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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Category: Computational Approaches and Message Effects Research Group

New grant for CAMER faculty lead Sijia Yang

New grant awarded by ICTR to CAMER faculty lead Sijia Yang and his team to help reduce vaccine hesitancy in rural communities in Wisconsin and beyond. Yang serves as co-investigator.

Stakeholder and Patient Engaged Research Pilot Award

Community Co-Design and Pilot Test of Public Health Messages Addressing Pediatric Vaccine Hesitancy in Rural America
Malia Jones, PhD; College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Academic Collaborators: Susan Passmore, UW SMPH; Sijia Yang, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

UW Program Partners: UW Collaborative Center for Health Equity

Community Collaborators: Wisconsin Head Start Association, Wisconsin Council of Churches, Southwestern WI Community Action Program

Vaccines have safely prevented millions of cases of childhood illness, but vaccine hesitancy is a growing problem. Compared to suburban areas, routine kids’ vaccination rates were lower in rural areas before COVID-19, and many children fell behind in their vaccination schedule amidst the disruptions of the pandemic. Evidence-based strategies for addressing vaccine hesitancy include culturally-competent tailored messaging. However, little is known about the ideological frames, barriers, and context of vaccine-hesitant rural Wisconsin parents. This interdisciplinary team will build on research expertise in vaccine hesitancy, methodologies to study health message design, effective delivery, behavioral change, and the social construction of trust. To identify effective messages to address pediatric vaccine hesitancy in rural parents, they will apply a stakeholder-engaged co-design process with three community partners with insights into the needs of their communities. The health promotion messages will then be tested in a national panel of rural-living parents. Results will be shared with community partners and local public health departments.

Link: https://ictr.wisc.edu/documents/2022-pilot-award-summaries/

CAMER publishes new article “How Climate Movement Actors and News Media Frame Climate Change and Strike: Evidence from Analyzing Twitter and News Media Discourse from 2018 to 2021”

In the new article “How Climate Movement Actors and News Media Frame Climate Change and Strike: Evidence from Analyzing Twitter and News Media Discourse from 2018 to 2021” in The International Journal of Press and Politics, the Computational Approaches and Message Effects Research group used a comprehensive Twitter dataset to investigate how the climate movement is framed on Twitter and they analyze the evolution of frames over time against the backdrop of critical events.

Abstract:

Twitter enables an online public sphere for social movement actors, news organizations, and others to frame climate change and the climate movement. In this paper, we analyze five million English tweets posted from 2018 to 2021 demonstrating how peaks in Twitter activity relate to key events and how the framing of the climate strike discourse has evolved over the past three years. We also collected over 30,000 news articles from major news sources in English-speaking countries (Australia, Canada, United States, United Kingdom) to demonstrate how climate movement actors and media differ in their framing of this issue, attention to policy solutions, attribution of blame, and efforts to mobilize citizens to act on this issue. News outlets tend to report on global politicians’ (in)action toward climate policy, the consequences of climate change, and industry’s response to the climate crisis. Differently, climate movement actors on Twitter advocate for political actions and policy changes as well as addressing the social justice issues surrounding climate change. We also revealed that conversations around the climate movement on Twitter are highly politicized, with a substantial number of tweets targeting politicians, partisans, and country actors. These findings contribute to our understanding of how people use social media to frame political issues and collective action, in comparison to the traditional mainstream news outlets.

Full citation: Chen K, Molder AL, Duan Z, et al. How Climate Movement Actors and News Media Frame Climate Change and Strike: Evidence from Analyzing Twitter and News Media Discourse from 2018 to 2021. The International Journal of Press/Politics. June 2022. doi:10.1177/19401612221106405

Access the article: https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/G2NAZJM6NYFXDEPK2VCE/full

New article from CAMER “Textual and pictorial enhancement of cannabis warning labels: An Online experiment among at-risk U.S. young adults”

In the new article “Textual and pictorial enhancement of cannabis warning labels: An Online experiment among at-risk U.S. young adults” in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the Computational Approaches and Message Effects Research group examines whether enhanced cannabis warning labels (CWLs) outperform those currently required in the U.S. in improving recall of health risks, emotional responses, and perceived message effectiveness among at-risk young adults.

Abstract:

Background

This study experimentally examines whether enhanced cannabis warning labels (CWLs) outperform those currently required in the U.S. in improving recall of health risks, emotional responses, and perceived message effectiveness among at-risk young adults.

