ICA 2020 Awards Edition

The Children, Adolescents, and Media Division is very thrilled to congratulate the 2020 CAM Award Winners. The awards recognize some of the best scholarship and service contributions from its members. Learn more about the 2020 recipients of the top paper, best published article, top dissertation, and top reviewer awards.

Top Paper – James Alex Bonus

Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University

Co-author: Judy Watts

Alex Bonus

Congratulations on winning the Top Paper Award! Your paper addresses children’s prior knowledge and misconceptions in children’s science programs. What are the key findings?
Children’s science programs often teach factual information using “refutation narratives,” wherein characters pose a science question (e.g., “Why does day turn into night?”) and offer misconceptions as possible answers to that question (e.g., “Maybe it turns off?”). Only toward the end of the show do they learn the correct information (e.g., “The earth rotates.”) My previous research suggests that some kids are confused by these narratives, and the current project examined if learning could be improved by modifying these narratives in various ways.

Results indicated that children learned best when misconceptions were simply removed from the program entirely. However, their learning also improved if the narrative was augmented with two additional forms of scaffolding: a pre-viewing insert (i.e., a narrative voiceover describing the overall structure of the story) and a mid-episode justification (i.e., an additional scene where characters discuss why it is important to test hypotheses even when they turn out to be wrong). These modifications helped children recognize the inaccuracy of the misconceptions discussed in the show—especially children who entered the study with very little relevant prior knowledge about the focal science topic.

These results suggest that content creators should carefully consider the logic of incorporating misconceptions in these programs. It’s probably best not to include misconceptions, and they should be appropriately contextualized when they are included.

What has been your most memorable experience while conducting the study, and why?
This was the first study that I conducted at my new lab in a local science museum. Consequently, I learned a lot about working in this new context—especially with regard to interfacing with the public about research. There is an art to recruiting museum visitors using really brief (but scientifically accurate and hopefully enticing) descriptions of the work we are doing. I’ve yet to master this art, but I’m starting to appreciate the challenge!

This was also my first experience managing a lab with undergraduate assistants here at OSU. It was such a pleasure to work with them, and faculty in other labs were always complimenting me for how great my students were. It’s been wonderful watching some of these students graduate, and I’ve had the privilege of recommending some of them for jobs and graduate school. It’s so strange to be on the other side of things (as a professor), and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to guide them, learn from them, and grow with them.

You have a unique relationship with a children’s science museum. How did you establish this relationship and what kinds of possibilities and challenges do you face in this relationship as it relates to your research?
I was really fortunate to get connected with the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus (USA), which is one of the top-rated children’s science museums in the country. They have a partnership with OSU, such that they’ve set up three research labs (called “pods”) in the museum for faculty to use. One of the pods was vacated during my first year at OSU, and since my research fit really well in the context of a science museum, I was allowed to “move in” with some of my fabulous colleagues (fellow CAMmer Amy Nathanson, as well as the incomparable duo of Dr. Teresa Lynch and Dr. Rebecca Dore). We’ve re-branded the space as “The Media Pod,” and we’ve conducted three studies there over the last 1.5 years.

Being able to recruit at COSI has really revolutionized my ability to do research, and I’m able to collect much larger samples than ever before. The manuscript that won the Top Paper Award was the largest sample of children I have ever collected (N = 201). The downside is that we can only keep families for about 15 minutes, because they’re usually antsy to continue moving through the museum. Visitors to the museum also tend to be pretty well-educated, so there’s some bias in terms of who we’re recruiting. I’m currently trying to come up with ways to diversify my samples more effectively in the future.

I can’t wait to get back to researching when social distancing restrictions are relaxed!

I should also note that I was very excited to submit this manuscript to a journal because I could finally avoid the criticism of conducting an underpowered study. Consequently, it was very humbling to immediately get a desk rejection, because the study only included one media exemplar as an experimental stimulus. So, it was a good reminder that we (as media psychologists) really need to consider both types of sampling in our studies (i.e., participants and stimuli), and that improving one type of sampling doesn’t necessarily circumvent any issues with failing to improve the other.

Top Student-Led Paper – Daniëlle Bleize

PhD Student, Radboud University

Co-authors: Doeschka Anschütz, Martin Tanis, & Moniek Buijzen

Daniëlle Bleize

Congratulations on winning the CAM Top Student-Led Paper Award! Your paper investigates factors regarding adolescents’ tendencies to conform to cyber aggression in messaging apps. What are the key findings?
Thanks a lot! My co-authors and I are honored to be selected for this award. It will forever be tied to the first-ever virtual conference that I will attend!

Let me tell you a little bit about my research project. Cyber aggression refers to harmful online behaviors such as nasty comments, nonconsensual image sharing, and social exclusion. These behaviors are often group-based and occur on online platforms that are popular among early adolescents—such as WhatsApp. WhatsApp groups usually consist of strong ties—good friends to who we feel strongly committed and who are important to us. WhatsApp groups are also often small, close-knit, and private. This means that whatever happens on WhatsApp is not under public scrutiny and group members generally are not held accountable for their behavior in such groups.

