The majority of my research revolves around media psychology, persuasion, and information processing. Primarily using social scientific and quantitative research methods, I am interested in how media impact attitude, affect, behavior, and cognition. Within this domain, I have developed three programmatic lines of research: entertainment and satire, communication technology, and science communication and journalism. For example, I seek to understand how individuals process and discuss political entertainment and satire. Most recently, I have been integrating satire literature and uncertainty-based theories in order to introduce more theoretical organization into the political communication and discussion literature. Not only do I test communication theory, but I also seek to build and advance communication theory by bridging subfields in communication, English, and social psychology. I study how and why satire and other political messages incite cognitive elaboration, uncertainty, anger, and other related affective and cognitive reactions in individuals. I'm also interested in how people discuss political messages, and, in particular, how entertainment and satire can spark political talk and political information sharing. These discussions and interactions may have implications for future behaviors (e.g., voting, information seeking, and message composition).
My research agenda also includes communication technology, as it applies to political communication and journalism. I'm interested in how individuals are using new and emerging technologies to engage with political communication and what effects these new technologies may have on individuals' attitudes, cognitions, behaviors, and affect. I also explore how journalism institutions are experimenting with new and emerging technologies when it comes to their political reporting and coverage.
Since the 2000 presidential election, I have been researching political campaigns. I got involved with the late Dr. Lynda Lee Kaid's political communication research group as a freshman at the University of Florida, and I've continued to research each subsequent presidential election. In 2012, I organized a research group comprised of undergraduate and graduate students at UW, and I received a grant to fund the research. In fact, my most recent publication in political campaigns, co-authored with two graduate students from my research group, is derived from that grant and deals with how media organizations are experimenting with on-screen visuals presented during presidential debates. In the current election cycle, I have received a grant and collected data to research the extent to which humorous political memes shared via social media can incite cognitive elaboration and impact perceptions of political civility. Finally, I'm working on a communication technology project that content analyzes Snapchat's Live Stories related to the presidential election. This election cycle is providing communication and journalism scholars with plenty of material, to say the least.
My third line of research investigates science communication and journalism. I am interested in the nexus among science, public policy, journalism, and persuasion. I am currently the PI on a $300,000-$400,000 Education, Outreach, and Diversity proposal that seeks to improve the state of science journalism in the state of Wyoming. By researching the most effective means to communicate the scientific process to the various stakeholders and by providing research-based science journalism training, I hope to educate professional journalists, student journalists, and science communicators. My proposal was included in the University of Wyoming's $20 million EPSCoR Track-1 Research Infrastructure Improvement submission to the National Science Foundation. A decision by NSF is expected in the spring.