Method

We conducted an online national survey-based experiment in October 2020. Young adults aged 18–26 years old and at-risk for cannabis use (N = 523) were randomly assigned in an online experiment, to view either currently required CWLs in California with small font and a composite health risk statement, or enhanced single-theme CWLs with varying textual and pictorial components. We performed linear regression analyses to compare the enhanced with existing CWLs on information recall, negative emotions, and perceived message effectiveness. Furthermore, information recall and negative emotions were examined as parallel mediators to better understand the mechanisms underlying effective textual and pictorial enhancement of CWLs.

Results

Compared with currently required CWLs in California, both textually (b = 0.30, p = .011) and pictorially (b = 0.59, p < .001) enhanced CWLs increased recall accuracy. Pictorially enhanced CWLs outperformed their text-only counterparts (b = 0.28, p = .019) in improving information recall. Only pictorially enhanced CWLs improved perceived message effectiveness (b = 0.31, p = .008), which was mediated by negative emotions but not by information recall.

Conclusions

Given rapid expansion of the cannabis industry and declining perception of harm, currently required CWLs in the U.S. such as California’s, would benefit from redesign to improve public understanding of health risks and to prevent youth use.

Full citation: Sang Jung Kim, Matt Minich, Arina Tveleneva, Jiaying Liu, Alisa A. Padon, Lynn D. Silver, Sijia Yang, Textual and pictorial enhancement of cannabis warning labels: An Online experiment among at-risk U.S. young adults, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 237, 1 August 2022.

Access the article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871622002575

New publication “Algorithmic Agents in the Hybrid Media System: Social Bots, Selective Amplification, and Partisan News about COVID-19” from CAMER

In the new article “Algorithmic Agents in the Hybrid Media System: Social Bots, Selective Amplification, and Partisan News about COVID-19” in the journal Human Communication Research, the Computational Approaches and Message Effects Research group employed bot detection techniques, structural topic modeling, and time series analysis to characterize the temporal associations between the topics Twitter bots tend to amplify and subsequent news coverage across the partisan spectrum.

Abstract: Social bots, or algorithmic agents that amplify certain viewpoints and interact with selected actors on social media, may influence online discussion, news attention, or even public opinion through coordinated action. Previous research has documented the presence of bot activities and developed detection algorithms. Yet, how social bots influence attention dynamics of the hybrid media system remains understudied. Leveraging a large collection of both tweets (N = 1,657,551) and news stories (N = 50,356) about the early COVID-19 pandemic, we employed bot detection techniques, structural topic modeling, and time series analysis to characterize the temporal associations between the topics Twitter bots tend to amplify and subsequent news coverage across the partisan spectrum. We found that bots represented 8.98% of total accounts, selectively promoted certain topics and predicted coverage aligned with partisan narratives. Our macro-level longitudinal description highlights the role of bots as algorithmic communicators and invites future research to explain micro-level causal mechanisms.

Full citation: Zening Duan, Jianing Li, Josephine Lukito, Kai-Cheng Yang, Fan Chen, Dhavan V Shah, Sijia Yang, Algorithmic Agents in the Hybrid Media System: Social Bots, Selective Amplification, and Partisan News about COVID-19, Human Communication Research, 2022;, hqac012, https://doi.org/10.1093/hcr/hqac012

Access the article: https://academic.oup.com/hcr/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/hcr/hqac012/6587151

CAMER publishes “Twitter as research data: Tools, costs, skill sets, and lessons learned”

In the new article “Twitter as research data: Tools, costs, skill sets, and lessons learned” in the journal Politics and the Life Sciences, the Computational Approaches and Message Effects Research (CAMER) group evaluates Twitter data collection tools in terms of costs, training, and data quality as a means to introduce Twitter data as a research tool

Abstract: Scholars increasingly use Twitter data to study the life sciences and politics. However, Twitter data collection tools often pose challenges for scholars who are unfamiliar with their operation. Equally important, although many tools indicate that they offer representative samples of the full Twitter archive, little is known about whether the samples are indeed representative of the targeted population of tweets. This article evaluates such tools in terms of costs, training, and data quality as a means to introduce Twitter data as a research tool. Further, using an analysis of COVID-19 and moral foundations theory as an example, we compared the distributions of moral discussions from two commonly used tools for accessing Twitter data (Twitter’s standard APIs and third-party access) to the ground truth, the Twitter full archive. Our results highlight the importance of assessing the comparability of data sources to improve confidence in findings based on Twitter data. We also review the major new features of Twitter’s API version 2.

