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Cancer Center Member

Amy Shirong Lu, PhD

Academic Title:
Assistant Professor, Communication Studies; School of Communication

Member of:
Cancer Prevention


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Cancer Focused Research:

My research interest is health communication with an emphasis on the persuasive mechanisms and psychological, physiological, and behavioral effects of media and technology. I am embarked on a program of research investigating three sub-topics:

NARRATIVES I am interested in the persuasive effects of media narratives, or stories that may affect health. One of the oldest and still most pervasive forms of communication, narratives may be an especially powerful way to communicate about health and change behavior. Narratives have the unique immersive quality that enables suspension of disbelief, vivid personal experiences, and helps create affection for the story’s characters. Currently I explore the use of narratives as motivational tools for childhood obesity prevention and dietary assessment via interactive media such as health video games.

MEDIATED CHARACTERS My fascination with mediated characters originated in my childhood interest in anime, or Japanese animation. As a genre, anime has many international, or non-Japanese, visual and cultural elements. I developed a theoretical framework for such cultural hybridity and later explored this cultural phenomenon of exotic looking characters from a cognitive psychology perspective. My line of mediated character research is closely aligned with narrative research as character and plot are the main components of a narrative and important determinants of its immersive quality.

DIGITAL MEDIA USE AND EFFECTS Digital media are especially important when trying to reach children and adolescents, who are active media users and early adopters of new means of communication. I have studied topics such as health video games on childhood obesity prevention, personal health blogs for health behavior promotion, health information seeking behavior, adolescent Instant Message (IM) use, mass media’s influence on adolescents’ sexual behaviors, and the influence of TV advertisements on snacking behavior. Currently I am working to create a customized Implicit Association Test (IAT) to improve health food intake among children.

These three lines of research are integral to my health communication research paradigm: Narratives provide a context and potential for persuasion and behavior change; characters are actors carrying the stories and should be easily identified by audience members; both narratives and characters could be customized and situated in health video games for effective behavioral intervention.