Publication summaries

What I'm working on now

In 2022, my research team has pieces under review that were based on survey data of how people assess the credibility of COVID-19 information that they get on social media and how individuals are motivated to process information about the pandemic. Additionally, we are developing a grant-funded project to test the perceived credibility of social media messages related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2022

Credibility in the time of COVID-19: Cues that audiences look for when assessing information on social media and building confidence in identifying ‘fake news’ about the virus

AbstractNavigating the COVID-19 pandemic has included parsing an overwhelming amount of information—much of it online. Many Americans have seen information on social media that they find confusing (Mitchell, Oliphant & Shearer, 2020) and recent research has found that social media use may contribute to greater likelihoods of believing misinformation about the virus and sharing ‘fake news’ about it (Su, 2021; Pennycook et al., 2020). Using a survey of U.S. adults, this research determined which social media platforms Americans rely on most when they search for information about COVID-19: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The present study also identified the credibility cues that people look to as they are trying to ascertain the veracity of COVID-19 information they come across on social media and that are predictors of helping them feel more confident in their own ability to identify credible information. Those significant cues—believability, authenticity, trustworthiness, reliability and objectivity—confirm previous research by Appelman and Sundar (2016) and Tandoc et al. (2018b). Educators, public health officials, and journalists are among the professionals who can use these findings to create more effective messages designed to assist people in making better health decisions.

Key findings

  • Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are the most popular social media sites for seeking information about COVID-19, which underscores the continued importance of these platforms’ endeavors to aggressively identify, flag and remove misinformation related to the virus.

  • Believable, authentic content from trustworthy, reliable sources who provide objective information are among the most important features that individuals look for when they’re evaluating whether the COVID-19 message is credible, and the strength of those cues are the most likely ones to enhance individuals' confidence in identifying credible information.

  • Information literacy programs may need to spend more time helping people understand the importance of the other credibility factors so they can draw from a greater variety of cues in order to become more confident in recognizing valid information about the virus.

Citation: Amber Hinsley, Ilwoo Ju, Taewan (Tim) Park & Jennifer Ohs. (2022). Credibility in the time of COVID-19: Cues that audiences look for when assessing information on social media and building confidence in identifying ‘fake news’ about the virus. Open Information Science, 6(1), 61-73.

Examining the Theory of Motivated Information Management (TMIM) in the COVID-19 pandemic

Abstract: In order to inform understanding of the public’s health information management during the COVID-19 pandemic, we applied a modification of TMIM from a serial mediation model to a conditional process model (moderated mediation). In doing so, the current study attempted to refine some of the relational propositions of the original TMIM with a focus on efficacy while addressing the distinction between a mediator and a moderator in a behavioral decision model. Findings from an online survey of U.S. adults (n = 488) demonstrated that anxiety can positively motivate evaluation of information seeking during the COVID-19 pandemic context, a unique context of application for TMIM. Efficacy was found to be qualified as an individual difference variable that moderates the relationships of uncertainty perception and health decision. Our newly proposed conditional process framework of the TMIM opens research directions in health information-seeking and encourages researchers to continuously incorporate updated methodological thought and approach in applying and building communication theory.

 Key findings

  • We applied a modification of TMIM from a serial mediation model to a conditional process model (moderated mediation), and found theoretical and empirical support for the moderating role of efficacy in health information seeking.

  • Anxiety can positively motivate evaluation of information seeking in a health pandemic context, which is a unique context of application for TMIM.

  • The motivating influence was greater for those with high efficacy.

  • Our findings suggest that negative emotion can lead to optimistic evaluation of information seeking outcomes, especially for those with high efficacy.

Citation: Ilwoo Ju, Jennifer Ohs, Taehwan Park & Amber Hinsley. (2022). Examining the Theory of Motivated Information Management (TMIM) in the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Health Communication. Published online first.

  

2021

Fake news cues: Examining the impact of content, source, and typology of news cues on people’s confidence in identifying mis- and disinformation

Abstract: Using a survey of U.S. adults, this research examines the content, source, and typology cues that people rely on when assessing misinformation in the news, frequently referred to as fake news, and how those factors impact the confidence they have in their ability to identify fake news. Participants’ confidence in recognizing fake news was significantly affected by their patterns of looking at news cues, such as a story’s URL and author, as well as by their engaging in their own research and seeking out news that confirms what they already believe. These findings signal a need for increased, continuous news literacy education designed to empower the public to push back against the seedy allure of fake news and other forms of misinformation that pose as legitimate, objective news.

