Research Program

I have had a someone eclectic research record but in the past few years I have narrowed my active research to these three areas that deal with intersections among persuasion, interpersonal, and computer-mediated communication.

Opinion leadership: I conduct research on a particular type of opinion leader called a superdiffuser. The superdiffuser model predicts that people who are connectors, persuaders, and mavens in a domain will be particularly effective at persuading their social network to adopt short and long-term behavior changes. My research focuses on what superdiffusers do, how to recruit them for health campaigns, and how to generally implement superdiffuser-based health and safety campaigns. I am developing an NIH grant proposal with Mike Kotowski at the University of Tennessee to develop methods of recruiting superdiffusers for a health campaign.

Motivated reasoning: I’m interested in situations in which people cognitively process persuasive messages with goals other than accuracy. My work in this area focuses on general issues with predicting when motivated reasoning occurs, what kinds of processes it involves, and how to reduce it. I detailed the cognitive dissonance-based theoretical approach I take to motivated reasoning in an article in the Annals of the International Communication Association. Bree McEwan of DePaul University, myself, and Jill Hopke of DePaul published the Mediated Skewed Diffusion of Issues Information (MSDII) theory that describes how motivated reasoning is part of the process that causes polarization in online environments. We’ve embarked on a research program testing the theory and my focus has been on the motivated reasoning aspects.

Interpersonal online surveillance: Social media has given people an unprecedented ability to observe communication among both known and unknown others. I have conducted some research on how others react to seeing annoying weak ties online. I also published on Facebook-related jealousy spurred by seeing one’s romantic partner interact with potential rivals on Facebook. I, along with Erin Spottswood of Portland State University, developed the Hyperperception Model to extend the original Hyperpersonal Model to interpersonal online surveillance. We’re testing the model in a variety of areas including different types of jealousy, observing ex-romantic partners online, and loneliness. We are also exploring the types of online behavior that cause hyperperceptions.