. G., & Benedict, C. (2021). Initiation and changes in use of social media for peer support among young adult cancer patients and survivors. Psycho-Oncology.

Social isolation is a challenge for many young adults with cancer. Relying on technology such as social media is desired among young adults with cancer, but little is known about how this population uses these resources for support. Interviews with 45 young adults with cancer revealed that young adults with cancer were generally reluctant to use social media support at the start of their cancer journey but found online communities to join when informational and emotional needs arose. Early and systematic promotion of online social support options by healthcare providers, cancer organizations, and family and friends could improve access to peer-to-peer support for young adults with cancer.

Qu, Y. & Dillman Carpentier, F. R. (2021). Practicing public diplomacy by doing good: Examining the effects of corporate social responsibility on country reputation. International Journal of Strategic Communication.

In this study, researchers investigated whether multinational corporations’ corporate social responsibility activities boost home country reputation in the minds of international publics. Findings across two studies demonstrated that including CSR information in company messages did not directly impact country reputation. Instead, perceived CSR activities mediated the presence of the information on country reputation. Additionally, participants’ perceptions of association between the company and the home country impacted perceptions of country reputation.

Qu, Y., Saffer, A., & Austin, L. (2021). What drives people away from COVID-19 information? Uncovering the influences of personal networks on information avoidance. Health Communication.

Researchers examined the role of personal discussion networks about COVID-19 shape individuals’ health information avoidance behaviors. A nationally representative sample completed a survey about their network size, characteristics of their network and their social norms. Results suggest that characteristics of the network affected individuals’ information avoidance, with social norms significantly predictive of avoiding health information.

Rohde, J. A., Vereen, R. N., & Noar, S. M. (2021). Adolescents and young adults who vape or are susceptible to vaping: Characteristics, product preferences, and beliefs. Substance Use & Misuse.

Differences exist among adolescent and young adult current vapers, those susceptible to vaping and those not susceptible to vaping. Researchers surveyed 543 adolescents and 557 young adults to understand the differences in personal characteristics, preferences and beliefs. A majority of the participants were either current vapers (adolescents: 32%, young adults: 36%) or susceptible to vaping (adolescents: 34%, young adults: 24%). Current vapers in both samples had lower risk beliefs about the health harms of vaping, as compared to those susceptible to vaping. Adolescents susceptible to vaping also had lower risk beliefs about the health harms of vaping, as compared to those who were not susceptible. Prevention efforts should target the role of health harm risk beliefs among current vapers and those susceptible to vaping.

Sutfin, E. L., Lazard, A. J., Ross, Jennifer C., Noar, S. M., & Reboussin, B. A (2021). Waterpipe tobacco warnings: An experimental study among a nationally representative sample of young adults. Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

The Food and Drug Administration began requiring warnings on waterpipe tobacco products in August 2018, although some products contained warnings prior to this date. Using data from waves 1 (2013-2014) and 2 (2014-2015) of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study, the researchers wanted to predict whether exposure to warnings at wave 1 predicted risk perceptions and waterpipe tobacco use at wave 2. Results indicated that nearly 36% of the sample had been exposed to waterpipe tobacco warnings at wave 1. These individuals were more likely to perceive waterpipe tobacco as harmful at wave 2 compared to those who had not seen warnings at wave 1. There was no association between warning exposure at wave 1 and use at wave 2. Future research on risk perceptions and behaviors following the FDA-mandated warnings is critical.

Sutfin, E. L., Lazard, A. J., Soule, E. K., Kimes, C. M., King, J., Jenson, D., Cornacchione Ross, J. (2021). Health claims, marketing appeals, and warnings on popular brands of waterpipe tobacco packaging sold in the U.S. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 23(7), 1183-1190.

Waterpipe tobacco packaging contains imagery, descriptors and claims that may contribute to misperceptions of harm, especially among users. Researchers randomly selected 10 flavors from each of the 10 most popular waterpipe tobacco brands to code all textual and visual design elements of each package. More than half (54%) of the packages had claims prohibited by federal law, including the descriptor “natural” and substance-free language. More than a quarter (26%) used terms that implied reduced harm, such as “fresh,” “premium,” quality” and “pure.” None of the packages displayed a warning on the primary panel, with most packages (72%) including a smoking cue. Marketing appeals included “well-made” (57%), “enjoyable” (55%) and “patriotic” (47%). The widespread use of prohibited claims may contribute to misperceptions of harm among waterpipe tobacco users.

Vereen, R. N., Kurtzman, R., & Noar, S. M. (2021). Are social media interventions for health behavior change efficacious among health disparity populations? A meta-analytic review. Health Communication.

In this meta-analysis, researchers investigated the effectiveness of social media interventions for health behavior change among populations with high health disparities. Results across 17 studies indicated that social media interventions had a significant, moderate-sized effect on behavior change among these populations. Exploratory analyses found that adding intervention channels, such as e-mail and telephone, increased the effect size of the interventions. Social media intervention may be a promising tool for behavior change among populations with health disparities, but future research to increase the reach and impact of these interventions is necessary.

Zhao, X. & Tsang, S. J. (2021). Self-protection by fact-checking: How pandemic information seeking and verifying affect preventive behaviors. Journal of Contingency and Crisis Management.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world have encountered a plethora of (mis)information and instructions from various sources. The researchers conducted a nationally representative survey of 856 Americans to understand how information seeking and verifying is related to preventive behaviors. Results indicated that seeking information through interpersonal channels, news media and the government was related to proactive preventative behaviors, such as washing hands. However, only news media information seeking was related to avoidance preventative behaviors, such as avoiding gatherings. Verifying crisis information increased all types of preventive behaviors.