Fall 2016

Wrapping up my first full semester as faculty here in Communication at MSU, I can finally reflect on the semester and what’s been happening.

Media and Morality

I was involved in two media and morality  workshops, one at MSU and one at Radboud University in Nijmegen, as well as a media and morality discussion panel at NCA. As usual, I just wish we had more time for these things, as they bring together scholars on an important topic in a way we don’t get to do on a day-to-day basis. Most interesting themes in the area of media and morality from these talks, from my perspective:

  • Looking at both the positive and negative effects of moral portrayals, including character ambiguity, moral license or cleansing, and consequences for altruistic and egoistic behavior. Of course this touches on my own work, but also new stuff coming out from Mina Tsay and Maya Krakowiak, Morgan Ellithorpe and David Ewoldsen, and Sven Joeckel and Layla Dogruel, among others.
  • Focusing on the role of the audience in perception of morality, particularly in terms of attributions about character motivations and in terms of audience moral deliberation/entering the moral playground of narrative and video games. This has been driven by several folks, namely Matthew Grizzard and Tilo Hartmann in video games, and Clare Grall, Nick Bowman, and Ron Tamborini in narrative.
  •  Charting the developmental effects of sociomoral portrayals in media on children. This has been coming for a while (particularly from Robert Lewis and Lindsey Hahn) but I confess it hasn’t really interested me terribly… until I got involved in a project looking at moral intuition salience after points of moral conflict in Brave. Excited to work on those data with Serena Daalmans and Lindsey Hahn this coming year.
  • Identifying the neural correlates/ROI for moral reasoning in narrative. I can’t say much but be ready for some really cool papers coming out in the next year on this topic!

Media and Well-Being

Of course the big news in media and well-being research was the publication of the Routledge Handbook of Media and Well-Being, edited by Leonard Reinecke and Mary Beth Oliver. Such an incredible volume that pulls together established and new scholars to tackle this important topic.

Leonard and I are also currently working on the special issue of Journal of Media Psychology on Media and Well-Being, which will come out in 2017.

I have several papers under review in this area currently, which I hope to announce in the coming year. Not to tip my hand here, but I can say that the papers I’m most excited about in this area include one with Matthias Hofer on media use and well-being in the elderly, one on the psychological costs and benefits of binge-watching, and two on media use for recovery and personal expansion. So this area will get a lot of traction in the coming year (I hope!)


Teaching this semester was incredible. I had a lovely graduate seminar on historical perspectives and current developments in mass communication theory. We covered a range of topics and perspectives, and I had the pleasure of reading excellent final papers extending or refining existing mass comm theories/perspectives such as Uses and Gratifications, Reinforcing Spirals, Two-step flow, and Social Cognitive Theory. It was a class I’d taken once from John Sherry and once from Steve Lacy, so it was especially exciting to teach from both those perspectives in my first term back at MSU.

In short, although I miss the VU and living in the Netherlands quite a bit some days, I am on the whole still overwhelmingly pleased to be back in East Lansing and with the incredible faculty, students, and opportunities available at Communication Arts & Sciences here at MSU. Onward and upward to 2017!

Morality and media symposium Nijmegen

Information pulled from



The role of morality in understanding audiences’ uses of and responses to media has always been a central subject for media scholars. The earliest theories of entertainment (cf. disposition theory: Zillmann & Cantor, 1976) were quick to establish the role of morality related to the appeal of characters and narratives. This area has become a vital and vibrant issue in the entertainment community, which is engaged in answering question such as: What do different media types (television, games, and film) have to offer viewers in terms of moral content? Does morality play a part in how audience members select, interpret and respond to media characters and narrative? During this symposium we will delve into these questions and more, to displays the state of the art of contemporary research that has been conducted within the field of communication science, media psychology and other related disciplines. This symposium hopes to incorporate questions and opinions of audience members into a larger discussion regarding the implications of morality considerations in media content, uses and effects research, and will hopefully serve as an inspiration for continued research and collaboration on morality and media.

Symposium programme

12.30 – Opening & lecture 1: Television and its moral content, Serena Daalmans, MSc

13.00 –  Lecture 2: “Consistency, conflict, and change: Defining factors of moral ambiguity”, by Dr. Allison Eden

13.45 – Coffee break

14.00 – Lecture 3: “A Moral Disengagement in Violent Video Games Model”, Dr. Tilo Hartmann

14.45 – Lecture 4: “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and Me: The Temporarily Expanded Boundaries of the Self Model and Morality in Narratives”, Dr. Ben Johnson

15.30 – Coffee break

15.45 – Lecture 5 “Mapping viewers’ moral evaluation of morally ambivalent television drama”, by Merel van Ommen, MSc


How consumers select apps (Dutch)

Nice blog post (in Dutch) about our work on how consumers select apps from the app store from my colleague Christian Burgers at the Vrije Universiteit. He touches on two recent articles looking at 1) the use of heuristics and 2) visual metaphor in app download decisions.

