Sonya Dal Cin, Ph.D., Director

SonyaDalCinSonya Dal Cin is an Associate Professor in Communication Studies and Research Associate Professor in the Institute for Social Research, Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan. She also holds an Adjunct appointment in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Dal Cin is interested in the use of stories as persuasive tools, with applications in health-related attitudes and behaviours. She conducts research on how stories can impact what people think about themselves, others, and everyday issues and whether this has an impact on how people behave. She is most interested in health-related thoughts and behaviors because of their importance for personal and societal well-being.

Dr. Dal Cin is particularly interested in how we process the messages contained in stories and how our "relationship" with a character influences this processing. The main focus of her work is how this processing can happen without much (if any) conscious awareness on our part, and how we also may not realize the effects of this processing (e.g., changes in our attitudes).

She received her bachelor's from Queen's University (Canada) and her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Waterloo (Canada), where she held a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. She came to the University of Michigan in 2007, following a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Medical School.

Allison Earl

Ali EarlAli Earl is an Assistant Professor of Psychology, a Faculty Associate in the Institute for Social Research, Research Center for Group Dynamics, and a Faculty Affiliate of the Joint Program in Social Work & Psychology. Dr. Earl’s primary research interests are understanding the causes and consequences of biased selection and attention to persuasive information, particularly in the context of health promotion. Simply stated, she is interested in what we pay attention to and why, and how this attention (or inattention) influences attitudinal and behavioral outcomes, such as persuasion and healthy behavior. In particular, her work has addressed disparities in attention to information about HIV prevention for African-Americans compared to European-Americans as a predictor of disparities in health outcomes. She is also exploring barriers to attention to health information by African-Americans, including the roles of stigma, shame, fear, and perceptions of irrelevance. At a more basic attitudes and persuasion level, she is currently pursuing work relevant to how we select information for liked versus disliked others, and how the role of choice influences how we process information we agree versus disagree with. She received her Ph.D in Psychology from the University of Illinois- Urbana Champaign.

Joseph Bayer

Undergraduate: University of Pittsburgh, Major: Psychology and History

JoeBayerJoe is a doctoral candidate in the Communication Studies Department. His research takes a social psychological perspective on interpersonal communication in the contexts of social networks and mobile media. Current projects consider how the processes of automaticity, immersion, and emotion influence these social behaviors .One application of his research is the issue of distracted driving. Fun Fact Alert! His favorite TV shows are The West Wing, The Wire, and Comedy Bang! Bang!. He also really enjoys chocolate milk.


Sarah Erickson

Undergraduate: Princeton University, Major: Art and Archaeology

SarahEricksonSarah is a doctoral candidate in the Communication Studies Department. Sarah is broadly interested in media effects on adolescents and adolescent use of media with a specific focus on sexual socialization and fan/media interactions. Her work has examined the role of exposure to teen romantic media in acceptance of intimate partner and sexual violence and she has also sought to describe and quantify media contexts containing scripts related to sexual and intimate partner violence. Sarah is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Fun Fact Alert! She is an avid hiker and tennis player, loves yoga and has an elderly springer spaniel named Clover.

Dan Lane

Undergraduate: Syracuse University, Major: Television, Radio & Film

DanLaneDan is a first year doctoral student in the Communication Studies Department. His interests center around the use of digital narratives in social change, focusing on research that explores the potential for stories to transform the way people think about issues like poverty, health and the environment. He is the founder of Good Eye Video, a digital storytelling company dedicated to telling the stories of non-profits and social causes around the world. Fun Fact Alert! Dan is an incurable home bread baker, avid rock climber and defenseless within 200 feet of a good farmers' market.


Darren Stevenson

Undergraduate: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Major: Photography

DarrenStevensonDarren is a doctoral candidate in the Communication Studies department. His research examines the social implications of recent and emerging information, communication, and media technologies with an emphasis on the digital marketing and advertising infrastructure. Current projects examine personalized marketing, the personal data ecosystem, and how new forms of audience buying impact individuals, groups, and society. Darren also works to develop novel social research methods. Fun Fact Alert! He enjoys distance running and cooking, not simultaneously.


