Researcher – Teacher -- Changing the world.
Add yet another award to the growing list of accomplishments of Dr. Erica Weintraub Austin, Ph.D., at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
This August, Dr. Austin will be honored for athe top paper presented to the Communication Theory and Methodology (CT&M) session at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in Montreal. This award recognizes her work as among the best in the field in advancing the study of communication through theory-based, methodologically sound research.
The paper, How Media Literacy and Personality Predict Skepticism Toward Alcohol Advertising, is based on data from a project undertaken by one of Dr. Austin’s graduate student classes. Indeed, one of her students, Adrienne Muldrow, is listed as co-author on the paper. (See the abstract here) Dr. Austin’s work continues to add to the growing body of research that helps us better understand how the media affects the way our children, adolescents and adults think and behave.
“Erica is one of those truly gifted researchers who continues to uncover new data and new information that helps to better shape our lives and our profession,” said Prabu David, Associate Dean of The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
Among Prof. Austin’s primary research interests are media literacy and how it relates to health issues. She works in understanding how individuals — particularly children and adolescents — use media information and real-world impressions to make decisions about what is right and what is important. Her earlier paper, Effects of General and Alcohol-Specific Media Literacy Training On Children's Decision Making About Alcohol, remains as a seminal work often cited by other communication researchers investigating media literacy campaigns and alcohol use.
What helps set Dr. Austin apart is her work to translate her research into real-world action, policysuch as by serving as an advisor to the state and federal government and numerous national organizations on the development and evaluation of media literacy curricula.
Specifically, Dr. Austin has served as PI, subcontractor, or consultant on media literacy and campaign design/evaluation projects funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture & Food Research Initiative, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation, the Washington State Department of Health, and the Washington State Division of Social & Health Services.
Another critical area of study for Dr. Austin has been in the area of decision-making and social development. In particular, she studies the interplay of media and parental influences in children's decisions about health, politics and social reality. Her work Evolving measurement of parent-child discussion patterns regarding television, offers parents and counselors a powerful set of research-backed recommendations on how to talk with kids about what they see and hear in the media.
Awards and Academic standing
As well as having a reputation on the Washington State University campus as a professor who actively encourages and leads her students into research, Dr. Austin is noted for her extensive—and growing—research portfolio.. She has taught in public relations, health promotion and communications at Washington State University since 1989.
In 2001 she received the Krieghbaum Under-40 Award from the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Also in 2001 she co-authored a book titled Strategic Public Relations Management: Planning and Managing Effective Communication Programs. She regularly presents highly cited papers in her field and leads the top-ranked program for both media literacy and drug awareness research (Comm Vista, August, 2010).
Dr. Austin is also the Washington State University Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. She also serves as Director of the Murrow Center for Media and Health Promotion Research in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
To examine the potential effectiveness of media literacy education in the context of well-established personality factors, a survey of 472 young adults focused on the issue of alcohol marketing messages examined how individual differences in personality associate with constructs representing aspects of media literacy. The results showed that Need for Cognition predicted critical thinking about media sources but explained only a small portion of the variance. In addition, critical thinking about media sources mediated the effects of Need for Cognition and Need for Affect on critical thinking about media messages. The results support the view that media literacy about media sources is an important precursor to critical thinking about messages and add support to the view that critical thinking about media—i.e. media literacy—can be taught.