We have a new paper underway that further examines the use of visual metaphor in app downloads, extending our findings from the transportation domain to the medical and finance domains.

Hoe consumenten kiezen in de app-store


#MMMSU Media and Morality @MSU

Today we are hosting the first workshop on Media and Morality @MSU. Gathering together researchers from both in and outside of Michigan State University, we focus on networking, proposal development, measurement issues, and the “big questions” of media and morality over the course of a beautiful fall weekend here at MSU.

Interested in joining us? Contact me via email at edenalli@msu.edu for more information!


Jaime Banks (West Virginia University, Department of Communication Studies)
Gary Bente (MSU, Department of Communication)
Nicholas Bowman (West Virginia University, Department of Communication Studies)
Leyla Dogruel (Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Political and Social Sciences)
Allison Eden (MSU, Department of Communication)
Morgan Ellithorpe (MSU, Advertising + Public Relations Department)
David Ewoldsen (MSU, Department of Media and Information)
Matthias Hofer (MSU, Department of Communication)
Matthew Grizzard (University of Buffalo, Department of Communication)
Sven Jöckel (University of Erfurt, Department of Media and Communication Science)
Mark Reimers (MSU, Department of Neuroscience)
Nancy Rhodes (MSU, Advertising + Public Relations Department)
Ron Tamborini (MSU, Department of Communication)


Goodbye, Netherlands!

I will be moving back to Michigan this summer to take a position as an assistant professor at the Department of Communication and Michigan State University. Very excited! The department is full of excellent colleagues and the support of the university is outstanding. Communication at Michigan State has always been at the forefront of the discipline and I hope to be part of that tradition.

See more about the department and my fellow new hires here:


NWO coverage of our KIEM grant

Nice summary of our research on avatar-based feedback in a mobility app from NWO (text below):


Transportation figures from December 2013 on traffic jams (‘filedruk’) showed that the number and intensity of traffic jams in the Netherlands has increased (http://nos.nl/artikel/581315-filedruk-neemt-weer-toe.html). To stimulate pro-social transportation behavior and to reduce traffic jams, transportation specialists turn towards using the fun of creative games and gamified applications as a persuasive intervention strategy to promote responsible commuting behavior (e.g., taking public transport or bikes instead of cars). In such gamified interventions, players gain points in online, game-like environments by completing real-world tasks concerning their commuting behavior. To combat player fatigue and boredom, virtual avatars are often used in these games to give feedback to keep players motivated. An important question is how these avatar-based feedback processes can be optimized to positively impact and sustain player attitudes towards responsible commuting, motivations to commute responsibly, and commuting behaviors.

In the proposed KIEM project, we answer this question by conducting a field test using player data from the ‘ProMOting smart MoBIlity to Employees (Mobi)’ game, developed and promoted by DTV Consultants. We will track verbal and non-verbal feedback messages delivered by the avatar ‘Mobi’ to players, player behavior, pre- and post-play attitudes towards the game and commuting behavior over time. These tests provide empirical, longitudinal evidence on the effectiveness of different verbal and non-verbal feedback types in serious games and gamified applications.

Results will be used to validate communication-scientific theories on effective mechanisms in serious games and gamified applications, and to improve actual interventions aimed at stimulating pro-social commuting behaviour.


Wetenschappelijk artikel

Top paper at AEJMC

Our paper “Melfi’s choice” – which analyzes viewer reactions to the moral conundrum faced by psychologist Jennifer Melfi after being sexually assaulted in the television drama “Sopranos” – received a top paper award at the recent AEJMC conference in San Francisco. Congrats to all coauthors for a wonderful job!



2015 has been an exciting year. I was offered a permanent position by the VU, I had several papers and book chapters accepted for conferences or publication, and we started work on the NWO grant “Smart use of smart media in transportation.”

Perhaps most important for me personally, I welcomed my boy into the family on June 11. He looks skeptical but I think he will come around.


Guilty Couch Potato in the news

Our study about ego-depletion and media use has been picked up by several news outlets. Speaking of depletion restoration, this happened while I was on holiday, so apologies this is a bit delayed! Here are links to the relevant articles: