1. Study suggests emotional images sway people more than emotional words

    February 14, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Can your behavior be influenced by subtle, barely visible signals, such as an emotionally charged image briefly flashed on a TV screen or roadside billboard? It may sound like hysteria about covert advertising — but according to new research published in open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, the answer is yes.

    Piotr Winkielman, of the University of California, San Diego, has been studying the effect for quite a while. In a previous study, Winkielman and colleagues reported that showing brief images of happy faces to thirsty people led them to drink more of a beverage immediately afterwards, whereas images of scowling faces led them to drink less. Remarkably, the participants were not aware of a change in their emotional state. In this new study, the researchers expanded the scope of their tests beyond faces to other images and words.

    “We wanted to compare two major kinds of emotional stimuli that people encounter in their life: words and pictures, including those of emotional faces and evocative images of objects,” says Winkielman. “We also tested if it matters whether these stimuli are presented very briefly or for a longer period of time.”

    The researchers asked undergraduates to classify objects, faces, or words on a computer screen. While showing a series of emotionally neutral images in quick succession, the researchers included brief flashes of faces, pictures or words that were either positive or negative. After the task, the researchers provided a soft drink and allowed the participants to drink as much as they liked.

    The first experiment compared the effect of emotive words, such as “panda” (positive) and “knife” (negative), with that of happy (positive) and angry (negative) facial expressions. The second compared the effect of emotive words with images of emotionally charged objects, such as a gun or a cute dog.

    As in previous studies, participants drank more after seeing happy faces than after seeing angry faces. Participants also drank more after seeing positive objects than after seeing negative objects. In contrast, positive words did not increase consumption.

    “We found that emotive images of objects altered the amount that participants drank, with ‘positive’ objects increasing consumption and ‘negative’ objects decreasing it,” says Winkielman. “But people were not swayed by emotional words, which were somehow powerless — even though the words were rated to be as emotive as the pictures.”

    Surprisingly, nearly invisible images — shown for only 10 milliseconds — had the same effect as clearly noticeable images shown for 200 milliseconds.

    “In our experiment, the duration of the emotional cue did not matter for its ability to influence consumption,” says Winkielman. “This echoes some previous studies, however we need stronger evidence to confidently claim that fleeting images work as well as more noticeable images in altering behavior.”

    Figuring out why emotive images are more powerful than emotive words is the researchers’ next task. They hypothesize that emotionally charged pictures may speak more directly to us than words, which can be nuanced and ambiguous, and may require more thought before they affect us.

    The results raise many questions: “We know from our other research that words in sentences are emotionally impactful, but why?” asks Winkielman. “Is it because they can conjure up images?”

    For now, at least, it appears that a single picture is worth more than a word. More than a thousand words? That’s yet to be discovered.


  2. Study finds more screen time correlated with less happiness in young people

    February 13, 2018 by Ashley

    From the San Diego State University press release:

    Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens whose eyes are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study lead author and San Diego State University and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

    To investigate this link, Twenge, along with colleagues Gabrielle Martin at SDSU and W. Keith Campbell at the University of Georgia, crunched data from the Monitoring the Future (MtF) longitudinal study, a nationally representative survey of more than a million U.S. 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. The survey asked students questions about how often they spent time on their phones, tablets and computers, as well as questions about their in-the-flesh social interactions and their overall happiness.

    On average, they found that teens who spent more time in front of screen devices — playing computer games, using social media, texting and video chatting — were less happy than those who invested more time in non-screen activities like sports, reading newspapers and magazines, and face-to-face social interaction.

    Twenge believes this screen time is driving unhappiness rather than the other way around.

    “Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” said Twenge, author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

    Total screen abstinence doesn’t lead to happiness either, Twenge found. The happiest teens used digital media a little less than an hour per day. But after a daily hour of screen time, unhappiness rises steadily along with increasing screen time, the researchers report today in the journal Emotion.

