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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Author: aetoy

CBB researchers give a talk to Ford’s Global Communications Team

Communication, Brain and Behavior (CBB) lab faculty leader Chris Cascio and Matt Minich gave a talk to Ford’s Global Communications Team about the neuroscience behind persuasion and influence.

The talk was an opportunity for researchers and industry to learn from each other about the ways we approach communications and the issues we face in a quickly evolving technology and digital media environment.

CBB faculty leader Chris Cascio elected vice chair of ICA Communication Science & Biology group

Communication, Brain and Behavior (CBB) lab faculty leader assistant professor Chris Cascio has been elected as vice chair of the International Communication Association’s Communication Science & Biology interest group. The election saw 26% voter turnout. Fellow leadership elected include student and early career representative Shelby Wilcox of Michigan State University and international liasion Ralf Schmaelzle of Michigan State University

See all election results here.

News article featuring CBB researchers in Bloomberg Businessweek

A new article in Bloomberg Businessweek by Sarah McBride “What My Brain Scan Revealed About the Science of Persuasion” features Communication, Brain and Behavior (CBB) Lab leader Chris Cascio and PhD student Matt Minich. In the article, the author speaks with Cascio and Minich about the neuroscience behind persuasive messages and what areas of the brain are critical to changing people’s minds.

Read the full article here.

Alum Yini Zhang (PhD’20) wins Thomas E. Patterson Best Dissertation Award

At the American Political Science Association’s 2021 Annual Meeting, alum Yini Zhang (PhD’20) received the Thomas E. Patterson Best Dissertation Award from the Political Communication section for her dissertation “A Network Approach to Understanding Public Attention, Public Opinion and Communication Flows in the Digital Media System.”

The Thomas E. Patterson Best Dissertation Award recognizes the best dissertation completed in the field of political communication in the previous year. Zhang centered her dissertation around the core question of how digital media impact the U.S. political communication landscape.

“In my dissertation, I proposed a new theoretical and methodological framework to study the question of “who follows and who leads” in the US communication ecology,” Zhang said. “Specifically, the framework takes into account how actors of different backgrounds are now able to use social media to build online networks and project voices. It emphasizes the heterogeneous communication streams on social media, applies social network analysis to detect networks of actors, and explores their relationship with news media attention and coverage.”

Yini Zhang headshot

University at Buffalo Assistant Professor Yini Zhang (PhD’20)

Now an Assistant Professor in the Communication Department at the University at Buffalo, Zhang is also a UW-Madison Mass Communication Research Center (MCRC) Fellow. She credits her time in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication with giving her the tools she needed to craft her award-winning dissertation.

“I see this award as more of a collective than a personal achievement,” Zhang said. “At SJMC, there has been a strong support system and a nourishing academic environment. My advisors, colleagues, the staff members and all those who I interacted with helped me become who I am today. I feel very lucky that I get to do things that I enjoy doing and get recognized for my work.”

One such member of Zhang’s strong support system was her co-advisor SJMC Maier-Bascom Professor Dhavan Shah. Shah is also the director of the MCRC.

Dhavan Shah headshot

SJMC Professor and MCRC Director Dhavan Shah

“Yini’s dissertation and her broader program of research are incredibly innovative and impactful, integrating communication and sociology with network and computer science, She is a worthy recipient of this honor,” Shah said. “She enriched the MCRC not just with her intelligence and research acumen but by being a generous collaborator, student leader and peer mentor. We are lucky to still have her as a fellow.”

Zhang’s other co-advisor was former SJMC faculty member Chris Wells. Wells is now an Associate Professor of Emerging Media Studies in the College of Communication at Boston University and serves as a participating faculty member in the MCRC.

Chris Wells Headshot

Boston University Associate Professor Chris Wells

“This award is such a well-deserved recognition of Yini’s work,” Wells said. “While at UW-Madison, she crafted an innovative field of study for herself rooted in SJMC. But she also branched out and took courses and collaborated with professors from statistics, computer science and elsewhere. Her work is on the cutting edge of both communication theory and computational methods, and this award shows it.”

UW Team Publishes “Polarization Over Vaccination: Ideological Differences in Twitter Expression About COVID-19”

New article “Polarization Over Vaccination: Ideological Differences in Twitter Expression About COVID-19 Vaccine Favorability and Specific Hesitancy Concerns” in the journal Social Media + Society from the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal. Continue reading

Campus Group Receives Grants to Expand Elder Tree Platform to Smart Speakers and Smart Displays

A Google Home Mini smart speaker sitting on a desk in front of a laptop and potted plant.

Photo Credit: Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

According to projections from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the population in Wisconsin ages 65 and older is expected to increase by 72% between 2015 and 2040. The population is aging rapidly in rural areas, especially in the northern half of the state in counties with higher rates of health concerns.

Responding to this demographic shift, the Center for Health Enhancement System Studies’ (CHESS) Active Aging Research Center (AARC) has been using technology to improve the overall quality of life for Wisconsin seniors through a web-based information and communication technology (ICT) platform called Elder Tree.

