Q & A with Dr. Chun Yang

Posted by on Sep 18, 2017 in Cover Stories | 0 comments

Meet Dr. Chun Yang! It is his first year teaching as an assistant professor at the Manship School of Mass Communication. His research interest is media psychology, specifically, the cognitive and emotional impacts of media messages. Dr. Yang received his Ph.D. from Penn State, his M.A. in mass communication in China, his second M.A. in communication studies from Washington State University, and his B.A. in journalism in China. He is currently teaching courses in PR & Social Media Strategy and PR Research.




Q: Could you tell me more about your research interests?

 A: My research interest generally lies in the area of media psychology. Specifically, there are two main areas where I am interested. One is narrative and how people process information. The other area is strategic communication. But I think there is a way to sum up my research into one general area which is basically the emotional and cognitive impact of media messages.


Q: How did you originally become interested in emotion and media?

A: The area of strategic communication or traditionally speaking, persuasion, is an area I have been always interested in because I am really fascinated in a way by the power of media influences on people. And traditionally we spend a lot of time and resources looking at the cognitive part of the media effects or the media messages influences on people. But since the 1960’s and 70’s people started looking at emotions. Many times you realize that emotion can be such a powerful tool in strategic communication. At the same time, when you look at how people process media, say an entertainment context, for example, emotion can play a huge part. You can see that across different theories and models, although people at the time did not realize it was emotion. So I think really emotion is something that we should spend more time actually studying.


Q: What practical impacts do you foresee your research having in the field?

 A: My research can definitely provide some implications. For example, if you are trying to design a message, for example, in health communication, you want to promote some behaviors and try to help people to get rid of some unhealthy or bad behaviors, use the emotional appeals. That is a very powerful tool. As evidence in a lot of research, for example, fear appeals after several decades is still one of the most popular appeals in the industry. But also think about some other appeals, such as humor, are also used widely in advertisement. You see this application both for a cognitive and emotional approach. If you use both in media messages.


Q: Why did you become a professor? Tell me about your career path.

 A: I actually never thought about becoming a professor before. When I was an undergrad I majored in journalism thought I would be a reporter. I just wanted to be a journalist. Then later on, what I realized is that there are a lot of questions I don’t have the answer to. And especially for media. Media effects you notice that you deal with that but you don’t have the answers to that.

And, if you are in that route, and you do your masters, and you want to learn a little bit more so you become a Ph.D. student, seems like you are too old to become a journalist after several years in graduate school. But what’s more important is the excitement of doing research and finding something that’s been haunting you for a long time – there is nothing to compare to that sort of experience. And as a professor, I value two things the most. One is obviously doing research. But the other one is interacting with students. I didn’t know at that time that I would be actually enjoying doing this but you know more and more I realize that the interaction within and outside the class with my students either by teaching or working on some project together – that’s something that I couldn’t find if I were a journalist.


Q: What attracted you to the Manship School? 

A: I think there are several things that attracted me here. First of all, this is a very good program in mass communication. So the reputation really was one thing. And also, probably more important is that based on my experience of interacting with the people here, both the faculty and the staff, I really like the sort of environment here and the culture that people actually support each other. I like it very much so far. And they gave me a really good impression last year when I came down for the interview. So that was very important especially given that the flood happened the previous year and people would say, “Hey you really want to go down there?” And really the support for faculty I can see here for research and teaching. It’s really something I also value a lot – the resources as well. Like the Media Effects Lab. A lot of people have heard about our MEL nationwide.


Q: Do you have any plans yet for using the MEL?

A: Yes, I do. Maybe not this semester. But definitely, there are a list of a few things I want to do in the lab, like the eye tracking machine we have there. That’s definitely something I want to utilize in the future.


Q: Which course are you most excited about teaching this semester?

A: I enjoy both courses. The first one, PR research, is challenging to teach because there is so much stuff you have to teach in a single semester. I really enjoy it. And the strategic social media class is something very exciting. I enjoy doing it. I designed it with a very hand on approach.


Q: What is your favorite food?

 A: Seafood and spicy food!


Q: What is your favorite movie of all time?

 A: That’s really hard to answer. I do have several movies I really enjoy. There are several old Japanese movies. I also enjoy popular movies like Inception and Shutter Island.