    “The key to digital media use and happiness is limited use,” Twenge said. “Aim to spend no more than two hours a day on digital media, and try to increase the amount of time you spend seeing friends face-to-face and exercising — two activities reliably linked to greater happiness.”

    Looking at historical trends from the same age groups since the 1990s, the researchers found that the proliferation of screen devices over time coincided with a general drop-off in reported happiness in U.S. teens. Specifically, young people’s life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness plummeted after 2012. That’s the year that the percentage of Americans who owned a smartphone rose above 50 percent, Twenge noted.

    “By far the largest change in teens’ lives between 2012 and 2016 was the increase in the amount of time they spent on digital media, and the subsequent decline in in-person social activities and sleep,” she said. “The advent of the smartphone is the most plausible explanation for the sudden decrease in teens’ psychological well-being.”


  3. Study suggests teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

    January 20, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Cancer Research UK press release:

    Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

    Being bombarded by TV ads for unhealthy, high calorie food could lead teens to eat more than 500 extra snacks like crisps, biscuits and fizzy drinks throughout the course of a single year compared to those who watch less TV.

    Energy and other fizzy drinks high in sugar, takeaways and chips were some of the foods which were more likely to be eaten by teens who watched a lot of TV with adverts.

    The report, based on a YouGov survey, questioned 3,348 young people in the UK between the ages of 11-19 on their TV viewing habits and diet.

    When teens watched TV without adverts researchers found no link between screen time and likelihood of eating more junk food. This suggests that the adverts on commercial TV may be driving youngsters to snack on more unhealthy food.

    The report is also the biggest ever UK study to assess the association of TV streaming on diet.

    It found that teens who said they regularly streamed TV shows with ads were more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks compared to someone with low advert exposure from streaming TV, and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals than those who streamed less TV.

    Regularly eating high calorie food and drink – which usually has higher levels of fat and sugar- increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

    Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, and is linked to 13 types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.

    Dr Jyotsna Vohra, a lead author on the study from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is the strongest evidence yet that junk food adverts could increase how much teens choose to eat. We’re not claiming that every teenager who watches commercial TV will gorge on junk food but this research suggests there is a strong association between advertisements and eating habits.

    “It’s been 10 years since the first, and only, TV junk food marketing regulations were introduced by Ofcom and they’re seriously out of date. Ofcom must stop junk food adverts being shown during programmes that are popular with young people, such as talent shows and football matches, where there’s currently no regulation.

    “Our report suggests that reducing junk food TV marketing could help to halt the obesity crisis.”

    The Obesity Health Alliance recently published a report which found that almost 60% of food and drink adverts shown during programmes popular with adults and 4-16 year olds were for unhealthy foods which would be banned from children’s TV channels.

    Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Obese children are five times more likely to remain obese as adults which can increase their risk of cancer later in life.

    “The food industry will continue to push their products into the minds of teens if they’re allowed to do so. The Government needs to work with Ofcom to protect the health of the next generation.”


  4. Study finds no link between watching TV crime shows and ability to conceal crime

    January 10, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Universität Mainz press release:

    Does watching the work of fictional forensic investigators on TV influence viewers? There is a belief that this is the case and that the consequences of people watching shows such as the American crime drama television series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” are filtering through into real life, a phenomenon that has been called the CSI effect. In the worst case, it is feared, potential criminals will learn how to better conceal a crime from these shows. In addition, concerns have been expressed that members of U.S. juries may now have excessive expectations regarding the evidence and as a result are more likely to acquit the accused. A team of psychologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz working under Professor Heiko Hecht have now sounded the all-clear — at least in one respect. In an experimental study, the German researchers have been able to find no evidence of a correlation between watching forensic science TV shows and the ability to get away with committing a crime. This is the first study to look at the question of whether criminals could profit from viewing dramas of this sort.

    CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is a popular U.S. TV series which first hit the small screen in its home country in 2000. It focuses on the characters and the work of a team of forensic crime scene investigators. The effect named for this series was soon applied to any repercussions that it was held such widely-viewed crime shows had with regard to the general public — including criminals, the police, and potential students of forensic medicine. “Over many years, it was presumed that certain links in this regard exist, although there were no appropriate studies to prove this,” said Dr. Andreas Baranowski. He and his colleagues at Mainz University have now undertaken four separate investigations of related claims with the aim of obtaining the most reliable possible findings.

    As a first step, the psychologists took a look at statistics from the databases of the FBI and its German equivalent, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), and compared the crime detection rates during the years preceding the launch of the CSI series with the subsequent rates. Then they asked 24 convicted criminals in prisons for their opinions on series such as CSI and whether they thought such shows could help when it came to escaping prosecution. Thirdly, the researchers put together a complex experimental design to find out whether viewers of TV shows like CSI would, as trial subjects, actually be better equipped to erase the traces of an, in this case, mock crime. Baranowski and his colleagues completed their series of trials in the form of a fourth test, in which a crime was re-enacted with the help of a doll’s house.

    No CSI learning effect for criminals

    On the whole, the researchers did not find any connection between watching forensic dramas and the ability to successfully avoid detection after committing a crime. However, the male subjects in the fourth part of the experiment performed better than female subjects, and younger subjects better than older subjects while more highly educated subjects did better than less well educated study subjects. Study subjects working in technical professions, primarily men, appear to have certain advantages when it comes to concealing crimes.

    Baranowski pointed out it had already been postulated in the past that something like the CSI effect could exist. Starting with Sherlock Holmes and continuing as police procedurals, such as Quincy and Law & Order, appeared on TV, warning voices made themselves heard that the wrong kind of people could benefit from the insights provided. “Every time something new emerges there are people who focus in one aspect and without a full and proper consideration sense possible risks and thus call for bans.” The findings in this context can be said to pour cold water on attitudes like this. “We can now dispel certain of the myths that have been coursing through the media and other publications for the past 20 years because we are able to state with relative certainty that people who watch CSI are no better at covering their tracks than other people.”

    Dr. Andreas Baranowski supervised the study, “The CSI-education effect: Do potential criminals benefit from forensic TV series?,” at the Division of General Experimental Psychology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and works as a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Giessen University.


  5. Study examines screen time addiction in youth

    December 9, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Michigan press release:

    It’s a familiar sight in the majority of young families: young children bent over a screen for hours, texting or gaming, lost in a digital world.

    Many parents worry, how much screen time is too much?

    But a recent study found that may be the wrong question. The findings suggest that how children use the devices, not how much time they spend on them, is the strongest predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen addiction. This held true after researchers controlled for screen time.

    “Typically, researchers and clinicians quantify or consider the amount of screen time as of paramount importance in determining what is normal or not normal or healthy or unhealthy,” said lead author Sarah Domoff, who did the research while a postdoctoral research fellow at University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development.

    “Our study has demonstrated that there is more to it than number of hours. What matters most is whether screen use causes problems in other areas of life or has become an all-consuming activity.”

    Much research exists on adolescents and screen use, but Domoff said that to her knowledge this is the first tool in the United States that measures screen media addiction in children ages 4-11. She believes it will be a valuable tool for parents, clinicians and researchers.

    Some of the warning signs include: if screen time interferes with daily activities, causes conflict for the child or in the family, or is the only activity that brings the child joy.

    Kids who use media in unhealthy ways have problems with relationships, conduct and other emotional symptoms, Domoff said. The study didn’t examine whether the emotional and behavior problems or the media addiction came first.

    Domoff, a research faculty affiliate at U-M’s Center for Human Growth and Development, is now an assistant professor of psychology at Central Michigan University. Other study authors include: U-M’s Kristen Harrison, Ashley Gearhardt, Julie Lumeng and Alison Miller; and Douglas Gentile of Iowa State State University.