This technology supports older adults who wish to remain in their homes for as long as possible, a concept known as aging in place. While 90% of adults over the age of 65 say they would prefer to age in place, they often struggle with isolation and loneliness, falling, managing medications, and driving and transportation.

Elder Tree offers older adults a variety of features, including health information, transportation route planning, social interaction and more. The platform is secure and easy to use, even for those that may not be as familiar or comfortable with using technology. However, for those living with multiple chronic conditions (MCCs), symptoms and physical limitations can make using computers difficult.

Dave Gustafson headshot

CHESS Founder and Director Dave Gustafson is a co-PI on these grants.

“As people age, their mobility and stimulus response slows down, said CHESS Founder and Director Dave Gustafson. “Even if someone was the CEO of a technology company, they might have more difficulty using computers as they age due to physical or mental limitations.”

To address these challenges, the group plans to adapt Elder Tree for smart speakers and smart displays. Led by principal investigators Dave Gustafson and Department of Communication Arts Professor Marie-Louise Mares, the CHESS AARC has received two major grants to make the platform more accessible to a larger group of potential users.

“We have to recognize that current technology won’t do the job. There’s an enormous amount of helpful information available, but the capability to access it is limited for many older adults,” Gustafson said. “New smart devices open technology up in a way that was not possible before. Making Elder Tree easier to use means more people will use it.”

The latest grant, a five-year, $3.9 million award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), focuses on older adults living with five or more MCCs. An earlier nearly $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) aims to help older adults dealing with chronic pain in addition to other MCCs.

Marie-Louise Mares headshot

Professor of Communication Arts Marie-Louise Mares is a co-PI on these grants.

“The central goals of CHESS have always been to empower patients and improve their quality of life. Being able to speak to a device, and have it talk back and interact with you, rather than read on a screen, may make the content much more accessible,” Mares said. “Using smart displays to help them monitor their health, gain access to resources, and find community, could potentially be more successful than a traditional laptop intervention.”

Researchers saw positive outcomes from the initial iteration of Elder Tree and hope to extend the benefits of the platform to more users and encourage current users to stay active on the application with the help of these grants. Researchers can measure outcomes associated with specific features of the program, such as reduced falls after learning fall prevention techniques, reduced traffic accidents after using the route planning feature, or reduced feelings of loneliness or isolation from engaging with the social aspects of the program.

Dhavan Shah headshot

SJMC Professor and CHESS Scientific Director Dhavan Shah

“We realized there are certain people that can’t take full advantage of the system,” said Dhavan Shah, School of Journalism and Mass Communication Maier-Bascom Professor and CHESS Scientific Director. “Our main goal in this study is improvements in quality of life, especially focusing on giving users a more hopeful outlook and seeing life as more meaningful. We try to do things like reduce depression, increase feelings of independence, or increase people’s ability to manage whatever illnesses or chronic diseases they’re dealing with.”

New CCCR publication “Free and Fair? The Differential Experiences of Voting Barriers and Voting Policies in American Midterm Elections”

New article “Free and Fair? The Differential Experiences of Voting Barriers and Voting Policies in American Midterm Elections” in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research from the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal (CCCR).

Abstract: In this research note, we provide evidence about burdens people face when voting and who benefits from policies designed to mitigate those burdens. Using pre-and-post 2018 midterm elections panel surveys in Wisconsin, we show that Black voters estimate greater time getting to the polls and Hispanic voters report longer wait times once they are there. Regarding who takes advantage of policies purported to ease these burdens on voting—early voting, voting by mail, and absentee voting—our analysis reveals that that those facing temporal disadvantages are not the groups benefiting from these electoral policy affordances.

Full citation: Jordan M Foley, Michael W Wagner, Ceri Hughes, Jiyoun Suk, Katherine J Cramer, Lewis A Friedland, Dhavan V Shah, Free and Fair? The Differential Experiences of Voting Barriers and Voting Policies in American Midterm Elections, International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 2021;, edab009,

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KEG publishes “Navigating a Diverse Paradigm: A Conceptual Framework for Experimental Framing Effects Research”

New article “Navigating a Diverse Paradigm: A Conceptual Framework for Experimental Framing Effects Research” in the journal Review of Communication Research from the Cognitive Effects Research Group (KEG).

Abstract: This review introduces a conceptual framework with three elements to highlight the richness of the framing effects literature, while providing structure to address its fragmented nature. Our first element identifies and discusses the Enduring Issues that confront framing effects researchers. Second, we introduce the Semantic Architecture Model (SAM), which builds on the premise that meaning can be framed at different textual units within a text, which can form the basis of frame manipulations in framing effects experiments. Third, we provide an Inventory of Framing Effects Research Components used in framing effects research illustrated with salient examples from the framing effects literature. By offering this conceptual framework, we make the case for revitalizing framing effects research.

Full citation: McLeod, D. M., Choung, H., Su, H., Kim, S., Tao R., Liu, J., & Lee, B. (2022). Navigating a diverse paradigm: A conceptual framework for experimental framing effects research. Review of Communication Research.

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