B.A., University of Florida
M.A., University of Florida
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Psychological and social aspects of mass communication, intra-audience effects.
Professor McDonald’s teaching and research interests are primarily in the area of mediated communication. He teaches undergraduate courses in the history of communication and in industry research methods. His primary research interest is in the behavioral, cognitive and affective aspects of the audience’s experience during mediated communication.
Throughout his career, Professor McDonald has concentrated on social aspects of the audience, including a narrow area of research referred to as intra-audience effects. This has taken him in a number of directions, including the study of how our conceptions of our selves may be partially determined by the media characters we enjoy watching, and the affective nature of many of the gratifications we obtain from the media. He often says that all media use is a social experience, but most recently he has been researching the explicitly social nature of the audience, centering his interest in a blend of interpersonal and mass communication processes.
His recent work has focused on social aspects of our thoughts while using media, including the memories we have that are brought to the surface while watching media content, emotional contagion (in which those other people who affect our experience are other members of the audience), and affective relations with media characters (in which the other people involved are not real, but are a product of our imaginings). He has also been doing some work on the diffusion/use of new TV technologies and media multitasking/simultaneous multiple media use. Click above for a copy of his C.V.
Here's an overview of some of Professor McDonald's current projects:
Loss or Merging of Self. This ongoing project focuses on what happens to our self-concept during media use. Some researchers have suggested that we lose our self in the media world; other studies, though, suggest that we merge our self with these mediated others. It's an important distinction, because in the former, the self disappears from our thoughts; in the latter, our self is highlighted and contrasted with media characters. This project is ongoing and has been conducted with Drs. Mu Hu of West Virginia Wesleyan College, Dr. Shu-Fang Lin of National Chung Cheng Universit in Taiwan, and Melanie Sarge, a recent graduate of our program, now at Texas Tech University. Jim Collier, a current grad student, has also become involved in the project.
Media Use and Rumination. In this project, Dr. McDonald worked with Jingbo Meng (currently a graduate student at USC, but formerly in our program), and Melanie Sarge (a recent graduate of our program) on how what Eric Klinger calls our "current concerns" impact our media experiences. Current concerns are things that are on our minds - they may be positive or negative - but are not directly related to what we're doing. When something reminds us of them in some way, it tends to interfere with the task at hand because it focuses our attention on our concerns. In our study, we examined what happens when TV entertainment programs cover issues that relate to people's current concerns. We relate our research to a number of applied areas where results of persuasion campaigns are not impacting the intended targets in the manner expected. We surmise that this is because the concerns have focused attention away from the persuasive message.
New Communication Technologies. Dr. McDonald recently completed a project with Ben Johnson, a graduate student in our program, focused on the use of time and media technologies in the middle of the economic turbulence of the last decade. Other projects have included appointment viewing of television, coviewing of tv technologies, and use of multiple media and media multitasking.