Annenberg School for Communication

Founded in 1959 through the generosity and vision of diplomat and philanthropist Walter Annenberg, The Annenberg School for Communication stands at the forefront of education, research, and policy studies on the processes, nature, and consequences of existing and emerging media. The School offers students a firm grounding in a wide range of approaches to the study of communication and its methods, drawn from both the humanities and the social sciences. Home to a wide range of centers and projects, including the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research, the Center for Global Communication Studies, the Scholars Program in Culture & Communication, the Institute for Public Service, and others, research at Annenberg encompasses political communication, global communication, health communication, visual communication, cultural studies, children and media, as well as new media and information technologies, with interests extending beyond the classroom. For decades, research conducted by faculty and students at the Annenberg School has influenced public discussion of the role of the media in shaping the perceptions of the viewing public.

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 208
  • Publication
    How The Public Perception Of Political Polarization Affects American Social Life
    (2020-01-01) Lee, Hye-Yon
    Many Americans believe that the country is deeply divided over politics and that polarization will only get worse. Americans also tend to overestimate the degree of polarization and political extremism. Such exaggerated perceptions of polarization are widespread, but we know little about their effects on our society. Existing studies on perceived polarization have tended to focus on its effects on political attitudes and behavior (e.g., whether it leads to actual polarization), yet its impact outside the political sphere remains largely unknown. I argue that people’s perceptions of polarization matter, often above and beyond actual polarization. My dissertation addresses the consequences of perceived polarization for the quality of America’s social fabric. Specifically, I focus on two factors that are essential for social cohesion: social trust (generalized trust in fellow citizens) and cross-cutting contact (interactions across group boundaries). They serve as a social glue that binds people together, as both elements foster positive and tolerant attitudes toward those outside one’s small circle and promote a sense of togetherness among members of society. Is the public perception of polarization detrimental to social trust and cross-cutting contact? My first two studies use data from a nationally representative panel study and an experiment to demonstrate that perceiving greater polarization and extremism undermines Americans’ trust in each other. I find that perceived polarization makes people more skeptical of the good intentions of others and less likely to cooperate for the benefit of the collective. My third study focuses on the role of perceived polarization in limiting cross-cutting contact. To the extent that perceived polarization causes people to be less trusting and more critical of others, it could also negatively impact their willingness to interact with others, especially those unfamiliar and dissimilar to themselves. Using an experiment, I show that perceptions of polarization make people more responsive to social cues that signal attitudinal dissimilarity, which leads them to avoid those of differing political views early in the acquaintanceship phase. People who perceive the country as polarized are more averse to forming social ties and interacting across political lines, reducing opportunities for cross-cutting communication. My dissertation demonstrates that people’s perceptions of polarization have far-reaching consequences beyond the realm of politics and into their everyday lives. In turn, these social consequences have important ramifications for society’s ability to work together towards achieving common goals and bridging social and political divides.
  • Publication
    Constraints to Knowledge Gain and Behavior Change in Response to a Multi-media Health Education Project in Gambia, West Africa
    (1985) McDivitt, Judith A.
