Interactions of Messages on Advertisements

Yongwoog Jeon, Annie Lang

The study was designed to test how food commercials and public service announcements for obesity prevention might influence a person's attitudes toward food and eating behaviors. Specifically, the study examined the effects of the emotions elicited by the PSAs on the participants’ later viewing experiences of high-calorie food commercials.  While watching the PSAs and commercials, participants continuously rated how negative they felt.  After viewing the PSAs and commercials, the participants took an Implicit Association Test (IAT) used to assess their attitudes toward high-calorie foods, as well as answering a set of questions related to their emotional experiences and attitudes toward foods. The study attempted to test whether PSAs designed to tackle obesity can actually have unintended effects on the viewers’ health behavior.

Motivation Systems Activation in 3D Virtual Environments

Joomi Lee, Annie Lang

Anecdotally and empirically, humans are afraid of the dark.  Previous research indicates that individuals have a general tendency to feel less comfortable in the dark, as indicated by the increase in startle reflex in darker compared to lighter conditions (Grillon, Pellowski, Merikangas, & Davis, 1997). This study aimed to investigate individuals’ motivational systems activation to the 3D virtual environment with different illumination and valence conditions through the use of psychophysiological measures. Specifically, participants were exposed to 3D virtual rooms provided via Skyrim that contained different valence and illumination conditions in both the virtual and the laboratory settings while heart rate (HR), facial muscle movement (EMG), and sweat (SCL) responses were recorded. During the procedure participants occasionally heard a short burst of white noise through the headphones in order to measure the amplitude of their startle reflex. Participants also answered questions about their experience with the virtual rooms. The study expected a larger startle reflex in response to the dark and negative virtual environments in a dark laboratory context, compared to other lighter and pleasant virtual and laboratory conditions.

The Moral Mind: An Investigation of Moral Decision Making in a Virtual Environment

Nicholas Matthews, Andrew Weaver

As a swell of prominent work indicates, communications researchers have found great utility in applying insights from moral psychology. However, morality science is in a pre-paradigmatic state, signaled by a flurry of theory construction and novel findings. As a result, a disconnect exists between moral psychology and communications inquiry. Additionally, much of the work in moral psychology relies on thought experiments, which have limited ecological validity. Thus, this work aimed to enrich connections between moral psychology and communications science and bolster the validity of existing theories. Specifically, the experiments simulated macro-level conflict using custom-built virtual environments to observe which foundational theory of moral psychology best explains moral cognition. 

Flow in Video Games

Joshua Sites, Robert F. Potter

This study was designed to determine if generative music soundtracks in video games can increase subjective experience of flow compared to traditional video game soundtracks.  Generative music is a form of interactive music that responds in real time to input that is processed through a series of algorithms to create a musical output. Flow, also known as ‘being in the zone,’ is a pleasant state of deep focus.  The subjects played one version of the video game that used traditional linear music soundtracks and another that used generative music soundtracks.  The study hypothesized that the generative music would result in greater autonomic arousal as measured by skin conductance, great self-reported measures of Flow, and greater interest in playing the game in the future.

Identifying Psychophysiological Markers of Individual Online Bidding Behavior

Lingyao Yuan, Alan Dennis, Robert F. Potter

In this study we sought to identify whether anthropomorphism, attaching human characteristics to objects/products, has an impact on an individual’s willingness to pay.   We investigated the underlying cognitive processes of individuals during online bidding tasks by recording psychophysiological measures of heart rate, skin conductance, facial EMG, and EEG brainwave activity, and through self-report questionnaires.   In the anthropomorphism condition, we attached human characteristics and behaviors (cartoon faces with expressions, voices, body movement such as clapping, etc.) to non-human products.   There were two other conditions: video presentation of the product (no voice), and pictures/text (no voice/no video).  For each condition, there were three products - a TV, a camera, and a tablet. Each participant bid on four products, two in the anthropomorphized condition and two in one of the two control conditions.

A Study of First Impressions in Interpersonal Contexts

Amy Gonzales, Yijie Wu, Mona Malacane, Glenna Read

The goal of this study was to examine the impact of others' mobile phone use on one's feeling of being ostracized, and on attitudes towards technology. The main research question asked whether participants would feel more ostracized and have more negative attitudes towards technology when a confederate is texting or reading on a smart phone compared to being included in a 1:on:1 discussion. This novel ostracism paradigm will be compared to a replication of previous ostracism paradigms in which participants were included or excluded in a face-to-face, small group interaction. The feeling of being ostracized was measured using need satisfaction scales, mood scales and manipulation check scales (William et al., 2009). Attitudes towards technology were indicated by technostress scales (Ragu-Nathan et al., 2008), tech use and attitudes scales (Rosen et al., 2013) and attitudes towards texting scale (Mahatanankoon et al., 2008). The study hypothesized that texting in front of a stranger would induce feelings of ostracism similar to those experienced in previous studies, and would partially explain negative attitudes towards technology.

