Broadly my interest is in media psychology, which includes the uses and effects of mass media. Based on a study by The Nielsen Company (2021), American adults spend almost half of each day using media. Not half of our waking hours, but rather we spend 42% of each 24-hour period interacting with media (on average). The most dominant form of media in the U.S. is television, which is viewed an average of 26 hours per week. This ubiquity alone would make media of interest to scholars. However, it is often the content that is of concern to scholars and the public alike. As examples, people want to know whether violent video games cause mass shootings, whether watching pornography hurts relationships, and whether Sesame Street provides educational benefits. Through theory and research, media psychology provides answers to these questions and many, many more. My work in particular has looked at the influence of magazines on women’s body image, representations of race and ethnicity in advertising, and the effects of media on children. However, my current work lies at the intersection of media and personal relationships. I have two overlapping lines of research on this topic:
1) Media and romantic relationships. There is no shortage of romantic relationship messages and models across genres of mass media. From love songs to romantic comedy movies to sitcoms, media has a lot to say about romance. Several mass communication theories suggest that using such media can influence one’s beliefs about relationships, relationship-related behaviors, and relationship outcomes. Additionally, one’s current romantic relationship, or lack thereof, could theoretically influence one’s media choices. That said, research is only recently amassing on this socially important topic. I aim to contribute to that body of knowledge.
In this line of work, I published a study on how adults’ use of movies and television is related to their belief in romantic ideals and relationship satisfaction in the journal Communication Studies. Click here for a copy of that article.
2) Parasocial relationships. PSRs are defined as the bonds users form with media figures. Even though the relationships are one-sided, viewers’ attachments to fictional characters and celebrities can be quite strong. I am interested in how these relationships are formed, how they function, how they influence related cognitions and emotions, and what happens when they end, a phenomenon known as a parasocial breakup. More broadly, parasocial relationships fit into scholarship on fandom, which examines the experience of being a media fan. In this line of research I am positioned as an “aca-fan,” an academic researcher who is also a fan.
My study on Grey’s Anatomy fans’ responses to the loss of a beloved character appeared in the Journal of Fandom Studies. Click here for a copy of the article.
These two lines of research have several intersections. For example, some research suggests that individuals might use parasocial relationships to compensate for a lack of real-world connection. I have hypothesized that individuals in long-term relationships might compensate for relationship problems through parasocial bonds. Furthermore, it is also plausible that people build real-world relationships based on their parasocial ones. For example, an individual who is a fan of a particular show might make connections on social media with other fans. Thus my two lines of research often converge.