    This dissertation examines the role of information in bringing about knowledge and behavior change in health in a developing country. It specifically considers the constraints to change provided by the physical, social, and cultural context in which this information is introduced. The primary questions asked were: Under what conditions and for whom does mass-mediated health information lead to knowledge and does knowledge lead to health behavior change? Conditions hypothesized included factors at the level of the individual (e.g., access to material goods and time, contact with health workers) and compound or village characteristics (e.g., compound wealth, social support, level of development in the village). The research studied a multi-media campaign providing information about the treatment of infant diarrhea in The Gambia, West Africa. The study used survey responses from a stratified sample of 677 rural mothers. The data base included responses from interviews done before and over the first eighteen months of the campaign. The analyses were performed in steps, first testing the relationship between knowledge and practice (or mass media exposure and knowledge) while controlling for possible interviewer bias and other extraneous factors, then examining the interaction effect of the independent variable and each of the hypothesized conditioning factors. Overall, most of the conditioning relationships were not statistically significant and, of those that were, most showed a pattern opposite to that hypothesized. For knowledge and behavior, the major finding was that level of development in the village is a condition significantly affecting the relationship between knowledge about an oral rehydration solution and its use. Social support, family literacy and mother's status also provided positive, although not statistically significant, conditions. For radio exposure and knowledge, mothers with interpersonal sources of information were expected to be more likely to learn from the radio than mothers without interpersonal sources. However, radio exposure only made a significant difference in knowledge for mothers without other sources of information, indicating that the mass media can act as alternative sources of information for those without access to other sources. The most important constraint to knowledge was access to information, rather than situational factors such as wealth, education, or village characteristics. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)
  • Publication
    Excavating Radical Futures: Puppets, Robots, And The Fight For Technology
    (2019-01-01) Erdener, Jasmine
    This project argues that traditional puppetry offers a practice-based approach to think through political and ethical issues in technology and communication. Drawing on three summers of ethnographic participant engagement at Bread and Puppet Theater, a historic and internationally famous political puppet theater, the chapters pair traditional puppetry with visual and textual analysis of contemporary technologies like Sophia, sex robots, and the Cyborg Foundation, and the history of cybernetics and science fiction. Examining this history uncovers the implicit and explicit values and assumptions embedded in the objects and technologies themselves, as well as how popular understandings and representations of those objects can reinforce or counter those narratives. These distinct points of origin took puppetry and robotics in diverging directions, from material negotiation to domination. The consequences of this shift have ongoing repercussions for the way that technology is popularly represented, as well as for how political engagement is conceptualized and enacted. The project concludes by returning to puppetry, and to feminist science fiction and Afrofuturism, to offer possibilities for the future and directions for new work.
  • Publication
    The Corporate Closet Managing Gay Identity on the Job
    (1992) Woods, James D
    Though we tend to think of organizations in asexual terms, a certain model of heterosexuality pervades most white-collar workplaces. Heterosexual behavior and values are disguised by official ideologies that require professionals to be "asexual" at work, in accordance with prevailing beliefs about privacy, professionalism, etiquette, intimacy between co-workers, and the irrelevance of sexuality to work. The hegemony of this model ensures that heterosexuality is rendered invisible, while homosexuality is made to seem disruptive, conspicuous, and unprofessional. Working within these environments, gay professionals adopt one of three strategies in their management of sexual identity. Some men "counterfeit" a heterosexual identity through the manipulation of outward appearances. Others "integrate" an identity by minimizing, normalizing, politicizing or dignifying their sexuality in the workplace. Still another group tries to "avoid" a sexual identity altogether by verbally or situationally dodging sexual displays. Some men use more than one of these strategies, which requires them to segregate their audiences, carefully monitoring the different approach used with each. The choice of strategy is influenced by several factors. Men who counterfeit an identity usually do so to evade the stigma of being gay, but feel socially invisible, anxious, and dishonest. Avoidance strategies protect the gay professional from social situations that might expose or discredit him, but deny him social opportunities and relationships he might enjoy. Finally, men using integration strategies pay for their candor by exposing themselves to prejudice, intensified performance pressures, and the double-edged sword of tokenism. The men's choice of strategy was also influenced by their co-workers' attitudes towards homosexuality, by their perceived economic vulnerability, and by the availability of role models. The study draws on interviews with 70 men in five U.S. cities. They range in age from 22 to 64 and represent a wide range of professional, white-collar organizations.
