College of Communication > About > Centers & Initiatives > Center for Communication Engagement > Media Engagement Lab > Research Projects

Research Projects

ME Lab research initiatives are open to faculty, undergraduate and graduate students at DePaul University. A variety of research projects are active throughout the academic year.

Current Projects

Principal investigator: Juan Mundel
Project collaborators: Juliet Stantz, Tao Deng, Hyejin Kim (faculty)

After the State of Illinois legalized marijuana products, companies took to traditional market strategies such as branding to differentiate their products among the competition. This study explores how consumers evaluate branded marijuana products compared to unbranded alternatives. Specifically, we investigate if branded products lead to stronger trust and lesser stigmatization of a previously considered “sin product”. A survey of 500 respondents was collected.

Principal investigator: Hyejin Kim
Project collaborators: Juliet Stantz, Tao Deng, Juan Mundel (faculty)

Given the growing trend of legalization and popularity of marijuana products and the importance of social media as a conduit for conversation around this topic, the current study aims to explore the patterns of conversations about marijuana edible products on Twitter. The study is framed by social norms theory (Cialdini et al., 1990) and social learning theory (Bandura & Walters, 1977), which postulates that individuals’ attitudes and behaviors are influenced by observing and interacting with others.

Principal investigator: Juliet Stantz
Project collaborators: Hyejin Kim, Tao Deng, Juan Mundel (faculty)

Branding cues such as logos and packaging communicate different meanings to consumers. The marijuana industry has adopted a variety of branding strategies to help with destigmatization associated with their products. This study looks at how DePaul students decode the branding cues for different marijuana products. 

Principal investigator: Juan Mundel
Project collaborators: Juliet Stantz (faculty), Anna Wolf, Niki Sasiela, Gigi Wood, Lauren Russell (undergraduate student researchers)

The use of attractive models as a means to grab consumers’ attention and influence their product evaluations and purchase intentions is a common occurrence among advertisers. Research shows that recurrent exposure to ads featuring models with idealized bodies can lead to negative self-evaluations, development of eating disorders, and depression, among other negative outcomes. This study explores how males evaluate models featured in snack food advertisements when their bodies conform (or not) with advertising industry norms, and the effects of the pairing of different models with products perceived to be healthy (vs. unhealthy) on participants’ evaluations of the self, the product, and the ad.

Professor Mundel and his team collect self-reported measures as well as visual attention to the different elements in the ad.

Principal investigator: Juan Mundel
Project collaborators: Claire Hope (undergraduate student researcher)

Advertising with the use of visuals, such as photos, illustrations, and human model depictions provide central messages about an advertised product in an attractive manner. Visuals provide cues that attract attention and facilitate identification with the depicted images. Models in advertisements allow for personal identification with the product through the framework of social comparison. Advertisers that choose to use well-known individuals, such as celebrities, do so because they know that consumers will link the product with that particular celebrity.

Celebrity endorsers tend to have more exclusive contracts with brands than traditional models, however, more non-famous models are becoming the face of two or more brands that compete within the same product category (e.g, GAP and Abercrombie and Fitch). While there is abundant literature on celebrity endorsement and effects of models on consumers, research in model identification and recall on product, brand, and price evaluation is sparse. We are studying cases where models are cast for brands that compete within the same market, and carry different pricing strategies (e.g., utilitarian-GAP vs. premium-Abercrombie), to examine spillover effects between the brands.

Principal investigator: Nur Uysal
Project collaborators: Kazim Jeffri and Nicole Granados (undergraduate student researchers)

Because government policies have significant effects on the competitive environment of companies, many companies are expanding their efforts to affect public policy decisions through corporate political activities. However, the issue of corporate political activity (CPA) has been rarely addressed in public relations. Using Framing Theory, this research project explores corporate communication on political activity including political contributions, political action committees, and corporate policies that accompanied a landmark Supreme Court ruling, “Citizens United.” The analysis identifies the similarities and differences in CPA communication across industries.

Principal investigator: Sydney Dillard

This study questions the impact of utilizing “pink” in breast cancer ads targeting at risk women’s behavioral intentions. Within the health communication field, the common aim for developing health messages is to design messages that influence preference for engaging in particular health behaviors, such as increasing one's intention to seek breast cancer screening. Therefore, the goal of this study is to examine the following two theoretically-driven concepts: a) the effectiveness of gender salient vs. non-gender salient ads in influencing behavioral intentions and b) the effectiveness of gain vs. loss framing of the ad messages in influencing behavioral intentions.

Principal investigator: Nur Uysal
Project collaborators: Jennifer Honeycutt (student researcher)

Participate in ME Lab Research

To get involved with a research project at the ME Lab:

Faculty Research Collaboration Program

The ME Lab is open to any full-time faculty members at DePaul University. The deadline to apply for a project collaboration is two weeks before the start of each quarter, and the application request should be renewed each quarter. Faculty or department heads can request a letter of support or evaluation throughout the collaboration period.

To apply: