New Research from Maryland

Newly published research from members of the Department of Communication:

Recently published in Communication Quarterly: "Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Positive Intergroup Contact: A Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis Approach to Understanding Intergroup Attitudes," by assistant professors Anita Atwell Seate and Nicholas Joyce.

Abstract: Intergroup contact theory has suggested that interpersonal, and even imagined, communication between members of different social groups is one of the most effective ways to promote positive intergroup attitudes. Researchers have examined various elements and conditions of the communication that may be related to the impact of intergroup contact. However, due to methodological limitations, the extent to which these conditions are necessary or sufficient to produce positive intergroup outcomes has been unclear. We used fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fs/QCA) to analyze how several communicative and psychological variables might be necessary and/or sufficient to produce positive intergroup attitudes toward “illegal” immigrants within an imagined intergroup contact experience. Findings suggest that certain combinations of conditions for contact are sufficient for producing positive attitudes toward social group members but that there are no necessary causes. The discussion emphasizes the implications for intergroup contact and the utility of fs/QCA.

Recently published in Computers in Human Behavior: "Is it a sense of autonomy, control, or attachment? Exploring the effects of in-game customization on game enjoyment," coauthored by Ph.D. student Julia Daisy Fraustino.

Abstract: This study presents a model linking character customization and game enjoyment. Two separate studies using different types of customization (functional vs. aesthetic) were employed to test two competing mechanisms that explain the effects of customizing in-game characters: feelings of autonomy and control—rooted in self-determination theory—and perceived attachment to game characters. Additionally, this study investigated how these two divergent mechanisms influence game enjoyment through immersion-related experiences. The findings showed that the feelings of autonomy and control are consistently stronger explanations for enjoyment, regardless of customization type. The results suggest that similar to other entertainment media, games can appeal to individuals through the senses of autonomy, control, and attachment to a character; the first two prove more critical.

Recently published in the Journal of Applied Communication Research: "CDC's Use of Social Media and Humor in a Risk Campaign—'Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse,'” by Ph.D. students Julia Daisy Fraustino and Liang Ma.

Abstract: This is a multiple methods study that highlights the tension between awareness- and behavioral-based campaign successes, particularly when communicating using social media and pop-culture-referencing humor. To illustrate, it examines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) “zombie apocalypse” all-disaster-preparedness campaign. An interview with a CDC campaign manager, campaign document analysis, and a 2 (information form: social vs. traditional media) × 2 (message strategy: humorous vs. non-humorous) experiment uncovers benefits and pitfalls of using social media and humorous messaging for risk communication. Findings show social media can quickly spread information to new publics for minimal costs; however, experiment participants who received the humorous (i.e., zombie) risk message reported significantly weaker intentions to take protective actions in comparison to those who received the traditional, non-humorous risk message.

Recently published in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management: "Alerting a Campus Community: Emergency Notification from a Public's Perspective," by Ph.D. student Stephanie Madden.

Abstract: Emergency notification systems have become an essential part of campus security since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting in the United States. This study explored how a public-centred perspective can inform campus-alerting practices. In particular, this study provided depth to two independent variables of the situational theory of publics: constraint recognition and level of involvement. Additionally, this study proposed the development of a subcategorisation of hot-issue publics called transient publics.

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