I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies
and the Game Design
program of the College of Arts, Media and Design
and the Department of Health Sciences
of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences
at Northeastern University
I direct the Health Technology Lab
and advise students in the Department of Communication Studies,
the Game Design
program, and the Department of Health Sciences
My research is focused on understanding the psychological, physiological, and behavioral mechanisms and effects of media technologies for health promotion with the goal to design and evaluate innovative digital interventions that are theory-guided and evidence-based. Most of my work is interdisciplinary. I actively collaborate with scholars in communications, psychology, computer science, design, education, medicine, and public health.
My research program investigates three sub-topics:
NARRATIVES AS MOTIVATORS
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. As a narrative research scientist, I am among the first to study the psychological and behavioral impact of narratives on physical activity behaviors and cognitive function among children and young adults.
MEDIATED CHARACTERS AS PERSUADERS
My fascination in this area originated in my childhood interest in anime, or Japanese animation, which has many international visual and cultural elements. I explored this cultural hybridity phenomenon from a cognitive psychology perspective and discovered Own Race Projection (ORP) — the perception that ambiguous characters are from the perceiver’s own racial and ethnic group. My current research is closely aligned with narratives because character perception is a key determinant of the immersive quality of a story. Mediated characters are essential to the creation of the most efficacious games and other media for inspiring health behavior change.
DIGITAL MEDIA USE AND EFFECTS
Digital media can offer targeted recipients much more than just a new communication channel and are especially important when trying to reach different populations. I have been working in the area of health games by evaluating and designing video games, smart-phone applications, and interactive programs for childhood obesity prevention and intervention with a special emphasis on physical activity promotion. Besides working on individual intervention projects, I have been working on several systematic and meta-analytic projects on games and simulations for health. To create more effective interventions, health game researchers should carry out more conversations with the game design industry.
+ As a communication and behavior scientist, I'm looking for collaborators who'd like to explore technology-based health promotion via video games, electronic devices, and interactive applications among various populations. Drop me a line if you're interested!
+ Are you the parent of an 8 to 12 year-old child who likes to play video games, doesn't get enough exercise, and lives in the Greater Boston area?
Sign up for our new project here!
+ There are multiple part-time RA positions open.!
News & Fun UPDATES
2020/3/31: We are the first to report narrative's mediation effect on physical activities!
2019/11/21: Our JMIR-Serious Games interview paper is out!
2019/8/9: Our Pediatric Exercise Science paper is out!
2018/9/11: Our Journal of Clinical Medicine paper is out!
2018/7/20: Our latest Scientific Reports-Nature narrative/active game/cognition paper is out in and reported here!
2018/1/2: Our games4health content analysis is online!
2017/3/31: Wrote about Julia, a Muppet with autism, on Sesame Street.
2017/1/31: Talked about my AVG project on Top of Mind.
2016/10/15: New paper on narrative + AVG is out in JMIR:)
2016/4/1: Just received my first R01 grant :D
2016/3/17: Had a blast with my first GDC talk!
2015/8/1: Finally done with summer conferences, whew!
2014/10/6: First Beantown talk
+Older news, equally fun+