  • Publication
    Neural And Psychological Bases Of Health News Sharing
    (2018-01-01) Scholz, Christin
    Mass media content often propagates through social channels, for instance through shares on social media. In these social spaces, message effects interact with social forces like social influence to impact behavior and attitudes which has important implications for large-scale media effects. The abundance of online data about sharing patterns has enabled detailed descriptions of these processes but commonly used methods are less well suited to understand the psychological processes that facilitate sharing decisions. To address this knowledge gap, this dissertation used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study processes occurring in propagation chains where communicators shared New York Times health news articles with receivers through Facebook messages. Results from four empirical studies support a parsimonious framework, suggesting that communicators integrate considerations of the expected self-related and social outcomes of sharing into an overall signal of the value of sharing a piece of content which directly impacts their choices. To this end, Chapter 2 demonstrates the involvement of neural activity in regions associated with self-related, social, and value-related processing in sharing decisions made by individual communicators. Chapter 3 shows that the extent of neural value-related activity in response to these articles is significantly related to population-level sharing behavior of hundreds of thousands of real-world online New York Times readers and that neural valuation mediates the effects of self-related and social processing on choice. Chapter 4 demonstrates that these key processes are relevant across sharing contexts, namely when communicators are faced with different audience sizes. Yet the measures used here still showed insightful context-sensitivity through modulation of signal intensity. Finally, Chapter 5 discusses neural communicator-receiver coupling of activity in key regions of interest associated with valuation, self-related and social processing as a facilitator of information transfer between communications and receivers. Significant coupling suggests that central processes identified in communicators may propagate through social interaction and impact secondary receivers. In sum, this dissertation offers a detailed, parsimonious framework of the neural and psychological bases of sharing decisions and thus constitutes progress in scientific efforts to optimally account for and utilize social forces in the design of large-scale message campaigns and interventions.
  • Publication
    Where The Two Trusts Meet: How Social Trust Influences Political Trust In The New Media Environment
    (2021-01-01) Lee, Do Eon
    In the modern democratic society, where it is difficult to get to know politicians in person or to fully internalize the complex political system, news articles strongly influence the forming and updating of political trust. Technical developments have created the layer of one’s personal network between traditional media and its audience by allowing one to share any article with a few clicks. Reflecting this change in how one shares information, this dissertation investigates how online social trust influences one’s political trust, a more deep-seated attitude. There is little agreement on how to conceptualize and measure political trust. Study 1 shows how the NPTMS (New Political Trust Measurement Survey) demonstrates a gap between how the public creates the meaning of political trust and how scholars do. It then proposes more reliable and valid measures of political trust. To better simulate information exchange online, this dissertation introduces the concept of OIST (online interpersonal social trust), trust in a particular person from one’s online social networks. Study 2 looks at the factors that lead to OIST and explores how to manipulate it in an experimental setting. By combining two different manipulation strategies—partner profile and flashcard exercise—OIST was successfully manipulated without influencing other types of social trust. Based on the NPTMS and OIST manipulation strategies, Study 3 connects OIST with political trust and experimentally demonstrates that they are causally related but moderated by the valence of the shared; receiving an article negatively depicting the government from a person one trusts resulted in a lower level of trust in the subjects of the article. This dissertation uses OIST to also reflect the recent changes in how the public consumes news. It offers evidence that “regular people,” who are not necessarily experts or opinion leaders in a particular subject, can make others significantly readjust their levels of political trust. As an increasing number of people consume news through their online social networks, we should note that each individual can influence another’s trust in government, and that the effect may accumulate with continued interactions.
  • Publication
    Misguided Benevolence: How ‘moments Of Need’ Came To Motivate American Journalism
    (2018-01-01) Conrad, David
    This dissertation is about the role of nonprofit funding in U.S. journalism, one of the most popular solutions to the tricky reality that many Americans want a model of news that is free of government and commercial control, but seem unwilling to pay for it. From deciding what stories get covered, to where they are reported, to how they are framed, to how audiences are prompted to interact with them, nonprofits have quietly slid into this moment of news industry precarity to impart considerable influence over how the news is made. And few people seem to have noticed. One reason for this is that we don’t yet have a common language or framework for understanding what nonprofit influence is actually having on the news - what’s new and what’s not, who it is intended to benefit and who is left out, and why any of it really matters at all. In response to each of these gaps, this study draws on archival research related to one of the first major efforts of nonprofit-journalism collaboration, a four-month ethnography as a grant-funded journalist in a newsroom, and more than 100 in-depth interviews with journalists who reported a global news story on nonprofit strings. In the end, this dissertation challenges several preconceptions of nonprofit-involvement in newsmaking and offers a triad of preconditions -- precedent, structure, and tone -- to explain nonprofit influence in journalism today. I argue that nonprofit-journalism newsmaking is especially geared to produce ‘moment of need’ images and narratives in response to stories of crisis, as a means to at once raise and strategically answer questions of solidarity and intervention for news audiences. I ultimately find that this strategic method of storytelling is not oriented to benefit the individuals whose stories are routinely told, but to legitimize the nonprofit and news institutions that produce them and to give agency to the news audiences that consume them. In doing so, this dissertation gives expression to the unintended consequences of well-intentioned journalists, and aims to start a spirited discussion on why everyone should should care about the direction of nonprofits in journalism today.
