Jovanova and Woko Win 2021 Ackoff Fellowships
For the seventh year in a row, Annenberg doctoral students have won this fellowship from the Wharton School.
Annenberg graduate students Mia Jovanova and Chioma Woko have received the Russell Ackoff Doctoral Student Fellowship Award for 2021 from the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center. This is the seventh year in a row, and the thirteenth year overall, that Annenberg students have been fellowship recipients.
The research fellowship, now in its fourteenth year, is named in honor of Russell Ackoff, Professor Emeritus of Management Science, whose work was dedicated to furthering the understanding of human behavior in organizations. Made possible by an endowment from the Anheuser-Busch Charitable Trust, the fellowships are awarded to University of Pennsylvania doctoral students who are pursuing research in decision making under risk and uncertainty.
The Annenberg students will use this fellowship to pursue the following projects:
“Brains, Social Networks and Susceptibility to Risky Health Behavior"
Health behaviors are often not independent, and one important form of influence includes conversations among peers. As such, considerable effort has been invested to understand how the brain responds to interpersonal influences, and how social network characteristics relate to risky decision making in groups, separately. Yet, little is known about how brains and social networks interact.
In the current project, Jovanova is part of a large team of researchers at Penn, Columbia, UNC and Dartmouth, seeking to understand the interplay between brains and social networks. In her part of the project, Jovanova seeks to understand how differences in young adults’ brains relate to how they respond to social influences on drinking outside the lab.
To ask these questions, the team followed ten existing social groups of college students, across two campuses. Jovanova combines three different types of data: social network assessments, brain scans, and daily mobile phone surveys. The researchers characterized the ten social networks at baseline, 6 month, and 12 month periods. A subset of participants from each group were scanned and reported their alcohol-related conversations and drinking, twice a day over 28 days.
Jovanova examines differences in brain activity in two brain systems, the reward and mentalizing systems. These systems are associated with how individuals process rewards, such as social approval from peers, and make sense of peers’ mental states, among other cognitive processes. Jovanova relates differences in these neural responses to day-to-day drinking following pro-alcohol conversations. Further, she investigates how these links vary based on how connected people are to others within their social group.
Overall, this research project aims to develop more complete brain-health behavior models that incorporate information about people’s social lives. It also hopes to inspire new ways to think about linking intra-individual brain systems to networked groups.
This project is part of a multi-lab study across five teams, led by Dr. Emily Falk, Dr. Danielle S. Bassett, and David M. Lydon-Staley at University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Kevin Ochsner at Columbia University, and Dr. Peter J. Mucha at Dartmouth College.
“The Effect of Source Credibility on Promising Message Themes: A Message Pretesting Study to Address COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy among Black Americans”
Vaccination against the novel coronavirus is the prioritized approach to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United States, despite increasing vaccination rates among different subgroups, a small but significant proportion of adults across various demographics remain hesitant. Focusing on hesitancy among Black Americans, Woko’s dissertation seeks to investigate a strategy to increase COVID-19 vaccination through public messaging efforts across a sequence of studies. Through survey methods and social media analysis Woko will identify relevant message themes to test in a message experiment within the target population. The message experiment will focus on the separate and joint effects of two variables on vaccination intentions: credible messengers and promising message themes. Credible messengers are those who an audience deems trustworthy and/or an expert for various reasons. Prior research indicates that such messengers tend to have a significant positive effect on health behavior and intentions. Promising message themes are message topics that been empirically determined to be most likely to shift behavioral intentions in the expected direction. Ultimately, the goal of this dissertation is to provide evidence to inform the development of public health communication efforts to address the disparity in COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Not only will this evidence be relevant for the current pandemic, but it will also inform other risk-communication efforts for inevitable future public health crises.