Sports and Entertainment

College Athletics: Pay, Crime, & Perceived Advantages

Student Researcher: Hailey Gray, Danielle Kelley, Naomi Leonard, Amber Mason

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Grey, H., Kelley, D., Leonard, N., & Manson, A. (2013). College Athletics: Pay, Crime, & Perceived Advantages.

Abstract: This project taps into 1) how student athletes, students and the general public feel about college athletes being paid; 2) the public opinion of if athlete’s conduct off the field should affect how they are handled on the field; 3) whether individuals perceive/believe student athletes are treated differently from other students in the academic setting.

The secondary research findings showed that some collegiate athletes are believed to have advantages over their non-athletic student counterparts. At the same time, some researchers say that because so much is expected of these athletes on the field, they feel required to cut corners in the classroom. Moreover, lower admission standards are given to the athletes because of the pressure placed on admissions officers by internal and external groups. Overall, they are underperforming relative to their peers. While most critics think college athletes should get paid, most general audiecnes disagree. The following survey research and focus group further explored why general audiences have such perception and opinion.

The survey research results showed that women believe that “it is fair that college athletes are not paid” significantly more than men do. Nearly half of  participants agreed or strongly agreed collegiate athletes should not get paid. More than half of respondents claimed that collegiate athletes should not financially benefits from their celebrity statues. Also, participants think professional athlete program should take into account athletes criminal records.

In the focus group, after watching a video of the controversial Texas A&M football player Johnny Manziel, most partici- pants thought that student athletes are students first and that should take precedent. Most participants in each group felt that athletes get a healthy amount of benefits. “Arrogance” was often used to describe Manziel.  Participants believed whether they wanted to or not, college athletes were role models, and their behavior should correspond with such a responsibility. However, the correlation with crime and athletes was vague. Similar findings were found when it came to local athletes.

The Parasocial Contact Hypothesis Revisited: An Individual Differences Perspective

Student Researcher: Minjie Li (MMC Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Li, M. (August, 2013). The Parasocial Contact Hypothesis Revisited: An Individual Differences Perspective. Paper won top paper award and presented at the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (Entertainment Studies Interest Group), Washington D.C.

Abstract: Contact with mediated outgroup members can lead to changes in attitudes toward the outgroup as a whole. This belief, known as the Parasocial Contact Hypothesis, has been found to exist in a variety of forms. The present study attempted to expand theorizing in parasocial contact’s relationship with prejudice reduction of homosexuals by taking an individual differences perspective, and taking into consideration various contexts presented by entertainment narratives. We examined the Big 5 personality traits and their relationships with prejudice reduction (measured through implicit and explicit measures, and social dominance orientation). We also examined how prejudice reduction may differ depending on the focus of the narrative (i.e. politics, religion, technology). The results showed that changes in prejudicial attitudes and social dominance orientation didn’t differ as a function of type of issue focused on in the narrative. Personality traits correlated in various ways with prejudiced attitudes. Implications for theory are discussed.

Big Love Character Recognition.

Student Researcher: Thomas Madison

Faculty Supervisor: Lance Porter

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Madison, T. (2013). Big Love Character Recognition. This is the author’s dissertation.

Abstract: The purpose of this survey was to identify the specific character types (positive, negative, mixed) for use in developing character-centric video stimuli based on people’s opinions of the characters. Higher scores on items, in general, indicated greater liking for, perceived understanding, and agreeableness with the characters in question. All items were measured on 7-point Likert scales ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.” Additional questions assessed how respondents judged the character in terms of morality, attractiveness, intelligence, and general goodness/badness.

I solicited 171 respondents through the MEL subject pool. Students were first screened to make sure they had seen the television show Big Love, and those who had were offered course credit in exchange for their participation. An alternate exercise was made available for students under the age of 18, but none requested it. The results overwhelmingly indicated that students felt “Frank Harlow” was negative a negative character, “Margene Heffman” was positive, and “Nicki Grant” was negative. These findings were used to edit three separate episodes that focused on the activities and goings-on associated with each of the characters.

Big Love: Manipulation ChecksI edited together three ~50 minute episodes from segments taken from three different seasons of the HBO family drama Big Love. The stories of each segment were based around three different characters previously identified through a survey as positive, negative, or neutral personae. A total of 23 students were solicited from the MEL subject. The experiment took place in the MEL where students were asked to view the episodes (in groups of 3-4) in the “living room” before answering questions set up at the MEL computers.