Key findings

  • Confirmation bias is strong: People who felt it was important for content in news stories to confirm what they believe were more likely to have greater confidence in their ability to identify misinformation.

  • Future media literacy endeavors must help people acknowledge and confront their own biases for confirmatory information and train them to instead focus on actual content credibility cues.

  • People want news producers whom they see as authoritative when they’re trying to determine if something is mis- or disinformation, and they use those credibility cues to feel more confident as they navigate fake news assessments.

  • People who more frequently looked at the location of the news story (such as on the website of a news organization) tended to then have higher confidence in their ability to identify fake news.

  • There also was a significant connection between people more often conducting research on their own about the veracity of information they encountered, and having confidence in being able to identify fake news.

Citation: Amber Hinsley & Avery Holton. (2021). Fake news cues: Examining the impact of content, source, and typology of news cues on people’s confidence in identifying mis- and disinformation. International Journal of Communication 15, 4984-5003.

Cued up: How audience demographics influence reliance on news cues, confirmation bias and confidence in identifying misinformation

AbstractThe influence of political ideology on audience perceptions of news reports and misinformation is well established, along with its role in selective exposure and confirmation bias. The impact of other identity demographics, like education, age, gender and race, have drawn less attention regarding how the public assesses potential misinformation. This study explores the influence of demographics on the public’s reliance on news cues such as headlines and photos and also examines the impact of demographics on confirmation bias as well as confidence in identifying fake news.

Key findings

  • Education was the only demographic variable to have a significant influence on two key news cues: evaluating objectivity and conducting personal research.

  • Of concern is that people who identify as more liberal and as having more education look to several news cues more frequently than conservatives and those with less education when they are assessing whether the material contains misinformation—the concern is that people who identify as more conservative and as having less education are not looking to news cues at the same rate.

  • People who were more conservative and less educated also reported feeling it was important to have information confirm what they already believe when trying to determine if the material contains fake news.

  • People who were more liberal and had more education were more likely to be confident in their ability to identify fake news.

Citation: Amber Hinsley. (2021). Cued up: How audience demographics influence reliance on news cues, confirmation bias and confidence in identifying misinformation. #ISOJ, The Official Research Journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism, 11(1), 89–109.

Harnessing an integrated health communication (IHC) framework for campaigns: A case of prescription drug decision making

Abstract: Drawing on a multiplicity of mass media and health behavior theories, we propose an integrated health communication (IHC) framework to understand and leverage the ways in which mass mediated and interpersonal sources of health information influence the public’s health behavior in the context of their prescription drug decisions. Building on the agenda setting theory, two-step flow theory, and the Health Belief Model, we dig into the interrelationships between mass media and interpersonal information sources and information seeking engagement. Employing survey methodology, our framework was tested using a sample of U.S. adults (N = 628). The major results include (a) information gained through interpersonal sources and perceived benefits of the prescription drugs positively and sequentially mediate the association between mass media exposure and intent to seek prescription drug information, (b) interpersonal health information positively moderate the mediation of mass media exposure – perceived benefits – intent to seek prescription drug information, and (c) the inexpert interpersonal information’s positive interaction effect with mass media exposure on intent to seek prescription drug information mediated through perceived benefits was greater with high expert interpersonal communication. 

Key findings

  • Based on survey results, an integrated health communication (IHC) framework is proposed to enlighten the complexity of the public’s use of various sources of health information in the context of their prescription drug decisions.

  • One of the framework’s chief utilities is in explaining how mass media and interpersonal health information jointly and sequentially motivate consumers to engage in health information seeking.

  • The influence of the mass media on health information seeking is facilitated by inexpert interpersonal exchange and further reinforced by expert interpersonal sources.

  • While each target audience needs tailored messages and media strategies for campaigns to be effective, the overall campaign should be designed to maximize synergistic effects by considering how consistent message themes and strategized campaign channels can reinforce the overall campaign effectiveness.

Citation: Ilwoo Ju, Jennifer Ohs, Taehwan Park & Amber Hinsley. (2021). Harnessing an integrated health communication (IHC) framework for campaigns: A case of prescription drug decision making. Health Communication. Published online first.