  6. Study suggests celebrity and status may not always help companies

    November 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Notre Dame press release:

    Businesses that have attracted lots of positive media coverage and are also affiliated with high-status venture capitalists or underwriters may seem like poster children for corporate success. But new research from the University of Notre Dame shows this kind of attention may be too much of a good thing.

    The study “Safe Bets or Hot Hands? How Status and Celebrity Influence Strategic Alliance Formations by Newly Public Firms” defines the media attention aspect as “celebrity” and the venture capitalist and underwriter affiliations as “status.” Together, they serve as lenses that influence how people process other information about a firm, according to researcher Tim Hubbard, assistant professor of management in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. But possessing both assets–celebrity and status together–is actually more of a disadvantage than possessing one or the other.

    “We show that possessing multiple social approval assets might not always be beneficial,” says Hubbard. “The relative predictability of high-status firms conflicts with the rebel nature of celebrities. It’s like looking through two different–and incompatible–lenses at the same time.”

    This challenges the assumption that accumulating such assets is always beneficial. The study– co-authored by Timothy Pollock, Michael Pfarrer and Violina Rindova and forthcoming in The Academy of Management Journal–shows that managers need to think about these assets in context.

    The researchers studied 347 internet tech startups that went public in the late 1990s and early 2000s, looking at whether they had celebrity and/or high status. They examined how many strategic alliances each firm had one year after going public, based on how potential alliances viewed the firm’s underpricing (change in stock price on the first day of trading).

    While celebrities were plentiful during this period, not all had high status. For example, MapQuest, Peapod, Salon and VerticalNet were all darlings, but were not backed by the highest status actors. Some–such as Pets.com, E-loan and Infoseek–were able to attain both celebrity and high status. All of these firms had varying degrees of success in attracting strategic alliance partners.

    “Celebrity played a big part in alliance formation when the firm had high underpricing, where the stock price experienced a ‘pop’ on the first day of trading,” Hubbard says, pointing to software and consulting services company Ariba as an example. The stock price almost tripled on its first day of trading in January 2002. By the end of its first year, it had 23 strategic alliances, compared to the average number of 2.4 alliances for sample firms in the study.

    “We also discovered that firms with both celebrity and high status had fewer partners one year after their initial public offering,” says Hubbard. High status firms had 1.65 fewer alliances if they had celebrity, compared to if they didn’t.

    “It changes our perspective on how these two intangible resources influence stakeholders,” he says. “Instead of only considering the baseline benefits of status or celebrity, we need to look at how these assets color stakeholders’ perceptions of other information.”

    Hubbard hopes the research can help managers better understand the nuances of intangible assets.

    “Viewing a firm through two different lenses can be difficult,” he says. “Rather than trying to gather every intangible asset, managers should consider which ones complement their organization. Not every firm needs to be a celebrity, and not every celebrity needs to have high status.”


  7. Improving the impact of research through storytelling

    November 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the De Gruyter Open press release:

    Scientists and researchers often find it challenging to get people interested in their work. It is possible to be a leading expert in a field and still be unfamiliar outside the modest circle of colleagues in the same field. How to raise awareness through the media is the subject of an article Eva Czaran, Malcolm Wolski, and Joanna Richardson, all of Griffith University, Australia, in their paper “Improving research impact through the use of media” published in De Gruyter’s open access journal Open Information Science.

    The paper shows how difficult it is to tell the story of a research project well and suggests that the promotion of research through visual storytelling could be useful in many scientific endeavors. To ensure success, researchers must be supported by their institutions to develop storytelling skills and present them using visual media.

    The paper presents a Four Phase Media Development Model which highlights the key steps a researcher or a media professional must take when developing a media product. The model is simple. It includes scoping, development, release and review. Scoping involves thinking about what the researcher needs so the message can be kept simple. It includes identifying the audience, deciding which visual approach to take, showing what the research changes in the world and finding a story to tell about that research. Next is the development phase: writing and creating the film. Then a release date that makes sense for the project is chosen, and then eight months later the success of the project is measured and evaluated.

