Faculty & Grads Research Projects

The Department of Communication encourages graduate students to become involved in research as soon as possible in order to develop conceptual and methodological skills. Such involvement frequently results in the co-authoring of grant proposals, journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers with faculty and fellow students. The following is a summary of some projects that faculty and graduate students are collaborating on. 

Research Project Summaries

The Department of Communication engages in a wide range of research projects. Please browse the listing of some of our current projects.

1) Using Interactive Games to Mitigate Cognitive Bias in Decision Making

Norah Dunbar, Professor in the Department of Communication, was awarded a $550,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant from the NSF’s ’s Division of Information & Intelligent Systems, from September 2015 through August 2017, supports her project, Teaching Bias Mitigation through Training Games with Application in Credibility Attribution.  This project will develop and study an interactive game entitled VERITAS for making players aware of their cognitive bias in decision making and attempting to mitigate its effects. The game focuses on detecting deception and many of the research participants are from law enforcement. The project will contribute to the understanding of how cognitive biases function within the context of deception detection and will advance understanding of how a game may be better suited than traditional learning methods at mitigating cognitive biases. For more details, please see http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1523083&HistoricalAwards=false

2) Moral Narratives in Online Communication Sources

Rene Weber, Professor at the Department of Communication and Director of UCSB's Medianeuroscience Lab (http://medianeuroscience.org), is the principal investigator (PI) and leader of a new project funded by the United States Army Research Laboratory: "Automated Analysis of Moral Narratives in Online Communication Sources: Cross-Cultural Differences and Prediction of Real-World Outcomes". 

The funding amount is $500,000 for one year. Co-PIs are Scott Grafton and James Blascovitch from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. The grant will be administered by UCSB's Institute for Collaborative Biotechnology. The UCSB team will closely collaborate with a team of researchers at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies which received an additional $500,000 from the US Army Research Laboratory for this collaboration (PI at USC is Andrew Gordon).

3) Stress and Coping for Children of Latino/a Immigrant Families

Jennifer Kam, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, has been awarded a total of $32,310 from UCSB's Faculty Senate and ISBER to collect three waves of survey data from Latino/a middle school and high school students in the first year of this project, followed by conducting semi-structured interviews with a sub-sample of the students in the second year. The study's first objective is to examine whether certain challenges surrounding immigration (e.g., fear of deportation, discrimination, separation from a parent during migration) place Latino/a adolescents at risk for experiencing adverse mental health outcomes, engaging in substance use, and performing poorly in school. The second objective is to examine whether certain parent-adolescent communication and relationship factors, as well as individual coping mechanisms, increase the resiliency of Latino/a immigrant students and decrease the likelihood that they will experience the aforementioned negative outcomes. Dr. Kam works closely with Santa Barbara County middle and high schools to identify resources that can be promoted to enhance the well-being of Latino/a immigrants. She works closely with a large team of Communication undergraduate and graduate students who accompany Dr. Kam to the schools to help her survey and interview immigrant students.  

4) Vocational Anticipatory Socialization: Entry and Adjustment of Under-Represented Students

Karen Myers and Samantha Powers are investigating Vocational Anticipatory Socialization (VAS), a process by which individuals learn about and develop interests in educational and eventual career pursuits.  This study examines VAS and communicative sources of VAS that affect students’ vocational choice and their ability to succeed at the university and, in particular, in STEM majors.  Traditionally, students in URS groups (first generation college students, first generation Americans, and racial minorities) have not received adequate academic preparation to excel in their university studies.  The study examines the role of VAS messages, financial and others pressures, and lack of family social support on several proximal outcomes such as lower student GPAs, feeling less integrated into the campus environment, and significantly lower graduation rates compared to non-URS.  Finally, this research also explores changes in family relationships and other types of social and psychological adjustment.