In two experimental studies, we examined the effects of centrality of a WhatsApp group and out-group accountability on conformity to cyber aggression. Our key finding is that out-group accountability significantly affected conformity to cyber aggression. Early adolescents who were not held accountable for their online behaviors, conformed more to cyber aggressive behaviors than early adolescents who were accountable for their behaviors. We found this in both studies. This implies that increasing accountability perceptions may be effective in applied interventions aimed at reducing conformity to cyber aggression. We will further examine this in future studies.

What has been your most memorable experience while conducting the study, and why?
My favorite part of any study is usually data collection, as was the case with this study. My participants are early adolescents, who are usually 12 to 15 years old. I find this a fun, talkative age group and I actually learn something new from them during every data collection!

My most memorable experience is when I found out that I was a “VSCO girl” (Yes, I had to Google this too). One of the girls who participated in the study told me that because of the brand of my water bottle (which I actually purchased for hiking, years ago), and the scrunchie that was in my hair, I looked like a VSCO girl. Not sure if this can be considered a compliment… But it sure made for good conversation.

If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you want to do and why?
A dream of mine is actually to do a completely different research project on music, emotion regulation, and behavior. I listen to music all the time: when getting ready in the morning, riding my bike, and during the work day. It helps me focus, can energize me, and helps me regulate my emotions in general. I just love to listen to music—cannot imagine not doing this.

Music can be very cathartic, and I would love to know more about how that works psychologically, and whether adolescents can also feel empowered through listening to music. Perhaps adolescents would benefit from listening to music to regulate their emotions, and this may influence their behaviors. Who knows, maybe this could be a future side-project…

Top Dissertation – Brahim Zarouali

Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam

Brahim Zarouali

Congratulations on winning the CAM Top Dissertation Award! Your dissertation investigates the individual, situational, and social aspects of adolescents’ knowledge, processing, and response to targeted advertising on SNSs. What are the key findings?
First things first: a HUGE thank you for this award. I am very grateful to receive this inspiring recognition from the awesome CAM community!

In brief, my dissertation consisted of three parts:  (1) how are individual characteristics accounting for differences in advertising literacy among adolescents, (2) how to increase adolescents’ advertising literacy by means of situational or contextual factors, and (3) the role of social influence in shaping adolescents’ advertising literacy (all three parts in the context of social networking sites).

Don’t worry, I’ll spare you all the boring details, but there are two things that really stood out to me. First, in chapter one, we found that advertising literacy was surprisingly low among adolescents with regards to targeted ads. This really made me realize that many adolescents are hardly aware that their routine pastimes  on social media, such as posting comments, liking content, and watching videos (which seem like “innocent-looking actions”), eventually turn into valuable pieces of personal data that are used for advertising purposes.

Second, in chapters 5 and 6, which both focused on social influence, I was really stunned by the impact of peers. Clearly, the importance of peer influence has already been widely discussed in the literature, but still, it was beyond my expectations to see how powerful this source of influence could be in shaping adolescents’ interactions with and responses to targeted ads on social media.

For all the CAMmers interested in reading (some parts of) the dissertation: the full PDF is open-access! 😊

What has been your most memorable experience while conducting your dissertation, and why?
To me, this would not be a specific event, but rather the people that I got to work with. My PhD was part of a larger interdisciplinary project (the AdLit-project), with a team consisting of researchers from four Belgian universities. Being part of this inspiring and talented team was an incredible journey. Admittedly, doing a PhD can be a bumpy road at times, but together with the team we made sure to stop along the road for some tremendous fun! We’ve shared a lot of great memories and enjoyable times together, the most memorable one being ICA 2017 in San Diego, which we combined with an unforgettable coastal road trip all the way to San Francisco.

So I couldn’t have wished for a better bunch of people to work with, and I’m very happy that I am still in touch with most of them.

What are you currently working on?
Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that working routines have been turned upside down because of COVID-19. That also accounts for my research focus, since a lot of attention is now geared towards that topic as well. I’m involved in a “task force” with ICDS looking at whether the Dutch population supports the use of digital tracking technologies in the fight against COVID-19.

But besides that, I am also working on a number of ongoing projects—all in different stages of the research cycle. Without having to discuss all of them, I can say that they all have a common denominator: how new media technologies and algorithms are—often subtly—persuading people to change their views, attitudes and behaviors. In line with this, one of my favorite projects right now is the one where we (together with Sophie Boerman and Claes de Vreese) have developed and validated a scale to measure “algorithmic awareness”. With this project, I hope that we can inspire colleagues to look into people’s ability to make proper sense of algorithms in media environments.