    This model is very easy to put into practice, and it can be used to train researchers without requiring more funding.

    Ian Birch, Director ICT Strategy and Architecture, Auckland University of Technology said, “We believe that there is great potential to apply your model across various institutes and research studies. We were also impressed that the approach had already demonstrated its positive impact in generating research funding from new sources.”

    Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele, Director of Social Marketing at Griffith University added, “This video has bought direct interest in our work. I wouldn’t change the process we used. It has really delivered, more than I dreamed it would.”


  8. Study suggest tablets can teach kids to solve physical puzzles

    September 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Researchers confirm that when 4-6 year old children learn how to solve a puzzle using a touchscreen tablet, they can then apply this learning to the same puzzle in the physical world. This contradicts most previous research and suggests that different screen learning media could have different effects on skill transfer.

    As tablet computers become more popular, children are using them as early as their first year of life. Companies market a huge array of interactive educational apps for kids, but are they effective and can they teach real-world skills?

    Guidelines published by some government bodies suggest that while children can learn skills from screen-based media, such as videos or touchscreens, they can struggle to apply these skills elsewhere. This conventional thinking is backed by the majority of previous research.

    However, some studies have shown that children can in fact translate screen-based learning to real-world skills. These contradictory findings have inspired researchers to further explore this phenomenon. One such researcher is Joanne Tarasuik, of the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.

    In a previous study, Tarasuik and colleagues found that children in Australia could learn how to solve a puzzle on a touchscreen device, and then successfully transfer these skills to completing the same puzzle in the physical world. As this is contradictory to most previous research, the team repeated the study in different children, with a different language and culture, to make sure that the findings were correct and robust.

    In this new replication study, recently published in open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, the Australian team collaborated with researchers in Croatia to repeat their original study with Croatian children. The study used the ‘Tower of Hanoi’ puzzle, which involves moving discs between pegs so that they line up in order on a different peg, using the smallest possible number of moves.

    The children practiced the puzzle on a touchscreen app, or with a physical version using wooden pegs and discs, and the researchers measured how many moves they took to complete it, and how long they spent. Some of the children practiced the puzzle several times on the tablet before trying it on the wooden version. This allowed the researchers to see if the kids’ virtual practice could improve their skills in the physical world.

    The children all needed a similar number of moves to complete the wooden puzzle, regardless of whether they had practiced using the virtual puzzle, the physical puzzle, or a combination of the two. From the first to final attempt at the puzzle, all the children also improved their speed.

    “We successfully replicated our previous findings that 4-6 year old children can apply knowledge of this puzzle from practice using a touchscreen device, to the physical version of the puzzle,” says Tarasuik.

    The researchers hypothesize that unlike some passive forms of screen learning like a simple video demonstration, the interactive virtual puzzle significantly engaged the children and enhanced their learning, so that they could successfully apply those same skills to the wooden puzzle.

    The findings contrast with most previous research in this area, and suggest that different screen learning media, such as video presentations or interactive apps, could have different effects on whether children can transfer learned skills to the physical world.

    “These results demonstrate that ‘screen time’ is not a useful umbrella phrase, as what children can obtain from different types of screen media will vary, and numerous factors can impact their learning outcomes,” says Tarasuik.

    “We would like these results to guide future research into how and what children of different developmental stages can learn via touch screen technology, and then apply in the physical world.”


  9. Study suggests that talking about favourite TV shows online may lead to sense of community

    August 31, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Taylor & Francis press release:

    New research published today identifies how watching fictional television series and participating in online forums that are dedicated to the shows can help female audiences express themselves and feel a sense of belonging to a community.

    According to an article published in the National Communication Association’s Critical Studies in Media Communication, these online communities give women a significant degree of group identification as they self-reflect and swap opinions with others about the storylines of the TV shows.

