Media and Identity
What compels people to select a particular news source, stand up to peer pressure or read a grueling war memoir? How does such communication influence attitudes, behaviors and identification with systems of belief or behavior?
As recipient of The University of Texas at Austin Moody College of Communication's Wayne A. Danielson Award for Distinguished Contributions to Communication, Michael Slater—a Social and Behavioral Science Distinguished Professor at The Ohio State University—will speak about these motivations in a lecture titled "Processes of Message Selection and Media Influence: Social and Personal Identity, Motivations and Goals." The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 20 in the Belo Center for New Media Auditorium, Room 2.106.
"One way people build and sustain a particular identity is through the selection of particular media," said Slater, who developed the Reinforcing Spirals Model, which focuses on how people's media selections influence social and political identities and vice versa. "By continuing to select and have that exposure, people can maintain an identity in the face of competing forces in world – whether they're a Tea Partier or moveon.org supporter."
Slater also will discuss his research on alcohol and marijuana use prevention messaging. This research focuses on framing non-use as consistent with adolescent self-perceptions of personal autonomy and success.
"Trying to discourage substance use based on having a small chance of some serious risks isn't very compelling to a lot of young people who are interested in experimenting with risky things as part of growing up," Slater said. "Instead, my colleagues and I work in perspectives on prevention that emphasize appropriate developmental goals for a young person who is becoming autonomous and successful. Being stoned or being drunk really isn't consistent with the goals of autonomy or effectiveness. No one will actually argue that it helps very much."
Finally, he will discuss his recent research on what influences people to consume stories and narratives. Slater and colleagues have found that people are drawn to stories that allow them to be part of something that is larger than the everyday experience.
"One of the questions that has not been satisfactorily dealt with in the empirical social science is, what is it that makes getting involved in stories so very appealing?" Slater said. "My colleagues and I offer a perspective that suggests many of things we're most drawn to are experiences that provide us with the opportunity of experiencing the self beyond everyday identity. Stories are one of the most available and universal such experiences."
Slater, whose research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, has taught at The Ohio State University since 2005. Previously, he taught at Colorado State University, developing courses in health and environmental communication campaigns, theory construction and development, persuasion and attitude change, public relations and research methods. He also had a joint appointment at Colorado State University’s Department of Psychology from 1999-2005.
About the Wayne A. Danielson Award
Recognizing scholars who have made a significant contribution to the understanding of communication, the Wayne A. Danielson Award was created in 1991. It honors Professor Emeritus Wayne Danielson for his contributions to the Moody College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin and the field of communication.
Danielson joined The University of Texas at Austin faculty in 1969 and served as dean of the Moody College of Communication (formerly School of Communication). Previously, he taught at Stanford University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He holds a Ph.D. in mass communications from Stanford University.
His research has led to the development of more than 30 operating programs for tools such as readability indexes, automatic news indexes and stylistic advice to authors.
He also served as founding editor of Journalism Abstracts (now Journalism & Mass Communications Abstracts), a publication of the Association for Education and Journalism and Mass Communication.