Null, But Meaningful

Null effects can be so frustrating as a scholar, but sometimes, they are the most meaningful. This is one of those examples. My colleague, Dr. Karin Fikkers, and I designed a careful study to test how young kids differentially respond to media content. We had beautiful theory to help us predict how individual differences would influence responses (cognitive, emotional, arousal) along with a wonderful sample of children and a great measurement plan.

Weeks were spent working with 243 youth at the lovely Nemo museum (thanks Nemo!) and months were spent pouring over the data. And despite our best theorizing, we came up empty. Or not.

Nemo Setup of Study
Setup of our study at Nemo

You see, what we did NOT find probably matters more than what we could have found. Our expectations were wrong, and the connections between the individual differences we investigated (need for cognition, affective empathy, sensation seeking, and sensory processing sensitivity) and processing were not present. This led us down a long scholarly path of reflection – questions about theory, methodology, and where we go from here.  It’s a think piece of sorts, and one that I’m very proud to have co-authored. Hopefully it is a key building block for future work in this field.

The complete article can be found here:  Fikkers, K.M & Piotrowski, J.T. (2019). Content and person effects in media research: Studying differences in cognitive, emotional, and 30arousal responses to media content. Media Psychology. doi:10.1080/15213269.2019.1608257

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