Jana Wilbricht

Undergraduate: Cornell University, Major: Communication and Development Sociology

Jana Jana is a first year doctoral student in the Communication Studies Department. Her research interests include the role of narratives in health communication and health-related decision-making, as well as the use of new technologies to reduce health disparities among minority populations, particularly American Indians. During her time at Cornell, she completed a study on the access to and use of the Internet and mobile technology for health information among Hopi Indians living on the reservation. Fun Fact Alert! Jana is an international student from Germany and enjoys traveling, archery, and running.


Christina Carino

Undergraduate: Cornell University, Major: Psychology and Economics

ChrissyCarinoChrissy is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Social Psychology Department. Broadly, she is interested in applying social psychological research to the study of health behaviors. One primary line of research deals with examining the impact of certain message characteristics (e.g., action vs. inaction goals, approach vs. avoidance motivation, emotions) on the attention to and processing of health-based messages. The goal of such projects is to develop more effect public health communications. Fun Fact Alert! Chrissy loves being involved in the community and is currently involved with two local non-profits, the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation's Next Generation Philanthropists. 

David Hauser

Undergraduate: Gettysburg College, Major: Psychology

DavidHauserDavid is a doctoral student in the Social Psychology Department. His research interests typically revolve around how minor aspects of a situation can have profound affects on thinking and judgment. For instance, the weight of a clipboard can affect how important you think a survey is, and the inclusion of certain standard survey questions can affect the mindset you bring to a survey. One primary area of research in on how we use metaphors to understand relatively abstract concepts in terms of more concrete, easier-to-understand ones. While media and everyday discourse may often employ conceptual metaphors to portray a more vivid story or encourage certain actions, my research suggests that these metaphors may ultimately hurt our understanding of these concepts.

Ali Ziegler 

Undergraduate: University of Michigan, Major: Pyschology

Ali ZAli is a Ph.D. candidate in the joint Personality and Social Contexts Psychology and Women's Studies program.  Broadly, her research focuses on gender, sexuality, and stigmatized identities.  More specifically she is interested in exploring the ways in which society exerts control over women's bodies, such as through the enforcement of sexual double standards and stringent beauty norms. Ali is interested in the ways in which women who have sex with women receive sexual health information and how health concerns specific to the lesbian community are oftentimes overlooked and neglected.


Undergraduate Honors Research & Research Assistants




(L-R): Alana Roytvarf, Kayla Walters, Jessica McKillop, Jose Davila, Danielle Wallick




Hi RAs (L-R): Heather Kunkle, Alex Fauer, Emily Liu


Lab Alumni & Affiliates

Julia Lippman, Ph.D.

Julia Lippman conducts research on predictors and effects of media use.  Areas of special interest include gender, sexual socialization, and gendered violence. Current projects focus on stalking and sexting.  She earned her Ph.D. in Communication Studies at the University of Michigan in 2013. She received her B.A. in Media Studies from Hampshire College.

Li Chen

Undergraduate: Gettysburg College, Major: Sociology

LiLi has served as a Project Manager for the Media Psychology lab from 2012 to 2014. Broadly she is interested in improving community outcomes in measurable and meaningful ways. Prior to joining the ISR, Li worked as a Program Evaluator in Harlem, NY and as a Technology Associate in Detroit, MI. Fun Fact Alert! When she's not geeking out over strategic plans and annual reports, she's a travel enthusiast who hopes to meet her 20 travel goals before she turns 50.


Chris Casio

Undergraduate: Central Michigan University, Major: Psychology

ChrisCasioChristopher Cascio is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.  Broadly he is interested in communication neuroscience, which combines methods from communication studies and social neuroscience.  His research focuses on neurocognitive mechanisms associated with persuasive health messages delivered through mass media in order to better understand subsequent behavior.  In addition, Chris is interested in how knowledge gained from neuroimaging may complement what we know from self-reports and behavioral research about how people process persuasive health messages.