Interpersonal communication influence on health-protective behaviors amid the COVID-19 crisis

Abstract: COVID-19 has posed substantial threats to global public health. Individuals are extensively exposed to interpersonal sources of health information (e.g., family, friends, colleagues, physicians, and pharmacists). Interpersonal connections often encourage people to question or reinforce other sources of health information, which can affect their perceptions and behaviors. This study integrates research on how exposure to interpersonal health communication affects people’s risk perception and affective responses to influence health-protective behaviors such as health information seeking and adherence to protective measures. Findings from an online survey of U.S. adults (n = 488) demonstrated that risk perception and affective responses serve as behavioral motivation factors. The influences of cognitive and affective responses were greater to the extent that individuals believed the health-protective behaviors are beneficial. Our study illuminates how people engage in preventive health behaviors to protect themselves in the COVID-19 context and demonstrates the influence of interpersonal social networks in motivating such behaviors. 

 

Key findings

  • As important mediating mechanisms, our findings revealed that risk assessment and affective responses serve as influential factors.

  • The influence of affective responses was greater to the extent that individuals believed the health-protective behaviors are beneficial.

  • When perceptions of benefits from gaining COVID-related health information are substantially greater than costs, people are more likely to intend to search for health information and enact health-protective behaviors.

  • Our study suggests that public health campaigns should extend beyond traditional approaches and consider ways in which interpersonal social networks can be reached.

 

Citation: Ilwoo Ju, Jennifer Ohs, Taehwan Park & Amber Hinsley. (2021). Interpersonal communication influence on health-protective behaviors amid the COVID-19 crisis. Health Communication. Published online first.

Optimistic bias and preventive behavioral engagement in the context of COVID-19 

Abstract: Health behavior theories suggest that perceived risk is a key determinant of engagement in preventive behavior. People often underestimate their risk for disease compared to others, known as optimistic bias. Through a national survey, this study explored how optimistic bias affected individuals’ engagement in COVID-19 preventive behavior/intentions.

Key findings

  • Optimistically biased respondents perceived their risk of COVID-19 to be low, and the lower their perceived risk of COVID-19, the less likely respondents were to feel anxiety and fear about this disease.

  • The smaller the gap between the perceived risk and the real risk of COVID-19, the less likely people are to be optimistically biased, thereby increasing their engagement in preventive behavior/intentions.

  • Optimistic bias can undermine individuals’ motivation to take precautions. To reduce this bias, the actual risk of COVID-19 should be reinforced by healthcare providers and public health officials. 

Citation: Taewan (Tim) Park, Ilwoo Ju, Jennifer Ohs & Amber Hinsley. (2021). Optimistic bias and preventative behavioral engagement in the context of COVID-19. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy 17(1), 1859-1866.

2020

Tweeting in the midst of disaster: A comparative case study of journalists' practices following four crises 

Abstract: This comparative case study examines how local journalists used Twitter as a crisis communication tool during four emergency situations in the U.S. The public’s retweeting and liking patterns also identified messages that resonated with them. A content analysis found that while local journalists used objective reporting most frequently across all crises, there were variances in Twitter practices of journalists covering the two human-made crises. The two natural disasters showed more similarities. These findings can help develop best-practices strategies for journalists as they cover different types of crises.

  • Article selected by the editorial board for the Best Article Award for the Fall 2020 issue

Key findings

  • A “one size fits all” approach cannot be applied when using Twitter as a crisis communication tool. Tweets related to the Pulse shooting in Orlando had more in common with the natural disaster tweets than with the other human-made crisis.

  • Although opinion tweets help the audience identify with journalists, news workers must understand public sentiment regarding the crisis and consider how their credibility would be impacted if they are seen as violating that sentiment.

  • Overall, journalists' first priority should be to relay frequent, factual updates, and even repeating information to ensure it doesn’t get drowned out in the volumes of tweets related to the crisis.

  • It is crucial to have staff dedicated to answering questions on social media to help alleviate concerns about the disaster.

Citation: Amber Hinsley & Hyunmin Lee. (2020). Tweeting in the midst of disaster: A comparative case study of journalists’ practices following four crises. Newspaper Research Journal 41(3), 297-316.

2017

Developing new organizational identity: Merger of St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon

Abstract: Using St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon as a case study, this research applies social identity theory to examine the pre- and post-merger identities of the organizations and their workers. The merger experience is a guide for other institutions considering similar moves. By understanding the impact of a merger, news organizations can better manage the process by reinforcing how changes align with the pre-merger organizations’ identity and the new emerging identity.

Key findings

  • From the survey, a comparison of employees’ views of the similarity between the pre-merger organizations and those organizations’ workers, shows a statistically significant difference. Employees had better perceptions of the organizations’ parallel values and beliefs than they did of the people working at those place.

