Digital Community Digital Social Media Icon

Online Message Processing for Effective Public Communication and Engagement in Issues Related to Controversial Science and Technology

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Digital Community Digital Social Media Icon, six people sitting around a table, using various devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops

Lead Researcher: Jiyoun Kim

Summary: This project features experimental studies of online message processing for effective public communication and engagement in issues related to controversial (and sometimes unfamiliar) science and technology. As humans are by nature social animals, for example, this projects examines how social cues expressed in online content stimulate individuals’ cognitive processing and online news engagement intention. One of the goals of this project is empowering the public to make informed decisions. Since people’s rational responses could be impaired or interfered with by emotional arousal and/or mental agitation and most science- or health-related topics involve information under conditions of stress, this project seeks to understand what makes communication the most effective in situations of high concern or controversy.

Sexual Health concept. On the table stethoscope and colored pencils

Young Adults Responses to Sexual Health Messages

Sexual Health concept. On the table stethoscope and colored pencils

Lead Researcher: Anita Atwell Seate

Summary: This projects examines the influence of psychological closeness and message framing on sexual health attitudes and behavioral intentions among undergraduate students.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine with syringe for injection

Promoting Adolescent HPV Vaccination among African American Parents through Message Framing


Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine with syringe for injection

Principal Investigator: Xiaoli Nan
Co-Investigators: Cheryl Holt, School of Public Health, UMCP; Min Qi Wang, School of Public Health, UMCP’ Shana Ntiri, School of Medicine, UMB; and Clement Adebamowo, School of Medicine, UMB
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute; $2,212,269 (2018-2023)

Summary: The 2014 President’s Cancer Panel called underuse of HPV vaccines “a serious, but correctable threat to progress against cancer.” The Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel, more recently, identified expanding the use of HPV vaccines as a top priority for cancer prevention, especially in medically underserved populations. Effective communication is crucial to widespread adoption of preventive measures against cancer like the HPV vaccines. Built upon recent advances in communication and behavioral sciences, the proposed project seeks to to develop and evaluate a novel, theory-based message framing intervention to accelerate HPV vaccine uptake among African American adolescents. This project aims to 1) develop culturally appropriate messages framed in gains and losses and pretest these messages through community engagement; 2) determine whether/how the effects of message framing (gain vs. loss) on African American parents’ acceptance of the HPV vaccine are moderated by their prior beliefs about HPV and the HPV vaccine; and 3) evaluate the efficacy of a message framing intervention rooted in message targeting principles through a clinic-based randomized trial. Addressing a critical aspect of health disparities disadvantaging the African American community, this research represents a systematic and timely effort to address the national urgency of optimizing communication strategies for promoting HPV vaccination among key stakeholders.

The organigram describes the overall risk management process.

Managing Chaos through Crisis Communication Leadership

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The organigram describes the overall risk management process. It is composed of 4 steps (arrows) and by sphere which represents communications with risk stakeholders.

Principal Investigator: Brooke Liu
Funding Source: the Department of Homeland Security

Summary: This project improves governments’ crisis leadership capabilities by determining the attributes of effective crisis communication leadership. The project includes: a comprehensive literature review; interviews with federal, state, local, and/or other crisis leaders regarding their experiences and reflections relevant to crisis leadership; and a mini case study of crisis communication leadership.

Cigarettes pack prohibition sign. Vector illustration graphic icon

Reducing Defensive Reactions to Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels through Self-Affirmation

Cigarettes pack prohibition sign. Vector illustration graphic icon

Principal Investigator: Xiaoli Nan
Co-Investigators: Robert Feldman, James Butler, Min Qi Wang
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute; $357,552 (2014-2017)

Summary: The overarching purpose of the proposed research is to harness new developments in psychological and communication sciences to address a key obstacle in communication-based smoking cessation efforts – the tendency for smokers to react defensively toward smoking risk information – and apply relevant knowledge to the promotion of smoking cessation among African American smokers. The proposed project seeks to evaluate an innovative approach based on self-affirmation theory to supressing smokers’ defensive processing of smoking risk information in a laboratory-based randomized trial involving African American smokers. Specifically, this project aims to 1) determine whether self-affirmation (vs. no self-affirmation) reduces defensive responses toward graphic cigarette warning labels; 2) ascertain whether self-affirmation (vs. no self-affirmation) leads to more negative explicit and implicit attitudes toward smoking, greater intentions to quit, and reduced cigarette consumption following exposure to graphic cigarette warning labels; and 3) investigate whether smoking identity moderates the effects of self-affirmation. The proposed project addresses a major public health concern as well as significant tobacco-related health disparities. This study will advance scientific knowledge on self-affirmation as a mechanism for reducing smokers’ defensive processing of smoking risk messages. The findings will be directly relevant to the translation of the basic behavioral science underlying smoking risk communication into enhanced smoking cessation approaches. If self-affirmation functions as expected in the proposed randomized trial, a self-affirmation task can be easily implemented in communication-based smoking cessation interventions to enhance the outcomes. The proposed study will also provide direct evidence relevant to the ongoing public health debate concerning the effectiveness of graphic warning labels as a means of communicating smoking risks in the United States.

