Joseph N. Cappella, Ph.D.

Phone: 215-898-7059

Social cognition, communication theory, health communication, persuasion and politics, nonverbal behavior, and statistical and mathematical methods. Studies on cognitive processing of verbal and visual materials, organization of social interaction, and message effects.

Joseph N. Cappella (Ph.D., 1974, Michigan State University) is Professor of Communication and holds the Gerald R. Miller Chair at the Annenberg School for Communication at The University of Pennsylvania. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University and a visiting scholar at Stanford and the University of California Santa Barbara. His research has resulted in more than 140 articles and book chapters and four co-authored books in areas of health and political communication, social interaction, nonverbal behavior, media effects, and statistical methods. The articles have appeared in journals in psychology, communication, health, and politics. His research has been supported by grants from NIMH, NIDA, NSF, NCI, NHGRI, The Twentieth Century Fund, and from the Markle, Ford, Carnegie, Pew, and Robert Wood Johnson foundations. He has served on the editorial boards of 20 different journals. He is a Fellow of the International Communication Association and its past president, a distinguished scholar of the National Communication Association, and recipient of the B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award. His book with Kathleen Hall Jamieson entitled Spiral of Cynicism has has been awarded the Doris Graber book award from the American Psychological Association and the Fellows Book Award from the International Communication Association.


  1. New Media: The selection and retransmission of health information as a function message characteristics including persuasiveness.
  2. The content and format features of effective messages
  3. How to communicate health screening information in the face of uncertain guidelines (mammography and prostate screening)
  4. Efficient methods for testing messages to be employed in communication campaigns
  5. Recommendation systems for health information: content, preference, and hybrid models

Research Grants

R01CA160226 (Cappella, PI)                                                                                     10/1/2011 – 7/30/2015
NIH/NCI Constructing “Recommender Systems for Effective Health Messages: Smoking Cessation”
Examines methods for tailoring health messages to users based on mathematical models employed in online marketing of commercial goods. 
1U54CA163313-01 (Armstrong/Schnall)                                                                    09/01/2011 -08/31/2016
NIH/NCI The Penn Center for Personalized Breast Cancer Screening (PCIPS) $1,125,235 (annual DC)
The PCIPS will advance a personalized breast cancer screening by developing a new tool for predicting individual screening outcomes, evaluating the comparative effectiveness of a new imaging modality, and developing effective strategies for communicating individual screening approaches to better link individualized information to informed decision making. Cappella’s role (co investigator), message design and assessment.
1U01CA154254 (Sherry Emery)                                                                     09/01/2011 -08/31/2015
NIH/NCI Tobacco Control in a Rapidly Changing Media Environment Examines forms of communication in emerging media that provide information about tobacco use and control from both a commercial and public health point of view. 
Cappella’s role (co investigator), sub-contract to design and provide coding for new media sources.
2-P50-CA-095856-06 (Hornik, PI)                                                                               9/01/2008 – 08/31/2013
NIH/NCI “Penn’s Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research”
Penn’s CECCR II studies the interaction of public communication and clinical services as they affect cancer related outcomes. Cappella is co-PI with Caryn Lerman on research on smoking urge in anti-smoking PSAs;
Cappella also directs the message core.
Adminstrative Supplement to 2-P50-CA-095856-06 (Hornik, PI), NIH/NCI “Penn’s Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research”
P20 CA095856-09S1 (Hornik)                                                            4/01/2012 – 8/31/2013; NIH/NCI 
“Supporting the diffusion of the tobacco graphic warning labels (GWL.)”
Cappella’s component of the supplement to Penn’s CECCR II studies the effectiveness of graphic warning labels proposed to appear on packages of cigarettes in a variety of specialized populations compared to a nationally representative and generalized sample. Cappella is co-I.


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