My research is focused on selective exposure in new media settings, especially as it relates to dynamic effects and social factors.
From my own perspective, the study of communication begins with the question, “who is receiving what message and why?”
While much communication research considers the effects of communication, I am instead interested in the antecedents of communicative acts. Specifically, I seek to understand the factors that impact why people receive particular mediated messages over others. This question is relevant for media practitioners, who seek to build audiences, and is critical for studying media effects, because selectivity in exposure and perception is key to understanding if and when media influence will occur.
Two broad themes emerge in my current studies of selective exposure to communication. The first is that selectivity has both predictors and effects, and that influences on and of communication tend to occur in a reciprocal, dynamic fashion. Any given effect does not exist in a vacuum, because it also shapes, in turn, the situations that gave rise to it. So, it is important to capture the dynamic nature of communication as much as possible, by examining selective exposure to messages as a mediator between prior and subsequent beliefs or emotions. To that end, I’ve looked at a wide variety of outcomes of selective media use: political participation; feelings about partisans; attitudes toward political, health, and science issues; attitude accessibility; self-regulation; changes in self-concept; emotions; and narrative responses such as enjoyment and transportation. Selectivity in the use of new media is dynamically linked to a range of key psychological variables.
The second theme that appears in my research is the consideration of social psychological factors as explanations for the use of media. Most selective exposure research to date has focused on internal mental processes such as attitudes and emotions. However, social situations and social influence have an important role to play as well, especially given the blend that is now apparent between mass media and interpersonal media, thanks to newer communication technologies. I am especially interested in how impression management, conformity to norms, and social comparison can each play a role in selective exposure in new media.