Proseminar – Ozen Bas & Betsi Grabe

Shrinking Knowledge Gaps?

The informative potential of emotionally personalized news

Mind_The_Gap_Logo_by_rrwardFor IU Telecom’s Media Arts & Sciences Speaker Series Ozen Bas and Betsi Grabe presented their recent research on emotionally charged news. Building off the current understanding of the knowledge gap, they argued that democracy needs an informed citizenry. But democracy struggles because of the differences among individuals regarding cognitive inadequacy and/or motivation. Additionally, some suggest that news media are not fulfilling their role of accurately informing the public because they focus on subjective reporting that emphasizes emotion over cold, hard facts (i.e., reason).

The idea that emotionally laden news is bad comes from the notion that emotion and reason cannot co-occur. To rationally engage with content means you can’t be emotionally invested. But more recent work within political and cognitive science shows that the emotion and reason can bolster one another. Thus, Ozen and Betsi’s work explored how emotion better serves memory for news content based on one’s level of education.

A 2 (education high vs. low) x 2 (time 1 & time 2) x 2 (personalized vs. non-personalized story) experiment revealed that emotional content increased memory for news content for all subjects. However, the benefit was most noticeable among lower educated participants. The time analyses showed that memory decayed more for those with lower education levels. Finally, those with lower education levels remembered more general details about the news stories and those with higher education levels remembered more specific details about the news stories.

I think these findings pose a curious challenge for dual-process accounts such as the elaboration likelihood model (ELM), as it distinctly separates heuristic and systematic processing. Furthermore, the ELM argues that systematic processing leads to stronger attitude persistence. Perhaps Ozen and Betsi’s work reveals that parallel process accounts (see Khaneman’s research) better account for our retention of news content.

Cogsci Colloquium – Fiery Cushman

Two Functions of Morality

Yesterday I heard a provocative talk on morality by Fiery Cushman of Brown University’s Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, & Psychological Sciences at IU Cogsci’s Colloquium Series. His research attempts to unravel the mechanisms that motivate differing judgments surrounding wrongness and punishment.

To illustrate, he told us to imagine two men drinking at a bar together. They leave simultaneously and drive home. One man falls asleep at the wheel and hits a tree. He’s okay, the tree’s okay, but he is punished with a $250 fine for the DUI. The other man, however, falls asleep at the wheel and hits a child playing in a yard. Although he’s fine, the child dies and he is punished with 10 years in prison.

In this example both men have equally wrong mental states (intentions) but there were differing outcomes. Cushman’s work examines why punishment focuses so much on outcomes rather than intentions.

The presentation shared numerous studies and concepts but my favorite was the delineation on wrongness vs. punishment judgments. Cushman explained that wrongness judgments are prospective. We begin assessing the mental state that led to the subsequent action. Conversely, punishment judgments are retrospective. We work backwards to find out what caused the ultimate outcome. Because of this, punishment judgments are outcome-based (or biased) and wrongness judgments are intent-based/biased.

Proseminar – R. Yagiz Mungan

Digital Games as an Interdisciplinary Creative Process

R. Yagiz Mungan visited IU Telecom today and gave a presentation for the Media Arts & Sciences Speaker Series. Mungan described his interest in the intersection of art and research as it applies to gaming, interaction  sound, music, and architecture. His belief is that games are simply another artistic medium–like the painter’s canvas or the illustrator’s paper. Because of this perspective, Mungan applies Wagner‘s term Gesamtkunstwerk meaning total work of art that is the amalgam of many art forms in his study of games.

Mungan is currently finishing up his MFA in Electronic and Time-based Art at Purdue University. Recently, he completed a project named Breezes of… It is a game-based installation that toyed with the idea of escapism. In the game, Players explore a virtual tropical environment. External to the game, a real-world pinwheel spins depending on orientation and wind in the virtual environment. See a video of the installation below.

Proseminar – David Weaver & Lars Willnat

David Weaver & Lars Willnat

Are U.S. journalists really that different? A comparative look at the norms and values of journalists around the world

21st Cen. Journalists Book Cover

IU Journalism professors David Weaver and Lars Willnat presented findings from their soon-to-be-released book, The Global Journalist in the 21st Century, for IU Telecom’s T600 Proseminar. The presentation provided information gleaned from a massive survey of nearly 29,000 journalists from around 40 countries. The survey covered topics on demographics, perceived roles of journalists, and ethics surrounding journalistic methods. In sum, David and Lars found that U.S. journalists are notably different from journalists around the world. Compared to international averages, they are more likely to be older, male, married, and college educated. US journalists are more likely to endorse the occupation’s watchdog role and emphasize quick reporting. Finally, they are more likely to condone badgering sources, using personal documents, and undercover employment to find stories.

Interestingly, the findings don’t reveal if countries are becoming more divergent or similar along the aforementioned topics. However, most countries endorse quick reporting and objectivity and believe that protecting sources’ identities is an important ethical boundary.