Our main research interest is to understand the various effects of mass media on people's thinking, attitudes, and behavior. Our work involves several aspects of mass communication, such as news coverage and different types of advertising, multiple levels of analysis, and it is relevant to various areas of the discipline (e.g., media effects, media content, media reception). It deals with attitudes and cognition broadly construed and has implications for understanding the role of mass media for both citizens and society. We continually seek to ensure that our work has theoretical importance, methodological rigor, and clear relevance to the society at large.

We draw on theories and concepts from the fields of communication, psychology, political science, and marketing. In all these areas, we appreciate and have taken advantage of the opportunity to conduct studies on different types of media, with different populations and in several countries. We use a variety of different established methods (i.e., content analysis, meta analysis, survey, experiment) and strive to advance methodological innovations. For instance, we conduct psychophysiological studies such as eye-tracking. Also, we actively integrate participants in the research process employing novel techniques (e.g., citizen science mobile experience sampling). Our fundamental goal is to produce high-calibre research that is published in the leading outlets of the field.

With this background, we pursue five major lines of inquiry:

  1. Hybrid Forms of Advertising and Children
    We are intrigued by hybrid forms of advertising, such as product and brand placements.  In a series of experimental studies, we have investigated the effects of brand placements on brand memory and brand attitudes, especially with respect to children. In particular, we study the effects of healthy and unhealthy foods placed in entertaining media targeting children. One central result of this research is that unhealthy food placements can have significant effects on behavioral outcomes such as food choice, raising important managerial and ethical questions. Against this background, we also study how healthy foods can be embedded in entertaining media in order to foster healthy eating habits in children.
  2. Environmental Advertising
    Environmental advertising, so-called "green" advertising, is increasingly used by companies in order to respond to consumers’ rising concerns about environmental topics. Since not all of the “green” advertised products are inherently environmentally friendly, some companies use misleading greenwashing claims to promote their products as sustainable, organic, or eco-conscious. Our research shows that such greenwashing strategies can significantly affect and deceit consumers, because even highly knowledgeable consumers struggle with identifying misleading strategies in green advertising.    We therefore also attempt to answer the question of how consumers can be empowered to detect misleading environmental advertising.
  3. Political Communication
    In the area of political communication, we explore the effects of political news coverage and communication by political actors in traditional media and the social media environment. In this context, we attempt to determine strategies which could increase political participation, media literacy, and political knowledge. In the online realm, we put special emphasis on effects of incidental exposure to political information and personalized political advertising and its adverse and beneficial effects. Additionally, we also tackle the increasingly important topic of misinformation online as well as offline by exploring citizens' resistance against corrections and factual evidence. Furthermore, we study the effects of campaign communication with special focus on "dirty" and negative campaigning in Western European countries.
  4. Digital Media and Well-being
    Another major research area deals with benefits and risks of smartphone and social media use across generations. We are especially interested in recent phenomena such as nomophobia (i.e., the fear of being without a mobile phone) or phubbing (i.e., ignoring a conversation partner and using smartphone instead), and we study the process of disengagement from mobile devices as well. Looking at parents’ and children’s longitudinal smartphone usage patterns, we find that smartphone use can have positive and negative effects on psychological, social, or physiological well-being, depending on how the devices are used. As a related research topic, we explore the effects of sexualizing and objectifying content on social media. Our research provides evidence that sexualizing and objectifying content can have significant consequences for women’s body perceptions and evaluations.
  5. Content and Effects Of News about Terror
    Given the recent global wave of Islamist terrorist attacks, we have extensively studied the effects of terrorism news on citizens’ emotional and attitudinal responses. Our main motivation is to understand how news about terror influences intergroup relations between non-Muslims and Muslims living in Western societies. In particular, we have observed that news reports often explicitly or implicitly link frightening portrayals of terrorism and terrorists to the general Muslim population. In this context, we have suggested the concept of news differentiation, tapping the active distinction between Islamist terrorists and Muslims in the news. We demonstrate that news differentiation plays a key role when explaining news consumers’ negative stereotypes and Islamophobic attitudes toward Muslims in general.

Please consult our recent publications for more details.