Research & Insights

Three Research Studies You Need to Know in 2016

How politics shape us, what zombies teach us and how stories affect our actions.

I love the new year, and not just because I get to start planning my outfits for the upcoming frank gathering.

As one of frank’s resident research nerds, I anxiously wait for January when I, along with a team of practitioners and scholars, get to read through all of the amazing submissions to our annual prize for research in public interest communications.

Each year, we award one $10,000 and two $1,500 prizes to peer-reviewed research that contributes to effective public interest communications practice and that continues to build the academic field.

This year, we had our biggest pool of submissions from a broad range of psychologists, political scientists, sociologists and communications scholars.

The three finalists will present their research at the frank gathering in front of an audience of practitioners, artists, activists, researchers and professionals who will vote for the $10,000 winner.

Read about 2016 research in public interest in communications finalists below:


TroyCampbell, Duke, Oregon, Strategic Communications, frank, frank2016, prize, public interest communications

Troy Campbell is a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University and assistant professor in marketing at the University of Oregon. He studies how political ideology and identity shapes people’s beliefs and consumer behavior.

In the paper, Solution Aversion: On the Relation Between Ideology and Motivated Disbelief, Campbell and his colleague Dr. Aaron Kay found that people are more likely to be skeptical of gun control and climate science if they have an aversion to the proposed policy solutions.  According to their research, solution aversion is linked to individual’s political ideology and identity.

Campbell’s research has been featured in Wired and Scientific American.


Julia Fraustino, WVU Reed College of Media, Strategic Communications, frank, frank2016, prize, public interest communications

Dr. Julia Fraustino is an award winning media and communications scholar. She recently took a position with West Virginia University Reed College of Media teaching courses in strategic communication campaigns, social media strategy, public communication campaigns, social networking and risk communication and ethics.

In the study, CDC’s Use of Social Media and Humor in a Risk Campaign – “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse, Fraustino and her colleague Liang Ma examine the effectiveness of humor in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “zombie apocalypse” emergency preparedness campaign. The campaign was successful in generating buzz and raising awareness, but unsuccessful in boosting emergency preparedness behaviors. This research considers the questions of what can be done when the strategies that use emotions – like humor – to grab widespread attention simultaneously reduce intentions to take actions.


Niederdeppe, Strategic Communications, frank, frank2016, prize, public interest communications, Cornell

Dr. Jeff Niederdeppe is an associate professor in the Department of Communications at the Cornell University. He is a prolific writer whose research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Niederdeppe studies the effects of mass media campaigns, strategic health messages and news coverage in shaping health behavior, health disparities and social policy.

In his study, Inoculation and Narrative Strategies in Competitive Framing of Three Health Policy Issues, Niederdeppe compares the effectiveness of inoculation messages — those that warn people that others will attempt to persuade them and refute anticipated opposing arguments — and narrative messages — those that personalize policy issues through storytelling — in shaping support for policies designed to reduce obesity, cigarette use and prescription painkiller addiction.


Read their research abstracts here.

Posted: January 20, 2016
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