Results demonstrated the positive and negative conditions induced the desired attitudes in the participants. The mixed condition, however, indicated highly negative attitudes toward the mixed character. Additional analysis suggested that the manipulation checks suffered from weak measurement. As a result, I have refined the measures and intend to repeat the manipulation checks in early spring of 2013.

When Your Good Friends Wear Prada: A Study of Parasocial Relationships, Attractiveness, and Life Satisfaction

Student Researcher: Kristen Marie Higdon (MMC)

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Higdon, K. (2013). When Your Good Friends Wear Prada: A Study of Parasocial Relationships, Attractiveness, and Life Satisfaction. This paper is the author’s thesis.

Abstract: This study focuses on how viewers’ relationships with their favorite media characters can impact their outlook on their own lives. Through the examination of parasocial relationships (PSRs), attractiveness, and the traits of materialism and envy, this study looks at the consequences of such traits on one’s life satisfaction. Overall, the theoretical model presented argues to make the connection from one’s PSR to his or her life satisfaction. Using a sample of undergraduate students, participants were asked to complete a survey that examined individuals’ relationships with their favorite fictional media character through the study of various characteristics, habits, and media uses. The results support that the stronger one’s PSR and attractiveness to his or her favorite character the stronger one’s traits of envy and materialism tend to be. Also, the stronger one’s traits of materialism and envy the lower the individual’s life satisfaction. However, the over arching link from PSR to life satisfaction was not made, leaving room for further rationales and research within the area of PSR research.

Effects of Reality Television on Perception and Behavior

Student Researchers: Kali Johnson, Matthew Ray, Dionell McNeal, and Lauren Goodman

Faculty Supervisor: Hyojung Park

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Johnson, K., Ray, M., McNeal, D., &Goodman, L. (2013). Effects of Reality Television on Perception and Behavior. This paper was a project as part of the “Introduction to Research Method in Mass Communication” graduate course.

Abstract: Reality television programming aimed at young adults and adolescents continually portrays violent and aggressive behavior, as well as, sexually promiscuous behavior in conjunction with excessive alcohol consumption and drug use. Our study sought to determine if there is a relationship between these factors and an increased acceptance and engagement of these behaviors by the programming’s viewers. We look to cultivation theory and similar research studies for the basis of our survey design and execution. We conducted an online survey with a sample of 107 students at Louisiana State University education system. The results showed that reality viewership was not to be related to engaging in controversial behaviors or a tolerance for controversial behaviors.  The only area where reality television viewership was found to have any significant relationship was engaging in verbally aggressive behavior; however, the correlation was significantly weak and leaves a questionable relationship.

Humor in Advertising: Its Effects on Product, Advertisement, and Purchase Intent

Student Researcher: John Evans, Kathleen Jackson, Jason Newton, Tuvy Nguyen

Faculty Supervisor: Hyojung Park

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Evans, J., Jackson, K., Newton, J., & Nguyen, T (2013). Humor in Advertising: Its Effects on Product, Advertisement, and Purchase Intent. This paper was a project as part of the “Introduction to Research Method in Mass Communication” graduate course.

Abstract: When trying to produce advertisements that appeal to a mass audience, advertisers often use humor in an effort to generate interest in their product and make their advertisements memorable. We created a study that aimed to determine if humorous advertisements were better received on brand identity and advertisement attitudes than non-humorous advertisements. The study also asked if humor had an impact on purchase intent. Utilizing a surveyed sample size and an independent samples t-test, results showed that there was no significant connection between a positive brand attitude and humor but a significant connection between positive attitudes about the advertisement and humor in the advertisement. No connection between intent to purchase the products and humorous commercials was supported.

Moral Disengagement and the Moral Continuum in the World of Harry Potter: Examining Moral Disengagement Strategies, Moral Judgments, Enjoyment and Appreciation

Faculty Researchers: Meghan Sanders (LSU), and Mina Tsay (Boston University)

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Sanders, M. S., & Tsay, M. (November, 2012). Moral Disengagement and the Moral Continuum in the Worldof Harry Potter: Examining Moral Disengagement Strategies, Moral Judgments, Enjoyment andAppreciation. Paper to be presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association(Mass Communication Division), Orlando, FL.*Top Faculty Paper

Abstract: Disposition theory argues that our enjoyment of mediated experiences is partially dependent on the joint influence of moral assessments and connections with characters and the outcomes that befall them. However, there are a number of narratives that feature popular morally questionable, yet attractive figures. One explanation for the attraction that has been explored by researchers is the use of cognitive disengagement strategies that allow for the morally questionable behaviors to be more acceptable. The present exploratory study attempts to further expand disposition theory and theorizing on the role of moral disengagement by moving beyond conceptualizations of good, bad, and morally ambiguous to explore more subtle moral distinctions between characters as they exist within the same narrative. Using Harry Potter as the context, this study seeks to investigate moral judgments as they may exist along a continuum, and how the use of moral disengagement strategies may vary as a function of these differences. Additionally, this study attempts to provide additional empirical support for the link between moral disengagement strategies and dispositions towards characters, and the ultimate connection with both enjoyment and appreciation of the experience.