    Analysis of more than 7,800 comments on social media and other online forums revealed that the women in these digital communities expressed themselves specifically through their emotional ties with a television series, contributing to a sense of belonging based on their mutual enjoyment of the TV shows. Of more than 2,500 fans whose comments were reviewed, 44.6 percent expressed a feeling of belonging.

    As an example, researchers highlighted one fan who commented online, “Now that [TV show] has finished, I’m going to miss the forum. I’ve met such lovely people who episode by episode have forged an everlasting friendship.”

    Lead author Prof Charo Lacalle of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona writes, “This research has helped us to understand in what way domestic fiction communities created on the internet differ from traditional cult fandoms and what type of actions female social spectators carry out to create and maintain a feeling of community. Previous research has been heavily focused on more traditional cult fandom who are typically seen as obsessive fans and geeks. We wanted to understand the more spontaneous fans, and why they choose to take part in such online discussion, and now we understand why that is.”


  10. Study looks at drawbacks of binge-watching TV

    August 28, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Michigan press release:

    Binge-watching may be a great way for young adults to catch up on multiple episodes of their favorite television series like “The Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones,” but it comes at a price.

    New research by the University of Michigan and the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research in Belgium found that higher binge-viewing frequency leads to poorer sleep quality, more fatigue and increased insomnia, while regular TV viewing does not.

    “Our study signals that binge viewing is prevalent in young adults and that is may be harmful to their sleep,” said co-author Jan Van den Bulck, U-M professor of communication studies.

    Binge viewing, in which people watch an excessive amount of the same TV program in one sitting, has been on the rise as more American households use streaming services and digital video recorders.

    Researchers surveyed 423 adults between the ages of 18 to 25 in February 2016. They were asked about sleep quality, fatigue and insomnia, as well as the frequency of binge watching programs on a TV, laptop or desktop computer for the last month.

    Most of the sample (81 percent) reported that they had binge-watched. Of that group, nearly 40 percent did it once during the month preceding the study, while 28 percent said they did it a few times. About 7 percent had binge-viewed almost every day during the preceding month. Men binge-watched less frequently than women, but the viewing session nearly doubled that of women.

    Respondents indicated they slept, on average, seven hours and 37 minutes. Those who binge-viewed reported more fatigue and sleep quality compared to those who didn’t binge-watch.

    Liese Exelmans, a researcher at the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research and the study’s lead author, said people might sleep an appropriate amount of time (seven to nine hours for adults), but the quality is not always good.

    “These students have flexible daytime schedules,” she said. “Chances are they are compensating for lost sleep by sleeping in.”

    The study showed that increased cognitive arousal prior to sleep (i.e., being mentally alert) is the mechanism explaining the effects of binge viewing on sleep quality.

    “Bingeable TV shows have plots that keep the viewer tied to the screen,” Exelmans said. “We think they become intensely involved with the content, and may keep thinking about it when they want to go to sleep.”

    A racing heart, or one that beats irregularly, and being mentally alert can create arousal (or pre-sleep arousal) when a person tries to fall asleep. This can lead to poor sleep quality after binge-viewing.

    “This prolongs sleep onset or, in other words, requires a longer period to ‘cool down’ before going to sleep, thus affecting sleep overall,” Exelmans said.

    The Researchers note that binge-watching frequently happens unintentionally. People get absorbed into their shows, watch “just one more episode” and fail to go to bed in a timely manner.

    “They might not intend on watching a lot, but they end up doing so anyway,” Exelmans said.

    Sleep insufficiency has been connected to physical and mental health consequences, including reduced memory function and learning ability, obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

    “Basically, sleep is the fuel your body needs to keep functioning properly,” Exelmans said. “Based on that research, it’s very important to document the risk factors for poor sleep. Our research suggests that binge viewing could be one of this risk factors.”