  • Employees were proud of the expanded coverage they provide as result of their larger newsroom staff. Many workers noted one incident as the watershed moment that united them and established the station’s identity as a comprehensive news organization: Ferguson.

  • The newsroom faced the greatest challenge: Its organizational structure was transformed and journalists’ job roles were expanded significantly with the combination of writing for radio and online. These changes left employees from both pre-merger organizations frustrated on multiple levels.

  • There were no statistically significant differences in organizational identity for the organizations’ employees before and after the merger

  • Journalists feel they have less autonomy and are frustrated with what they see as unequal expectations of reporters by the various editors. The greatest challenge to their organizational identity has been the added focus of writing for the station’s website.

 

Citation: Amber Hinsley. (2017). Developing new organizational identity: Merger of St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon. Journal of Radio and Audio Media 24(1), 144-160.

Public relations, politics, and rape culture: A case study of frames and counter-frames in the press

Abstract: The present case examines the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s framing of an apparent rape victim and the counter-frame that exposes the newspaper’s inherent biases and assumptions. The P-D claims it approached the story as an opportunity to inform the public about an affair between a public relations consultant and a married public official and to expose the questionable ethics of statehouse politics. Critics accuse the P-D of demonstrating a bias that supports rape culture and engaging in “slut-shaming” through its framing of the victim as a drunk party girl. We explore the original frame used by the newspaper and the P-D’s defense of that frame, as well as the counter-frame as it appeared in response to the initial article. We also identify another frame, which was not noted by the critics of the P-D: discrediting and shaming a public relations professional.

 

Key findings

  • This case study is about a female public relations practitioner working for clients in Jefferson City, who was not only put at a disadvantage because of her sex, her working environment, and job expectations, but also was subsequently victimized by an attacker and then victimized by the media.

  • Criticism of the Post-Dispatch story came swiftly in the form of a counter-frame that blamed it for perpetuating rape culture.

  • The victim’s position as a public relations professional may have been the reason that the newspaper broke with long-held journalistic tradition and published a potential rape victim’s name.

  • The anti-public relations frame reveals a need to protect female lobbyists and practitioners, in particular, who work in male-dominated and oftentimes overly sexualized working environments.

 

Citation: Sarah Van Slette & Amber Hinsley. (2017). Public relations, politics, and rape culture: A case study of frames and counter-frames in the press. Media Report to Women 45(1), 6-11, 20-22.

2015

#Ferguson strategic messaging: How local journalists and activists used Twitter as a communication tool 

Abstract: Guided by literature on journalistic practices and activists’ communication strategies during crises, this pilot study examined how local journalists and activists used Twitter as a communication tool following Michael Brown’s death. Through a content analysis, we noted general Twitter practices used by journalists and activists, examined whether the two groups used different message strategies, and identified the ways in which journalists and activists framed their messages about the Ferguson crisis. Findings suggested that while the local journalists and activists showed similarities in their overall use of Twitter, their message strategies and frames were consistent with established practices for each group.

Key findings

  • A majority of the tweets in this research were original tweets, suggesting that local journalists and activists recognized the public’s desire for new information related to Ferguson.

  • The overall Twitter practices of local journalists and activists in this study did not differ significantly. They appear to have a similar understanding of common Twitter practices, such as using hashtags and earning retweets or favorites from others.

  • Journalists and activists both were acting as gatekeepers, although statistical tests showed journalists were significantly more likely to use an informational strategy.

  • Despite not being an “organized” advocacy group, the local activists in Ferguson used strategies similar to more established organizations: Activists were statistically significantly more likely to use opinions and calls to action, compared to journalists.

  • Although their message strategies suggested occasional crossovers in the tactics of local journalists and activists, the frames they produced aligned closely with the expected practices of each group.

  • Activists used Twitter to voice opinions related to the unrest in Ferguson, which included a range of posts that, for example, criticized police and society.Similarly, they issued calls to action through their tweets, asking people to sign petitions, engage in the protest, provide support, or retweet their message.

  • Journalists centered their messages on objective reports and conversations, such as to fact check.

 

Citation: Amber Hinsley & Hyunmin Lee. (2015).#Ferguson strategic messaging: How local journalists and activists used Twitter as a communication tool. #ISOJ, The Official Research Journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism (5)1, 124-146.