Breaking Up with a Gryffindor: Examining Parasocial Breakups with Long-Time Media Friends and its Connection to Eudaimonic and Hedonic motivations

Faculty Researchers: Meghan Sanders (LSU), and Mina Tsay (Boston University)

Student Researcher: Kristin Marks

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Sanders, M.S., Tsay, M., & Marks, K. (May, 2012). Breaking up with a Gryffindor: Examining parasocial breakups with long-time media friends and its connection to eudaimonic and hedonic motivations. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association (Information Systems Division), Phoenix, AZ.

Abstract: Parasocial interaction (PSI) or a relationship between a viewer and character has garnered the interest of entertainment scholars, particularly as it has implications for program enjoyment, viewership, and loyalty. However, as PSIs have been more closely examined, the conceptual definition has expanded to include not only personal, immediate and reciprocal behaviors, such as paracommunication and mutual awareness and attention (Hartmann & Goldhoorn, in press), but also affective and cognitive components (i.e. sympathy, emotion contagion, attention allocation, anticipatory observation, etc.) (see Schramm & Hartmann, 2008) that strengthen parasocial relationships (PSRs). These PSRs provide a sense of intimacy in that viewers feel as though they know and understand media personalities just as they do real people (Cohen & Perse, 2003; Cole & Leets, 1999; Schramm & Hartmann, 2008). Consequently, the media figure becomes part of the person’s social network (Giles, 2002).

As theorizing about viewer-character relationships expand, entertainment scholars are also beginning to argue for broader conceptualizations of the enjoyment experience, moving beyond pure hedonistic pleasures. Enjoyment of the entertainment experience extends beyond positive affect and pleasure-filled gratifications, to include the reflective process of appreciation which refers to a more deliberate and interpretive experience associated with affective blends (Oliver & Bartsch, 2010).Just as motivations for entertainment traditionally examined from a uses and gratifications perspective (i.e. instrumental and companionship motives) have been found to predict the strength of PSRs and the amount of distress felt when such relationships end (Lather & Moyer-Guse, 2011), it is logical that additional factors that are theoretically connected to entertainment content, such as hedonic and eudaimonic motivations, may also differentially contribute to the strength of these relationships.

With the conclusion of the final installment of the Harry Potter movie saga, some fans reported feeling severe loss as the fantasy, coming of age story ended. Fans of the franchise had multiple opportunities to develop relationships with its characters through books, merchandise and feature films. For scholars, the phenomenon presents a unique opportunity in that many fans literally grew up with the characters and stories, possibly looking to them for life lessons. After nearly 15 years, many perhaps have experienced the most profound of parasocial losses. The present study took advantage of this time period through an online survey of general Harry Potter fans.

Findings from this research and their implications will allow scholars to expand current theorizing of viewer-character relationships as they relate to entertainment motivations. In particular, motives to attain pleasure or meaning from entertainment fare could predict levels of PSBs and provide insight to the range of psychological and social effects that interactions with mediated figures have on audiences. Simultaneously, this study takes into consideration the expanded conceptualizations of PSRs—parasocial processing.

Credibility and Identification of Celebrity Endorsers: A Study of Gender, Age and Sexual Orientation

Student Researchers: Kristen M. Higdon, Silvia I. Medrano, Viktorya Mirzoyan, Jessy L. Hutchinson, and Ana P. Simán

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Higdon, K. M., Medrano, S. I., Mirzoyan, V., Hutchinson, J. L., & Simán, A. P. (2012). Credibility and Identification of Celebrity Endorsers: A Study of Gender, Age and Sexual Orientation. This paper was a project as part of the “Introduction to Research Method in Mass Communication” graduate course.


The use of celebrity endorsers is an increasingly popular advertising strategy in various markets. How people perceive celebrities is a key factor in how consumers and voters view products, brands, and political candidates (McCracken, 2005). Identification with a celebrity endorser, both individually and culturally, is an important facet in successful advertising (McCracken, 2005).