Trait Motivation Impact on Cortical Activation during Still Image Viewing

Anthony Almond, Robert F. Potter, Sharon Mayell

This study collected EEG (electroencephalographic) brainwave data using a 14-channel EEG headset while subjects viewed a series of images (from the International Affective Picture System rated for arousal and valence) comprising the Motivation Activation Measure (MAM), which measures individual appetitive and aversive motivation system activation. The subjects provided self-report ratings for how positive, negative, and aroused each image made them feel. The research explored hemispheric gamma band activation in response to images that differ in emotional content, as well as testing for further predictive validity of the MAM measure.  We asked - will individual differences in trait motivation activation be correlated to differences in gamma band activation, such that approach-oriented persons will have more activation in the right hemisphere for positive images, and defense-oriented persons will have more activation in the left hemisphere for negative images, when compared to each other?   Research investigating emotional stimuli has found the 30-50 Hz gamma band shows more power over the left temporal region for negative valence, and more power in the right hemisphere for positive valence (Muller, Keil, Gruber, & Elbert, 1999).

Coping Styles and Motivational Reactivity

Jingjing Han, Annie Lang

This study was designed to compare the correlations of the coping dimensions drawn from existing models (Weinberger’s and Krohne’s models) with the dimensions of motivational system reactivity in the Motivational Activation Measure (MAM), as well as to test the comparable ability of motivational system reactivity and coping style measures to predict emotional ratings and memory for negative health information.  Stimuli came from public service announcements (PSAs) as seen on TV on four topics: drug prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention, anti-smoking, and traffic safety. Participants watched the PSAs and completed ratings (how arousing, pleasant, unpleasant, self-relevant, and threatening), took MAM and trait scales from coping models, and then took free recall and recognition memory tests.

Audio Habituation during Background Listening

Robert F. Potter

Past research suggests that automatic attention captured by auditory structural features diminishes after repeated occurrences.  These previous studies, however, have not presented the audio in natural listening conditions.  This study allowed participants to perform typical activities (studying, web surfing, texting) while listening to radio music in the background, while psychophysiological measures were recorded.  Analyses will examine whether automatic orienting responses will occur to audio features such as jingles and production effects—and whether that orienting habituates.

The Impact of Tactile Interaction on Product Evaluation

Heeryung Kim, Shanker Krishnan, Robert F. Potter, Kelly Herd

This study explores cognitive differences in response to three types of product presentation: still image, video image, or tactile manipulation. 


Exploring Cortical Reaction to Musical Segments Varying in Complexity and Intensity

Robert F. Potter, Edgar Jamison-Koenig, Anthony Almond, Sharon Mayell

The study collected EEG (electroencephalography; brainwave activity) data while subjects listened to music of varied complexity and intensity, and of various genres (classical, rock, etc).  The music clips came from commercially-released songs, with no lyrics included.  EEG data was further collected as subjects viewed a series of still images (rated for arousal and valence) comprising the Motivation Activation Measure (MAM), which measures individual appetitive and aversive motivation system activation.  The subjects also answered self-report questionnaires related to familiarity, enjoyment, arousal, attention and emotion following each music clip and image.

Commercials and Consumer Behavior

Robert F. Potter, Glenna Read, Irene Van Driel, Yongwoog Jeon

The purpose of the study is to further understanding of the influence that social roles exhibited in commercials play in influencing purchase intention and brand attitudes.  The study aims to elucidate mechanisms by which consumer attitudes are affected through the use of psychophysiological measures (heart rate, facial muscle activity, skin conductance) collected while viewing advertisements featuring gay couples and straight couples.  Participants will also answer questions about the product and brands featured in the ads.  It is hypothesized that psychophysiological response will predict consumer attitudes in response to the commercials featuring gay couples, but not commercials featuring heterosexual couples.

Decision Making in Multimedia Environments

Peter Todd, Edward Castronova, Sharon Mayell, Glenna Read

The objective for this research is to examine what effect virtual learning environment game independent variables (IVs) (e.g., student model, priming, duration/repetition, real time feedback, reward, time pressure) across game conditions with each of these variables turned on, have on training participants to mitigate three well-documented cognitive biases in decision making. These cognitive biases include: anchoring (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), representativeness heuristic (Tversky and Kahneman, 1971, and projection bias (Fredrickson & Loewenstein, 1999). Learning in this context is considered to be the effectiveness of training participants to understand and mitigate their use of each bias. 