2013

'Sharing' the news on Facebook: Exploring the differences between news-sharers and non-sharers on the social media site

Abstract: This study examines news consumers’ motivations for posting news links on their Facebook profiles. It provides a comparison of news-sharers and non-sharers, enabling media managers to develop better connection strategies for both groups. Findings are based on an online survey and indicate people who share news links via Facebook are more interested in news of all types and are more engaged with the news organizations they follow. Factor analysis revealed two news-sharing motivations: People who share news links on Facebook do so because they believe it enables them 1) to maintain relationships and 2) to help others and themselves.

 

Key findings

  • News-sharers have a stronger preference than non-sharers for all types of news listed in this study, especially area and national crime and entertainment news.

  • News-sharers feel a greater connection to news in general and feel it plays a more central role in their lives.

  • News-sharers more frequently engage by clicking on news links posted to the organization’s Facebook page and are more regular commenters.

  • News-sharers more strongly agreed with the notion that they could be well-informed getting their news via Facebook and not through more traditional formats.

  • Age, race and political orientation appear to play a role in defining the demographic-type differences between those who share links to stores via Facebook and those who do not while gender and education seem to have fairly similar breakdowns between the groups.

  • News-shares tend to be younger, more liberal leaning and less likely to self-identify as a minority when compared to non-sharers.

  • Two distinct motivators for sharing news links on Facebook are to maintain relationships (both on and offline) and to help one’s self & others by reinforcing personal values and influencing friends.

 

Citation: Amber Hinsley & Samantha Johnson. (2013). ‘Sharing’ the news on Facebook: Exploring the differences between news-sharers and non-sharers on the social media site. #ISOJ, The Official Research Journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism 3(2), 204-223.

The press v. the public: What is 'good journalism?'

Abstract: Research on journalists and their audience indicates journalists have a more positive perception of their work than the public, and poor perceptions of press performance have been linked to reduced news consumption. Newspaper journalists and the public were surveyed on what constitutes “good journalism,” as well as the public’s consumption of distinct modes of information. Journalists gave higher marks to their performance on the tenets of “good journalism” than the public they claim to serve. Citizens who had high expectations of “good journalism” were more regular consumers of traditional news and infotainment programs, but not citizen journalism.

Key findings

  • Being objective, covering stories that should be covered, helping people, getting information to the public quickly, providing analyses and interpretation of complex problems, verifying facts, giving ordinary people a chance to express their views and being a watchdog for the public are all facets that represented “good journalism” in the eyes of the public and journalists.

  • The public’s assessments of the newspaper profession’s performance of several job roles aligned into a single scale, while the journalists’ perceptions of their work split into two categories, suggesting the two groups have somewhat different views of what constitutes “good journalism.”

  • Positive public perceptions about the main features of “good journalism” are associated with greater professional media use.

  • Having a more positive view about the way journalists perform their job in relation to the central features of good journalism has no effect on the amount of citizen journalism individuals tend to consume.

  • A positive and statistically significant relationship exists with respect to people's perceptions about the main features of good journalism and consuming more infotainment content.

 

Citation: Homero Gil de Zuniga & Amber Hinsley. (2013). The press versus the public: What is ‘good journalism?’ Journalism Studies 14(6), 926-942.

Personality and social media use

Abstract: Research on digital media has mostly paid attention to user’s demographics, motivations, and efficacy, but with increasingly popular web tools like social media, studying more stable psychological characteristics such as users’ personality traits can show how people use the Web to communicate and socialize. Relying on the Big Five Framework as a theoretical approach, this book chapter explores such relationships. Survey data from a national sample of U.S. adults show that more extraverted people are more likely to use social networking sites, instant messaging, and video chats, while those more open to new experiences tend to use social networking sites more frequently. When looking at specific use of social media--to create political content--emotional stability was a negative predictor, whereas extraversion had a positive impact.

 

Key findings:

  • Personality traits are significantly associated with social media use.

  • Extraverted people tend to be heavier users of social media.

  • Individuals who are anxious and worrisome use social networking sites more frequently than those who are more emotionally stable.

  • People who are open to new experiences, innovative and creative use social media more often.

  • Emotional stability is negatively related to social media use as people who are more neurotic tend to overly rely on these social applications.

  • More extraverted people tend to post on blogs and upload videos with political content.

  • Extraversion is the strongest predictor of social media use among the personality traits.

 

Citation: Teresa Correa, Ingrid Bachmann, Amber Hinsley & Homero Gil de Zuniga. (2013). Personality and social media use. In E. Li, S. Loh, C. Evans & F. Lorenzi (Eds.), Organizations and Social Networking: Utilizing Social CRM to Engage Consumers. Hershey, PA: IGI Press.

2012 & earlier

Still working on these... Summaries will be added soon!