This study examined how the level of participant identification, and how a celebrity’s age, gender and sexual orientation influences credibility of the celebrity endorser. Roobina Ohanian (1990) researched the different components of source credibility (i.e. expertise, attractiveness, and trustworthiness), which she asserts contributes to the successful measure of celebrity endorsers. Cohen (2001) states that identification with media characters involves feeling an affinity and similarity with the characters. Prior advertising research concerning the celebrity endorser’s credibility examines the celebrity’s age and gender but none exists that analyzes the impact sexual orientation has on the celebrity endorser’s credibility.

The theories of social comparison and parasocial interaction are significant to the current study in that they both investigate the relationship between the audience and the celebrity endorsers. Social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954) posits that people base their own abilities and values off of what they observe of others. Parasocial interaction theory (Horton & Wohl, 1956) claims that people, if exposed, will psychologically process media characters in a manner similar to the way they interact in their immediate face-to-face relations.

For the purpose of this study, the researchers created eight celebrity advertisements using two heterosexual female/male, younger/older celebrity endorsers and two homosexual female/male, younger/older celebrity endorsers. Due to the company’s applicability to a broad audience, the advertisements were made to resemble current Glaceau Smart Water print ads, and utilized the company’s logo, tag line, and bottle. The survey sample evaluated a randomly assigned celebrity endorser using Ohanian’s (1990) 15-item semantic differential source credibility scale and a revised version of Cohen’s (2001) identification scale.

Results from the online survey of 194 participants demonstrate that as participants indicate stronger identification with the celebrity endorser, the celebrity endorser credibility also increases. This finding shows how identification has a significant main effect on the celebrity endorser’s ratings of credibility. For marketing and advertising purposes, professionals should consider the gender and age of their target audience, so that possible identification with celebrity endorsers is utilized for maximum potential. This study provides new insights concerning the sexual orientation of the celebrity endorser. In terms of attractiveness, heterosexual celebrities received higher ratings than homosexual celebrities. However, homosexual celebrities received higher trustworthiness scores compared to heterosexual celebrities.

The present study could be the basis for future research regarding attitude change in consumer studies. Researchers recommend that future studies focus on explicit and implicit purchasing motivations that are a result of changes in attitude based on the celebrity endorsers attractiveness, trustworthiness, and expertise.

I Want One!: Exploring Parasocial Relationships and Character Morality’s Effects on Product Placement Effectiveness.

Faculty Researchers: Meghan Sanders, and Lance Porter

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Sanders, M. S., & Porter, L. M. (November, 2011). I want one!: Exploring parasocial relationships and character morality’s effects on product placement effectiveness. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association (Mass Communication Division), New Orleans, LA

Abstract: Product placement in film and television, although not necessarily a new promotional method, has increased exponentially over the years (Balasubramananian, Karrh & Patwardhan,2006). Marketers, hoping to bask in the halo effect of a successful television show or franchise, expend large budgets to literally place their products into the hands of popular television, movie and video game characters. At the same time, television shows, specifically, are becoming increasingly complex with extensive numbers of characters and complicated plot lines. Audiences develop ever-deepening relationships with these increasingly complex, realistic characters online, and the World Wide Web provides a breeding ground for fans to further these relationships by discussing them continuously with like-minded individuals. Studios stoke the fires by developing wide-ranging online experiences to extend the property of shows online.

The purpose of this exploratory study is to examine the effects of these parasocial relationships on the efficacy and effectiveness of product placement. By surveying a group of fans in online communities over the course of an entire television season, we hope to gauge the overall branding effects of this tactic among people deeply engaged with a show and its cast of characters.

Effects of Male and Female Ideal and Less than Ideal Body Type for Both Basketball and Baseball on Body Image and Emotion

Faculty Researchers: Rebecca Lang, Christina Persaud, Michael Wunderlich, Emily Zering

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Lang, R., Persaud, C., Wunderlich, M., & Zering, E. (November, 2011).Effects of male and female ideal and less than ideal body type for both basketball and baseball on body image and emotion. Paper for course MC 7001 Research Method

Abstract: Temporarily Unavailable

Category Inclusion and Exclusion in Perceptions of African Americans: Using the Stereotype Content Model to Examine Perceptions of Groups and Individuals

Faculty Researchers: Meghan Sanders, and Jas M. Sullivan

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Sanders, M. S., & Sullivan, J. M. (March, 2011). African American stereotypes in the age of the Obama Presidency. Paper presented at the Race, Gender and Class Conference, New Orleans, LA.