Evolution and Message Impact

Annie Lang, Anthony Almond, Jingjing Han, Yongwoog Jeon, Yijie Wu, Josh Sites

The purpose of this study is to investigate how encoding systems and biological imperatives influence the impact of media messages.  The study asks 1) do television messages that primarily use representational encoding systems have a larger influence on implicit attitudes than messages that use symbolic encoding systems; 2) Do television messages that primarily use symbolic encoding systems have a larger influence on explicit attitudes than messages that use representational systems, and; 3) Is that effect influenced by the number of messages seen? It’s hypothesized that if implicit attitudes are primarily elicited by automatic activation of the motivational systems, then representational ads should alter implicit attitudes and the more you see the more they should change. Additionally, if symbols reduce the biological response and enable more logical decision making, then symbolic information should have a larger effect on implicit, thoughtful attitudes than it does on implicit attitudes. Stimuli include public service announcements (PSAs) on drug prevention, pollution, traffic safety, and safe sex. 

Behavioral Indicators of Attitude Strength as a Moderator of Implicit-Explicit Attitudes Consistency

Annie Lang, Yijie Wu

The purpose of the study is to test the hypothesis that attitude strength, measured by the response latency in speeded “I like/I don’t like” evaluation tasks, will increase the consistency between the implicit and explicit measures of attitudes.

Prosocognition – Prosodic Strategies to Improve the Attention and Recall of a Listener Exposed to an Auditory Stimulus

Emma Rodero, Robert F. Potter

This study explores the effects of different types of changes in prosody (vocal emotion inflection) on automatic attention to radio commercials at the point when the emotional vocal change takes place.

The three protocols:

Study1-  Designed to study sudden changes in vocal pitch level by the radio announcer.

Study 2—Designed to study the onset of vocal emphasis of a particular syllable in the radio script

Study 3—Designed to study the impact of different speech rates used during vocal delivery.

 In each of the studies a number of actual radio ads were transcribed and re-produced by a professional voice actor.  The reproduced radio announcements varied depending upon the independent variable of interest (Study 1—pitch level; Study 2—vocal emphasis of syllable; Study 3—announcer speech rate).

Topic and Situational Interests in Audiovisual Message Processing

Ya Gao, Annie Lang

The purpose of this study is to investigate how cognitive resource allocation is influenced by topic and situational interest in processing a variety of audiovisual messages, and its impact on encoding and storage during the process.

Inhibition of Biological Imperatives and Transportation in Primetime TV Shows

Annie Lang, Anthony Almond, Yijie Wu

The goal of the biological imperatives study is to examine the relationship between implicit attitudes and the combination and intensity of motivational activation elicited by the attitude object. Stimuli contain varying ratios of positive and negative content. Positive content is theorized to elicit automatic activation in the appetitive motivational system while negative content is expected to elicit automatic activation in the aversive motivational system. The hypothesis suggests that implicit attitudes should be related to the ratio and intensity of motivational activation in the two systems. Implicit attitudes are measured using a speeded pleasant/unpleasant categorization task. Motivational activation was collected based in subjective ratings of emotional experience. It is expected that participants will be fastest when pictures are clearly pleasant or unpleasant and slower as the ratio of pleasant and unpleasant content approaches one.  Implicit and explicit attitudes will be compared to emotional ratings to test the hypotheses.

 The transportation in TV shows study is a pretest designed to select the stimulus material for a future study on the effect of narrative transportation on audience’s implicit attitudes.


Attention to, and Cognitive Processing of, Visual and Auditory Interface Elements in a Single-Player Video Game

Matthew Falk, Robert F. Potter

Previous studies in other mediums (television, radio, the web) have shown that changes in the mediated environment (such as cuts in television, voice changes in radio, etc), called structural features, automatically draw users' attention, causing an orienting response. This study seeks to determine whether the interface elements of video games (sometimes referred to as user interfaces, mods, or heads up displays) act as structural features of the media and cause an automatic attention response in players. Other work, such as Audio Habituation 1 + 2, done in the ICR has confirmed this phenomenon, and expanded the work to investigate the effect of time on that response. Those studies have shown that over time, the power of structural features in audio streams to draw automatic attention fades, or habituates. This study will also investigate the effect of time (over 20 minutes of game play) on the orienting response, as well as emotional reactions to positive and negative events experienced during routine game play.

Impact of Vocal Similarity on Automatic Attention to Voice Changes

Robert F. Potter, Edgar Jamison-Koenig, Teresa Lynch, Sharon Mayell, Matthew Falk

This voice recognition study continues a line of ICR research exploring the cognitive processing of auditory stimuli in the form of radio messages. Auditory structural features which cause orienting responses include voice changes, production effects, silence, sound effects, music onsets, etc. To identify how differently audio-only messages are processed, the study examines whether individuals fail to detect voice changes when the vocal qualities of each speaker (fundamental frequency, timbre, prosody, etc.) are similar.  Research in change blindness (failure to perceive) and change detection (accurate recognition of change) has focused on visual stimuli, but not yet explored audio-only stimuli. The research question of change deafness looks at how orienting responses are elicited by unannounced voice changes, and to what degree subjects notice a change in speaker, as measured by free recall, cued recall, and recognition measures.  For more information, contact Rob Potter.