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Preventing Farm Injury and Fatalities to At-Risk Youth in Rural Communities in the Southeast

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iot smart industry robot 4.0 agriculture concept,industrial agronomist,farmer using autonomous tractor with self driving technology , augmented mixed virtual reality to collect, access, analyze soil

Principal Investigator: Stacy K. Vincent
Co-PIs: Kang Namkoong, Joan M. Mazur
Funding Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, CDC; $1,356,806 (2016-2021)

Summary: Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States and tractor overturn is the leading cause of farming-related injuries or deaths. Dr. Namkoong has developed a smartphone-based health communication application (eCROPS) to promote an agricultural safety campaign and prevent tractor operator deaths from overturns.

The mobile communication application was designed to enhance social interactions among campaign participants and the effectiveness of a combined approach of agricultural education, health education, and communication to address the significant public health issue in rural communities. Dr. Namkoong also developed virtual reality tractor safety contents for CROPS project (vrCROPS). The vrCROPS was designed as a service embedded in eCROPS to maximize its effectiveness in tractor safety education. Through immersive virtual reality experience, vrCROPS enhances risk perception about tractor-related accidents and self-efficacy on tractor safety behaviors. This project allows us to examine the potential of a virtual reality immersion system in occupational safety education.

How Forecasters Decide to Warn: Insights on Tornado Risk Communication from the Southeast U.S.

Storm hurricane tornado map realistic composition with weather forecast screen spiral cloud image and text vector illustration

Principal Investigators: Brooke Liu, Anita Atwell Seate
Funding Source: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)

Summary: Tornados can have devastating consequences, and being able to warn the public about tornadic risk can save lives. Social scientists are prolific in their recommendations on how to “better warn” the public about tornadoes,  but they rarely work in partnership with operational forecasters. This begs the question of how applicable social  scientists’ recommendations are to the “real world.” The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just  funded new research on how forecasters decide to warn about tornadoes. Associate Professor Brooke Liu and Assistant Professor Anita Atwell Seate will lead a two-year project, which includes interviews with forecasters, ethnographic observation, and a longitudinal survey. The project involves 20 telephone interviews with NOAA forecasters, two months of ethnographic observations at two National Weather Service offices in the Southeast U.S., a baseline cross-sectional survey, and a six-month longitudinal survey. Project website: How Forecasters Decide to Warn: Insights on Tornado Risk Communication from the Southeast U.S.


The Social-Mediated Crisis Communication Model

Lead Researcher: Brooke Liu

Summary: This is an ongoing project aimed at refining and expanding a theoretical model that provides guidelines for effectively integrating new media into crisis management.

Diet and healthy life concept background. The choice between fresh healthy food fruit and vegetables or unhealthy fast food and soda. Top view

Supporting the Health of Kentucky SNAP-Ed Participants through Engagement in Reshaping Local Policy, Systems and the Environment

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Diet and healthy life concept background. The choice between fresh healthy food fruit and vegetables or unhealthy fast food and soda. Top view

Principal Investigator: Daniel Kahl
Co-PIs: Kang Namkoong, Jarius Rossi, Jayoung Koo, Melissa Bond, Sarah Bowker, & Alison Diavis
Funding Source: Food and Nutrition Service, USDA; $450,591 (2015-2018)

Summary: This is a food and nutrition education project funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This project aims to promote healthy life choices in underserved populations. In this project, he has developed communication assessment tools to explore the connections between organizations, networks, and systems that often are not in communication with one another.

Product Recall illustration

Risk Communication During Food Recalls

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3D illustration of “PRODUCT RECALL” title flowing from a loudspeaker

Principal Investigator: Xiaoli Nan
Co-Investigators: Linda Verrill, Kelly Daily, Jarim Kim

Summary: Public health professionals have sought to understand the determinants of public perceptions related to food contamination risks in order to develop more effective means of communicating the risk of foodborne illnesses to consumers. In one study (N = 1,010), we investigated the impact of two risk characteristics—severity and intentionality—on risk perceptions and subsequent protective motivations. Results indicated that severity was an important driver of risk perceptions and it also interacted with intentionality such that when severity was low, an intentional act led to greater risk perceptions and protective motivations; when severity was high, intentionality had limited impact. These findings hold implications for effectively communicating food contamination risks.