Full citation: Chen, K., Duan, Z., & Yang, S. (2021). Twitter as research data: Tools, costs, skill sets, and lessons learned. Politics and the Life Sciences, 1-17. doi:10.1017/pls.2021.19

Access the article: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/politics-and-the-life-sciences/article/twitter-as-research-data-tools-costs-skillsets-and-lessons-learned/6B31D18C5E2F9B8F9C0301BFB05F1C27

Yang Co-Investigator on Two New Grants to Study Vaccine Hesitancy

Computational Approaches and Message Effects Research (CAMER) group faculty leader Sijia Yang is a co-investigator on two new grants. The grants will fund projects researching vaccine hesitancy

The first grant is funded by the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research through the Clinical and Community Outcomes Research Pilot Awards mechanism.

Promoting COVID Vaccine Acceptance for Safety Net Providers and Patients in Wisconsin
Susan Passmore, PhD, School of Medicine and Public Health
Academic Collaborators: Dorothy Farrar-Edwards, SoE & SMPH; Sijia Yang, L&S
UW Program Partners: Collaborative Center for Health Equity
Community Collaborators: Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association (Stephanie Harrison, Sashikala Gregory)

Abstract: As the COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed, we find ourselves in a context of greatly exacerbated mistrust of science, health professionals and the government and, in turn, the likeness of vaccine rejection, especially among underserved populations who disproportionately suffer from high COVID-19 prevalence, hospitalization and death rates. The goals of this study are to (1) develop a stakeholder engagement plan and messaging strategies toolkit to increase health care providers’ ability to promote a COVID vaccine to patients under initial distribution conditions; (2) conduct a mixed-method exploration (focus groups & survey) to identify promising patient beliefs and message themes regarding COVID-19 prevention and vaccine uptake to improve vaccine acceptability among patients for use by FQHC leadership and providers; and (3) assess the effectiveness of messaging through a survey-based message evaluation experiment.

The second grant is funded by the CDC through UW-Madison Preventive Research Center for the implementation of CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine confidence strategy.

Connecting Behavioral Science to COVID-19 Vaccine Demand Network
Dr. Susan Passmore, Collaborative Center for Health Equity
Collaborators: Dr. Malia Jones, UW Applied Population Laboratory and Dear Pandemic, Dr. Andy Garbacz, Department of Educational Psychology, and Dr. Sijia Yang, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Description: The goal is to identify key behavioral insights that will inform effective solutions to increase confidence in the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines, and ultimately uptake.

As COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out, high uptake of the vaccines is necessary to reduce the burden of disease and control the pandemic. To ensure high uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, communities need to have:

1) Sufficient confidence in the vaccines
2) Healthcare professionals who administer vaccines
3) The public health system that authorizes/approves, recommends, and monitors vaccines.

Promoting confidence in vaccines will require more than messages. With this project we will seek to build trust and confidence among Wisconsin’s rural families with children. We are collaborating with partners that have considerable relationship and reach in the rural communities, including: Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Programs (SWCAP), the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association (WPHCA), and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Immunization Program. Dear, Pandemic, is an additional collaborator that produces accessible, credible, and timely information about COVID-19, vaccines, and vaccination.

Working in close collaboration with our community partners, we will use existing data to co-design messages to be used in social media, community education, and a provider toolkit.

The budget allocated from these two grants combined will allow Yang to hire a 12-month RA and support graduate and undergraduate students during the summer months through funded student hourly positions. There is also a research budget to develop, test, and implement effective message interventions to address vaccine hesitancy in Wisconsin, especially in rural communities.

MCRC Faculty Leaders Win 2020 Fall Research Competition Grant

MCRC Faculty Leaders Chris Cascio, Communication, Brain and Behavior (CBB) Lab Faculty Leader, and Sijia Yang, Computational Approaches and Message Effects Research (CAMER) Group Faculty Leader, are co-PIs on a new project, “Developing and Testing the Impacts of Cannabis Prevention Messages for At-Risk Young Adults”. They have received funding for their proposal submitted to the 2020 Fall Research Competition.

Abstract: The proliferation of legalizing recreational use of cannabis products, combined with shifted public perceptions and youth-appealing marketing has put young adults at high risk for cannabis use initiation and progression into disorder. Despite that early onset of regular cannabis use is associated with higher health risks and poorer educational and vocational attainment, young adults’ harm perceptions have been nevertheless declining. To improve knowledge and prevent early and habitual use, cannabis prevention messages (CPMs) are required to facilitate educational communication campaigns and enhance health warning labels on product packages and advertisements. However, little research exists to provide an empirical basis for designing effective CPMs for this age group. We propose a multi-method approach that combines the strengths of online conjoint experiment and neuroimaging to identify effective CPMs promising in improving knowledge and preventing cannabis use among young people.