Symbolic Relevance

Annie Lang, Rachel Bailey, Sean Connolly, Sharon Mayell

Words and images are both symbolic of real world objects, however, the images seem to be more direct representations of those objects. This study examines how words and images that are symbolic of the same real world objects differ in form and valence accessibility as well as motivational response measured via psychophysiological response (heart rate, skin conductivity, facial electromyography). Further, individual differences in trait motivational reactivity may play a role in how accessible and intensely experienced different types of real world objects are. For example, the negative aspect of weapons and violence may generally be more accessible and evoke more intense motivational responses for a person with high aversive reactivity. Lastly, the role of other types of individual differences will be accessed (i.e. executive functioning, need for cognition, and personality factors).

Processing Third-person Perception in Persuasive Messages

Lelia Samson, Robert F. Potter

The third-person perception (TPP) refers to the belief that media affects others more than oneself. Since its formulation, the TPP has been consistently supported. In spite of this strong support, few authors have considered its potential underlying mechanisms. This study aims to broaden the scope of ongoing research in TPP, to provide convergent validity for its theoretical arguments and a more comprehensive understanding of how this media effect occurs. I do so by using Chaiken’s (1980) Heuristic-Systematic Model, which proposes that there are two modes of cognitive processing. The first involves rapid, intuitive application of simple decision rules and heuristics. The second involves more elaborate systematic thinking requiring more cognitive resources and time.

Sex on TV

Paul Wright

Recent large-scale longitudinal studies have found prospective associations between youths' consumption of sexual television and intercourse initiation, pregnancy involvement and STI status. The last major content analysis of sex on television was conducted in 2005, however. Contemporary analyses of sex on television are planned for the content analysis lab. 

Identifying Psychophysiological Markers of Ideation during Electronic Brainstorming in Virtual Teams

Randall Minas, Alan Dennis, Robert F. Potter, Sharon Mayell, R. Kamhawi

Framing Images

Maria Elizabeth Grabe, Elizabeth Kwon, Yan-yan Zhou, Matthew Kobach, Sean Connolly

Video Game Enjoyment and Personality

Andrew Weaver, Nicholas Matthews, Nicole Lewis

Music Complexity Intensity Study

Edgar Jamison-Koenig, Robert F. Potter

Processing Primary Biological Motivators in Food Advertisements

Rachel Bailey, Annie Lang

Effects of Visual Complexity on Habituation of the Orienting Response to Repeated Video Cuts

Robert F. Potter, Anthony Almond, Ryann Siefers, Nicole Fritz, S.Ziege


Symbolic Accessibility

Annie Lang, Rachel Bailey, Sean Connolly

Words and images are both symbolic of real world objects, however, images seem to be more direct representations of those objects. This study wishes to examine how words and images that are symbolic of the same real world objects differ in recognition and valence accessibility. This study also examines the role of individual differences in this accessibility. Individual differences in trait motivational reactivity, executive functioning, need for cognition and other personality factors are being examined.

Real Ideal: The influence of video game character idealization and realism on body attitude

Nicholas Matthews, Teresa Lynch, Nicole Martins

Video games often present players with an array of content that varies in terms of character idealization and realism. Social Comparison Theory argues that comparison is far more likely to occur when evaluators perceive an evaluation object as realistic and achievable. Previous research shows that video games cause body image disturbance. However, in regards to body image, the interaction between realism and idealization has never been investigated within video games. Real Ideal aims to explore these factors from a perspective guided by evolutionary psychology. 

Audio Habituation 2

Robert F. Potter, Matthew Falk, Soyoung Bae, Teresa Lynch, Nicholas Matthews, Ashley Kraus, Sharon Mayell

We know from past work that changes in the auditory environment cause people to briefly but automatically pay attention to the message.  We also know that the auditory structural feature of the voice change does this and doesn’t habituate.  The Audio Habituation studies are designed to look at automatic attention to repeated instances of audio production effects, jingles, and silence.  For more information, contact Rob Potter.

Cortical Response to Relevance

Alan Dennis, Robert F. Potter, Randall Minas, Valerie Bartelt, Soyoung Bae, Matthew Falk

Virtual teams are increasingly common in today’s organizations, yet they often make poor decisions. This experiment investigates these demands on participants during a virtual team decision-making process using electroencepholography (EEG), electrodermal response (EDR), and cardiac activity (EKG) as neural and psychophysiological correlates. Subjects are presented with a virtual team chat room environment, examining how virtual team members respond to targeted information, including factual information about the decision alternatives, normative information about other team member’s preferences for alternatives, and irrelevant information.