  • Publication
    Social Influence As A Component of Contextual Effects: A Study of Diarrheal Treatment in Zaire
    (1994) Zheng, Zhong
    Social influence is an important theoretical factor when studying how an individual's thoughts and behaviors are formed. However, empirical evidence demonstrating its effects is difficult to obtain due to the nature of social influence. One problem is that its exact source is often unclear. Also, because social influence is an ongoing process, its effects are cumulative and therefore difficult to measure directly. An analytic model based on the contextual analysis approach is developed in this study and applied to survey data that was collected in Zaire using a cluster sampling method. As respondents from the same cluster (community) live geographically close or in the same neighborhood, it is assumed that if social influence is affecting individual respondents, their behavior will be associated with their community of residence. This model first measures the associations between community of residence and the outcome variables, which represent the total effects of community of residence. After community structural variations are controlled for, it is argued that any resulting residual effects are likely due to social influence. Eleven outcome variables (which measure thoughts and behaviors related to diarrhea and its treatment) were found to be significantly associated with community of residence, and are analyzed in this study. Bivariate relationships between these outcome variables and various community compositional variables (such as community levels of education and wealth) and community infrastructural variables (such as access to health facilities) are examined. The community variables that are significantly related to outcome variables are controlled. Residual community of residence effects are found with respect to some outcome variables, and thus the social influence hypothesis is partially supported. The weakness of this approach is that evidence supporting the social influence hypothesis is gathered by eliminating all alternative hypotheses, without directly measuring social influence as a variable. Since it is very difficult to specify and eliminate all possible alternative variables, the conclusions about the presence and effect of social influence are tentative.
  • Publication
    Belief Echoes: The Persistent Effects of Corrected Misinformation
    (2013-01-01) Thorson, Emily
    The omnipresence of political misinformation in the today's media environment raises serious concerns about citizens' ability make fully informed decisions. In response to these concerns, the last few years have seen a renewed commitment to journalistic and institutional fact-checking. The assumption of these efforts is that successfully correcting misinformation will prevent it from affecting citizens' attitudes. However, through a series of experiments, I find that exposure to a piece of negative political information persists in shaping attitudes even after the information has been successfully discredited. A correction--even when it is fully believed--does not eliminate the effects of misinformation on attitudes. These lingering attitudinal effects, which I call "belief echoes," are created even when the misinformation is corrected immediately, arguably the gold standard of journalistic fact-checking. Belief echoes can be affective or cognitive. Affective belief echoes are created through a largely unconscious process in which a piece of negative information has a stronger impact on evaluations than does its correction. Cognitive belief echoes, on the other hand, are created through a conscious cognitive process during which a person recognizes that a particular negative claim about a candidate is false, but reasons that its presence increases the likelihood of other negative information being true. Experimental results suggest that while affective belief echoes are created across party lines, cognitive belief echoes are more likely when a piece of misinformation reinforces a person's pre-existing political views. The existence of belief echoes provide an enormous incentive for politicians to strategically spread false information with the goal of shaping public opinion on key issues. However, results from two more experiments show that politicians also suffer consequences for making false claims, an encouraging finding that has the potential to constrain the behavior of politicians presented with the opportunity to strategically create belief echoes. While the existence of belief echoes may also provide a disincentive for the media to engage in serious fact-checking, evidence also suggests that such efforts can also have positive consequences by increasing citizens' trust in media.