Researchers receive grant to study how media can make us better people

Two professors from Florida State University and Penn State University have received a $1.95 million grant to study what they’re calling “feel-good” stories.

A release about the research looks at the key question that the researchers will address:

“While inspirational media messages may be quick to bring a smile, can they also help to make us better people?

“Distinguished Professor Mary Beth Oliver of the College of Communications, who serves as co-director of the Media Effects Laboratory at Penn State, will be a co-primary investigator to Arthur Raney, project leader and the James E. Kirk Professor of Communication at Florida State University, on a three-year grant to examine the answers to this question.

“In August, they will begin a research project to analyze the daily use and effects of inspirational media through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, which serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the ‘big questions’ of human purpose and ultimate reality.”

It will be interesting to see how the researchers define “feel-good stories” and “inspirational media.” Such terms can make some media practitioners cringe.

Stories can be positive without being happy-go-lucky feature stories. Take solutions journalism – “rigorous and compelling reporting on solutions to social problems” and restorative narratives – stories that explore how people and communities are rebuilding and recovering in a tragedy’s aftermath. These types of stories have the potential to mobilize people in ways that traditional doom and gloom stories can’t. In the coming year, ivoh hopes to do research that looks specifically at how Restorative Narratives impact people and communities.

There is a lot of research on the negative side effects of media consumption. It’s encouraging to know that researchers from Florida State and Penn State will be looking into how media can actually help people.

“Research in media psychology has been dominated by explorations of harmful effects such as media violence,” the research release states. “Our research acknowledges the potential of media to also have beneficial outcomes, such as enhancing our sense of well-being and heightening feelings of interconnectedness with others.”

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