Natalie Herbert, Ph.D.

Portrait of Natalie Herbert

Natalie Herbert recently defended her dissertation at the Annenberg School. Her work focuses on communicating scientific evidence to benefit public health.

Herbert brings her training in message effects to study how expert uncertainty gets construed as expert conflict in the so-called "public health debate" over e-cigarettes, a topic of emerging but uncertain scientific research. In this project, she tests message interventions to reduce the negative effects of perceived conflict and increase trust in science and expert recommendations.

Herbert's track record for applying communication to improve public health is further evidenced by her involvement in a collaboration with the Penn School of Nursing and Penn Libraries. In this collaboration, Herbert has developed messages to communicate complex health information in plain language that is informative and actionable in a case where accurate information and swift action are required: intervening to reverse an opioid overdose. This research uses immersive video to transport audiences into a real-world scenario where bystanders intervene in a suspected opioid overdose using intranasal naloxone. By using extended reality (XR) technologies, this training is designed to have fewer barriers to entry than in-person trainings while being more engaging than written communications often disseminated by public health departments.

In past research with the Network Dynamics Group, Herbert studied digital media and social networks for influencing behaviors, including exercise behavior in a large study of a networked online fitness program. This research lent itself to her role as a coach of the Annenberg (Lunchtime) Running Club, which uses the same principles of social competition to motivate improved health behavior in members of the Penn and larger Philly community.

Herbert received her B.A. with honors in Political Science with a focus on game theory and statistical modeling from UCLA and her M.A. in Communications from the University of Pennsylvania.


Uploaded on Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 8:37am
Research by the Network Dynamics Group at the Annenberg School for Communication compared different ways that exercise programs motivate people to...
Funding and awards

Natalie Herbert. International Communication Association Health Communication Division Travel Award ($125 direct). International Communication Association Annual Conference, May 2018.

Natalie Herbert. Wharton Russell Ackoff Doctoral Student Fellowship for Research on Human Decision Processes and Risk Management, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania ($1,600 direct). “Tailoring an intervention to ameliorate the negative effects of expert disagreement on healthy behavioral intentions,” April 2018.

Joseph Cappella (PI), Sijia Yang, Natalie Herbert, Yotam Ophir, Qinghua Yang, Julia Alber. UPenn TCORS Developmental Grant for “Communicating to the public when the scientific community disagrees: The case of e-cigarettes” ($47,150), April 2017.

Joshua Becker, Natalie Herbert, and Damon Centola. Penn Online Learning Initiative Development Grant for “Network Dynamics and Social Behavior” ($17,000), May 2016.

Natalie Herbert. Wharton Russell Ackoff Doctoral Student Fellowship for Research on Human Decision Processes and Risk Management, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania ($3,000 direct). “Is inequality inescapable? Modeling and experimental studies on structural inequality,” April 2016.

Recent conference presentations

Herbert, N. "Measuring conflict in e-cigarette coverage: Content analysis of U.S. news stories about e-cigarettes, 2017-2018," talk. Health Communication division, 69th Annual International Communication Association Conference, Washington, D.C., May 2019.

Herbert, N., Yang, S., Yang, Q., Alber, J., Ophir, Y., and Cappella, J. N. C., “Conflicting e-cigarette recommendations increase cynical beliefs in current and former smokers: Evidence from a randomized control trial,” talk. Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, San Francisco, CA, February 2019.

Herbert, N., Yang, S., Alber, J. M., Yang, Q., Ophir, Y., and Cappella, J. N. C., “Developing measures of negative effects from contradictory e-cig information exposure,” talk. Health Communication division, 68thAnnual International Communication Association Conference, Prague, CZ, May 2018.

In the media

Collaborator, with Kyle Cassidy, Ann Marie Hoyt-Brennan, Nicholas Giordano, Clare Whitney, and Sydney Axson. Using immersive video for opioid overdose reversal agent training, 2018-

Media: Penn TodayInside Higher Ed

Coach, Annenberg (Lunchtime) Running Club, 2017-

Media: Wall Street JournalPhiladelphia InquirerABCCBSDaily Pennsylvanian (2019), Daily Pennsylvanian (2018), Philly VoicePenn Today

Natalie Herbert recently defended her dissertation at the Annenberg School for Communication.

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Herbert's Network

  • Digital Media and Social Networks
  • Health Communication
  • Media and Communication Effects
  • Political Communication
  • Network Dynamics
  • Penn Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science