New Fact-Checking Projects Focus on Combating COVID-19 Misinformation

UW student Megan Skoyen dispenses viral transport media for COVID-19 test kits that are being created at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (WVDL) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on July 2, 2020. The WVDL is partnering with the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene, University Health Services, the School of Medicine and Public Health and others on campus to set up widespread COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff in preparation to reopen the campus this fall. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

With information about COVID-19 rapidly circulating online, it can be difficult to determine what’s true and what’s not. Social media has made it even easier for misinformation and disinformation to spread unchecked. Knowing whether a claim or a source is reputable can be daunting, even for the savviest media consumers.

As the UW-Madison community of students, faculty and staff begin to plan their return to campus, having a verified and reliable source for information will be crucial to maintaining everyone’s health and safety. One such source is the COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect app.

Developed by a collaboration of campus groups, COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect is a free desktop and mobile app that provides accurate information, social support and helpful resources to Wisconsinites. One key feature of the app is the COVID-19 Fact Checker, a digest of information that separates COVID facts from fiction.

The information in the COVID-19 Fact Checker is provided by the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal (CCCR) within the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Communication experts from CCCR find questions and misinformation related to COVID-19 on social media in Wisconsin, and conduct fact-checks using vetted content from experts at leading health and government sources to correct the misinformation.

“We see it as an essential part of the Wisconsin Idea for students and faculty to work together to bring the best information about the pandemic to the people of our state,” said Michael Wagner, SJMC Professor and Director of the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal.

Fact-checks can be an effective way to both identify and correct misinformation about COVID-19. One group dedicated to this work, the International Fact-Checking Network’s (IFCN) CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, has been working diligently to catalog over 7,600 fact-checks about COVID-19 into the CoronaVirusFacts Database.

Recently, IFCN chose six new researchers to join the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance and receive access to the CoronaVirusFacts Database for their research projects. Two of the researchers selected are from UW SJMC: Assistant Professor Sijia Yang, faculty leader of the Mass Communication Research Center’s (MCRC) Computational Approaches and Message Effects Research (CAMER) Group, and graduate student Yiping Xia.

Yang’s project, “Identifying and Implementing Effective Visual Enhancements to Correct High-Priority COVID-19 Misinformation”, also received funding from IFCN. His project will examine how visual fact-checks, such as infographics or illustrations, can influence public understanding of COVID-19. Using the fact-checks from the database, the team will design a series of surveys and experiments to find which visual fact-checks are most effective at fighting COVID-19 misinformation. Additionally, he plans to use the findings from his research to add information to the Fact Checker within the COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect app.

SJMC graduate students Janice Li, Ran Tao and Communication Arts graduate student Liwei Shen are collaborating with Yang as student project leaders, with the input from SJMC professor Dhavan Shah and alum Porismita Borah, now an Associate Professor at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.

“Many researchers around the world have already made impressive progress in tracking the rise and diffusion of various types of COVID-19 misinformation,” Yang said. “But not all misinformation is relevant for behaviors such as wearing masks and practicing physical distancing. Given limited resources and the severity of the pandemic, we need to focus on correcting misinformation that is most consequential for public health; we need to identify effective correction strategies to achieve that goal. Our project focuses on visual enhancements to corrections because visuals are often necessary to attract scant audience attention in today’s media environment and are potentially appealing to vulnerable populations with education deprivation or cognitive impairment. I hope the results from our project can inform our fact-checking efforts in CWC and provide evidence-based recommendations to the broader fact-checker community through our funder Poynter/IFCN.”

Xia’s project will look at how fact-checkers from around the world present fact-checks about the same information. By doing so, he hopes to understand diverse audience responses to similar misinformation in order to improve how fact-checkers communicate.

“I will work with SJMC Professor Lucas Graves to compare COVID-19 fact checks by organizations of different national backgrounds. We hope to understand how fact-checkers from different countries use different sources, or frame these sources differently, when writing about common themes of COVID-19 misinformation,” Xia said. “This research sheds light on the roles that cultural, political and institutional contexts may play in shaping effective responses to COVID-19 misinformation.”