Co-taught by Neil Lewis, Jr., assistant professor of communication, and René Kizilcec, assistant professor of information science, COMM/INFO 4800 is a capstone seminar that combines applied quantitative research methods and social behavioral science theories. Their goal is to help students gain a better understanding of major challenges facing society — including poverty, poor health and educational inequalities — by designing quantitative research projects and discussing the ethics of behavioral science interventions.
COMM 4800 was one of the most rewarding classes that I have been a part of. Originally, I selected the class because of my prior experience with Professor Lewis. I took his class, COMM 2760: Persuasion & Social Influence, during my sophomore year and absolutely loved it. His class exposed me to an entire field of study that fascinated me. I wanted to learn more!
My interests are pretty multidisciplinary, but I would summarize them by saying that I'm interested in agricultural supply chains. This requires me to consider factors in breeding, production, processing, transportation, retail and consumer behavior. When I heard about COMM 4800, it sounded like an excellent opportunity to understand how we can intervene to help make healthier eating habits.
In all honesty, I thought my aspiration for such an application was a little far stretched given my lack of experience with behavioral interventions, let alone with research. But, once in class, I quickly found a group that was also interested in exploring eating habits.
Together, we designed and implemented an intervention to investigate the effects of gendered framing on male plant-based meat consumption. Based on concepts like precarious masculinity, and on research about stereotypical gendered food descriptions, we hypothesized that framing vegan food options in a stereotypically masculine way would increase the proportion of men who would opt for a plant-based meal over an animal protein meal. Our results were significant, confirming our hypothesis!
Finishing the semester with such a relevant, applicable and meaningful experience was definitely worth the hard work. I'm so proud of the work that my group and I completed. I would be proud to show it to anyone! I never imagined that I could do so much in just a semester but Professor Lewis and Professor Kizilcec set high standards for us, only because they knew we could meet them.
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