Abstract: The Stereotype Content Model (SCM) framework is used in the present study in two ways: 1) to examine group perceptions and 2) to examine individual/exemplar perceptions. By bringing together findings from a variety of frameworks, this study attempts to answer the following research question: How will perceptions of social groups within the SCM framework differ from those of individuals (both liked and disliked) representing those groups? Survey results for this exploratory study suggest there is a difference of perception for African American groups and African American individuals. Specifically, respondents possess negative perceptions of African Americans subgroups; however, more variability exists in perceptions for African American individuals.

Miller, Ben. (2012). Man without a country: How character complexity primes racial stereotypes.

Student Researchers: Ben Miller

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Miller, Ben. (2012). Man without a country: How character complexity primes racial stereotypes. This is the author’s thesis.

Abstract: This study examined the role character complexity plays in racial attitudes of television viewers. Previous research suggests that stereotypes and counter-stereotypes play vastly different roles in how people process information. Stereotypes act as automatic cues that call up pre-made judgments upon exposure to them. Meanwhile, counter-stereotypes actually work on a conscious processing level, forcing viewers to think more deeply about individuals when presented with them, skipping the automatic recall mechanism all together. By layering counter-stereotypes and stereotypes together in the same stimulus, this study examined whether the existence of there would be an appreciable difference between viewers exposed to solely stereotypes or both using both implicit and explicit measures.

To investigate the relationships between character complexity and racial attitudes, this study used a 2 x 2 factorial experimental design featuring 99 students and the data was analyzed using factorial ANOVAs. In addition to the character complexity variable, an additional exposure variable measured differences between single or repeated exposures of the stimulus videos. This experiment used an Implicit Association Test, a Positive Attitudes Towards Blacks scale and a Black Stereotypes scale to measure racial attitudes. Findings show there was no difference in positive, negative or implicit attitudes between the two complexity conditions. And furthermore, there was also no demonstrated difference between the single- and repeated-exposure conditions.

I play, therefore, I am persuaded.

Student Researchers: Namyang Kim

Faculty Researchers: Yongick Jeong, and Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Kim, N., Jeong, Y, & Sanders, M. S. I Play, Therefore I am Persuaded: The Influence of Video Game Platform and Opponent on Players’ Presence and Perceptions of In-Game Advertising Effectiveness. Paper presented to the Entertainment Studies Interest Group of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Abstract: This study examined the potential for game controller platform and co-playing to affect game player’s presence and their perceived effectiveness of in-game advertising. The relationship between players’ psychological outcomes during a game and in-game advertising memory has been studied, yet few studies have focused on attitudinal and behavioral outcomes.

Celebrity Versus Non-Celebrity: Parasocial Relationships with Characters in Reality-Based Television Programs

Student Researchers: Nicole Webb Henry

Faculty Supervisor: Meghan Sanders

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Henry, N. (2011). Celebrity Versus Non-Celebrity: Parasocial Relationships with Characters in Reality-Based Television Programs. This paper was the author’s thesis.

Abstract: Research of parasocial relationships suggests that audiences engage in one-sided relationships with their favorite personae in the media. This study attempts to explore two types of reality stars: those who had fame before being on reality television and those who have fame because of the show. Using the PSR-Processing Scale, I compared levels of parasocial interactions for each, as well how moral disengagement might play a role for each type of reality star. I also explored whether these parasocial relationships are influenced by the frequency with which respondents watch various types of sub-genres of reality-based programs (i.e. game docs, dating shows, documentary soap operas). To measure levels of parasocial relationships, moral disengagement, media consumption, and reality television viewing habits, I administered an online survey to 244 students at a large southern university. Results show that respondents’ parasocial relationships and degree of moral disengagement with their favorite celebrity and non-celebrity on reality shows are influenced by the type of sub-genres of the reality-based programs (i.e. game docs, dating shows, documentary soap operas).

Finding the Right Spot: The Effect of the Length of Preceding and Succeeding Ads on Television Advertising Effectiveness

Faculty Researchers: Yongick Jeoung, and Yeuseung Kim

For a Complete Report of this Research, See: Jeong, Y., & Kim, Y., (2010). Finding the Right Spot: The Effect of the Length of Preceding and Succeeding Ads on Television Advertising Effectiveness.

Abstract: This study investigated the impact of the length of the immediately surrounding commercials on the effectiveness of a given ad with the consideration of sequential order relations between two consecutive ads. The results showed that advertising is more effective when a commercial is longer than immediately surrounding ads and that the impact of length of an immediately preceding commercial is stronger than that of a succeeding ad. Practical implication is discussed.