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Murrow Science Communication Research Group The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

-Dixon Comm Research Study & Press Coverage

In a forthcoming article in the journal Communication Research, Graham Dixon challenges popular belief that emotional appeals have a wide sweeping effect on people’s health beliefs.

Many health practitioners believe the best way to communicate the value of vaccination is to highlight the consequences of non-vaccination by using emotional pictures. However, Graham’s study shows that approach can backfire, particularly with individuals who have anti-vaccine views.

Here’s the abstract from the paper.

 Negative Affect as a Mechanism of Exemplification Effects: An Experiment on Two-sided Risk Argument Recall and Risk Perception

This study explores the effect of negative exemplars on two-sided message recall and risk perception, as mediated by negative affect. In an experiment, participants were randomly assigned to an article presenting conflicting risk arguments about vaccination that either included a photograph exemplifying one argument side (receiving a vaccine is risky), a photograph exemplifying the other argument side (not receiving a vaccine is risky), or no photograph (control condition). Exemplifying the risks associated with vaccination influenced uneven recall and risk perception. Negative affect, rather than perceived argument strength, mediated these effects and was a stronger predictor of risk perception than risk argument recall, lending support to the affect heuristic. However, exemplifying the risk of not vaccinating produced null effects on affect, risk perception, and recall, despite using the same photograph. A follow up study suggests motivated reasoning played a role in this null finding, providing direction for future research.

Graham’s study has been given coverage in various news outlets including The Seattle Times and KIRO TV News.  

Note: Dixon’s research was funded by the National Science Foundation’s program in Decision, Risk and Management Sciences.

-Hmielowski’s recently published articles in Public Understanding of Science and Journal of Communication

Jay Hmielowski recently had two papers that came out in print in Public Understanding of Science and Journal of Communication. Both articles focus on the over-time effects of media use on attitudes concerning climate change. The first paper, which Jay was the lead author, focuses on the relationship between conservative and non-conservative media use on people’s level of trust in scientists and their perceptions of whether climate change is happening. The second study looked at whether there is a reinforcing effect of consuming conservative and non-conservative media use and support for climate change policies. Links to the articles can be found below. Both articles were published with members of Yale’s Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication.


An attack on science? Media use, trust in scientists, and perceptions of global warming

The mutual reinforcement of media selectivity and effects: Testing the reinforcing spirals framework in the context of global warming

-Boyd Article in the International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control

Amanda Boyd recently had an article come out in the International Journal of Green House Gas Control. Below is the title, which links to the article, and the abstract for the article.

Title: Connections between community and emerging technology: Support for enhanced oil recovery in the Weyburn, Saskatchewan area


The enhanced oil recovery project located near Weyburn, Saskatchewan has played an important role in geologic carbon sequestration development. It is one of the earliest and largest sites demonstrating the feasibility of underground storage of CO2 in an enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project. The project has been operating for more than a decade with little community opposition and provides a unique opportunity to examine local public opinion of EOR. In-depth, face-to-face interviews with Weyburn-area residents were held to better understand local perceptions of the risks and benefits associated with the development. Results indicate that there is high community support for the project. The primary factors that related to community perceptions of the EOR project included: trust in industry to monitor and manage the project, pride in technological development, local oil field operators contributing to community functioning, and the associated benefits to the region including economic stability. Results also highlight the need for developers to recognize local contexts and residents’ concerns about their community and environment. This research elucidates why the project has support from local community members and also provides recommendations for risk communication and management of similar current and proposed projects.

– Murrow and CEREO Collaborate to Create Science News Room

The Murrow College of Communication and The Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO) collaborate to create a Science News Room. The CEREO News Room will pair undergraduate students in the Murrow College with graduate students in engineering and other sciences across the WSU campus. The Science News Room will provide funding, educational resources, and training for Murrow College undergraduate students. Moreover, it will help improve the communication skills of science graduate students and help promote the scientific research being done across campus. Science News Room students will create multimedia communication products, such as news and social media features to profile the activities and accomplishments of CEREO projects or produce investigative journalism pieces focused on current environmental issues. Project personnel include Jason Williams (Principal Investigator and PhD Student in Engineering), Lucrezia Cuen Paxson (Murrow College Broadcast faculty), Brian Lamb (Professor, College of Engineering and Architecture), and Todd Norton (Professor, Murrow College Science Communication). The project will begin spring of 2015 and last through the spring of 2016. This project will serve as the foundation for similar, future collaborations between departments and opportunities for additional funding.

– Norton & Hmielowski Receive CEREO grant

Todd Norton and an interdisciplinary team of WSU researchers were recently notified they will receive funding to study ways to reduce human contributions and responses to water contamination. The team includes Todd Norton and Jay Hmielowski of The Murrow College Science Communication group, Jason Sampson from WSU’s Environmental Health and Safety department, and Dr. Allyson Beall from WSU’s School of the Environment.

The project, funded by WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach (CEREO), will examine the psychological, social, cultural, and political factors impacting people’s support to addressing non-point sources of water pollution. The project involves surveying people living around ten urbanizing areas throughout America. These formative data will lead to additional projects including similar studies in international locations and will help determine the sorts of message factors could shift people’s perceptions of non-point pollution.