If you had to give one piece of advice to CAM members who are working on their dissertation, what would it be?
I would say: be ambitious in what you want to achieve, but don’t set the bar too high. Let’s be honest: it is very tempting to compare yourself to others (unfortunately, this is also true in academia). But do remember that there is a different story behind every PhD. A lot of stress and discomfort can easily be avoided if you stop looking at others, and instead just focus on your own story of self-fulfillment. What really helps here is to take a step back from the whole situation and allow yourself some time to determine what is truly essential, versus what is only peripheral. Focus on the things that matter most for preparing yourself for the type of career you’re aiming for after your PhD.  And in the end, don’t forget to enjoy the whole PhD experience. It’s a once in a lifetime thing!

Best Published Article Karin Fikkers

Assistant Professor, Utrecht University

Co-authors: Jessica Piotrowski & Patti Valkenburg

Karin Fikkers

Congratulations on winning the Best Published Article Award! Your article provides a longitudinal study on positive effects of video game play. What are the key findings?
Thank you! I’m very honored to be this year’s recipient (along with my co-authors) of the CAM Best Published Article Award. In this study, we collected data four times across four years among 934 young children (3-7 years in year 1). Each year, we asked parents to report their child’s digital game play, and interviewers conducted two standardized intelligence tasks with the children. One task measured ‘fluid intelligence’ or logical problem-solving abilities; the other task measured ‘crystallized intelligence’ or general knowledge. We were interested in the bidirectional longitudinal relationship between digital game play and both forms of intelligence. Basically, we wondered: do digital games make kids smarter, or do smarter kids play games more often?

Our findings for logical problem-solving (fluid intelligence) indicated partial support for an effects perspective: higher digital gaming was related to higher subsequent scores on the fluid intelligence task. Fluid intelligence scores were not related to subsequent game play, so we found no support for a selection perspective. For general knowledge (crystallized intelligence), we found no significant relationship in either direction with digital gaming (which in fact we didn’t expect based on the literature).

What has been your most memorable experience while conducting the study, and why?
This probably sounds a bit dorky, but it was great to delve into the gaming and intelligence literature. There is just so much work across different disciplines! There’s fascinating stuff on cognitive ‘brain training’ and on cognitive effects of more commercial games. It was a real challenge to integrate it all in a clear and concise piece, but I learned TONS along the way. I’m very proud about how it all came together in one article.

A more ‘fun’ memorable experience (which wasn’t my own, but was reported to us by the interviewers) was to hear the answers of some children to the general knowledge questions. When asked the question: “Who invented the telephone?”, one of the children had answered: “Steve Jobs”. I guess this clearly shows the audience we’re dealing with as children and media researchers 😊.

If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you want to do and why?
I’d love to learn more about (and do research on) interactive stories, which are stories in which the user can really determine or change the plot at key plot points. These can exist in many forms (as written story, but also as TV show, game, or even full VR). If I had unlimited resources, I’d love to set up a team with researchers from different disciplines, and give them sufficient time to work on this and learn from each other—which is so much more difficult and time consuming with interdisciplinary topics.

I’d want to really understand how these interactive stories are made (the computational/artificial intelligence side to it) as well as how young audiences interact with them (how they approach these user-directed stories and which personalized effects take place).

Top Reviewer – Drew P. Cingel

Assistant Professor, University of California, Davis

Drew P. Cingel

Congratulations on winning the Top Reviewer Award! If you had to give one piece of advice to CAM members on how to provide top reviews, what would it be?
Take your time, and have fun. I enjoy reviewing because it is an opportunity to read and think about the latest, most cutting edge research methods, questions that are topical, and new ways to analyze data. So in addition to bringing a thoughtful, critical eye to the research, I also approach each review as a learning opportunity: an opportunity for me to see what kinds of questions people are trying to answer, and the various ways that they go about answering them. There have been numerous times where I have read about a new kind of analysis or design that I’ve subsequently applied to my own research. So have fun; reviews are a chance to influence others’ work, but also a chance to learn from what others are doing.

What would be your reviewer motto?
Give what you’d like to receive. I am sure that we have all had experiences where we were really proud of a manuscript that we wrote, and sent it off for review. We wait for months, only to get a rejection. This happens often, of course, and usually for valid reasons, but sometimes the rejection occurs because it is clear that at least one reviewer did not really pay attention to the manuscript, or seemingly was against the nature of the research from the very beginning. This does no one any good. It slows down the already slow pace of research and publishing, and frankly, wastes everyone’s time. So, if you’d like to receive quality, thoughtful, constructive reviews for your work, provide quality, thoughtful, constructive reviews for others’ work. Remember, just like you, the author(s) spent months or even years of their time to design, run, analyze, and write the manuscript you are reading. Be mindful and respectful of that.

To download a copy of this edition of CAMmer in the spotlight click here.