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Patel Research Statement - 1 of 1

Sheetal J. Patel
RESEARCH STATEMENT

My research is primarily concerned with the development and testing of strategic
persuasive health and nonprofit marketing messages. I am particularly interested in how
different emotions can influence ones understanding of those messages. Feelings in general
can affect what and how information is processed, and specific emotions may have differing
effects on perceptions resulting from a message. For instance, nonprofit messages that induce
compassion have the potential to increase prosocial behavior. This is because appraisals in
relation to compassion not only include concern for someone suffering, but also motivation to
relieve that suffering. Thus, it is possible for compassion-inducing advertisements to be more
effective than advertisements that induce only empathy, which merely include a vicarious
feeling of anothers pain but not the motivation to relieve that pain. Accordingly, I seek to: 1)
help conceptualize the role emotions can play in processing health and nonprofit messages; 2)
help conceptualize the effects of message-produced emotions on attitudes and behavior; and 3)
examine the different influences of specific emotions on communication messages.

Current Research
I bring a set of interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks and a variety of methodological
tools to my research. I draw from a range of theories including theories of emotion, theories of
health behavior, and theories of nonprofit communication and social marketing. I have ongoing
lines of research that link each of these substantive areas. For example, I have conducted a
series of experiments that examine whether the presence of empathy and compassion in news
articles and nonprofit advertisements affect prosocial attitudes and behavioral intentions. From
these experiments, I found that the effects of compassion and empathy might be evolving with
globalization (research presented at AEJMC). Another example is the multi-method research
approach I used to develop and evaluate a health marketing campaign for parents of children
with eating disorders. In this research, I found emotions to be a key variable in how parents
process health messages, both in mass communication and in patient-provider dialogue. I also
found that although emotional burden can hinder health message processing, it could be used
to increase healthy behavior (research presented at KCHC, CDC, and manuscript in press).
Next, I have studied the effects of news media and persuasive messages on compassion and
compassion fatigue (burnout towards social issues). This study has led me to begin working on
the theoretical underpinnings of compassion fatigue for use in nonprofit marketing (research
presented at ICA). Furthermore, I have used content analysis to explore emotion on health
websites, where persuasion mainly relies on positive emotions (manuscript under review).
Overall, each of the foregoing examples of research focuses on the dynamic between emotion
and either health or nonprofit marketing communication. This program of research has led me
to the identification of an intriguing research question that I am examining in my dissertation.

Dissertation Research
Titled, To Help or not to Help: The Effects of Affective Expectancies on Compassion,
Attitudes, and Prosocial Behavior, the central notion of my dissertation focuses on peoples
predictions about how they think they will feel after a future event. These predictions are called
affective expectancies. Generally, how people expect to feel about helping a person in need
could potentially influence persuasive message effects on compassion, prosocial attitudes, and
prosocial behavioral intentions. For example, if people who expect to feel good (positive
affective expectancy) after donating to a charity view an advertisement containing content that
confirms these expectations, they may feel even more compassion in reaction to the
advertisement than if they had no expectations. In contrast, if the same people with positive
affective expectancies view an advertisement containing content that contradicts these
expectations (e.g., only speaks about the negative suffering of the victims in need), those people
Patel Research Statement - 2 of 2

may feel less compassion in reaction to the advertisement than they would have if they had no
expectations. This is due to the comparison people may make between the emotional
expectation and the message content. Thus, the emotional predictions people make about
future actions can change the intended influence of persuasive messages. My experimental
study will further explore levels of message scrutiny as an underlying mechanism for
expectation effects. For example, higher scrutiny of a message can make the comparisons
between expectations and messages more salient.
In the context of health and nonprofit communication, the interplay between affective
expectations, persuasion, and resulting behavior is not only important theoretically, but is also
critical practically for humanitarian aid and governmental organizations. Although these
organizations name emotion as a key factor in decreasing prosocial behavior, they depend on
the use of emotion in communication to increase global health and well-being.

Plans for Future Research
Thus far, my research has led to a peer-reviewed book chapter (in press), two articles
under review, and seven conference presentations. Furthermore, I have experience in obtaining
research funding as principal investigator, having secured two grants totaling $11,200 that
support my interdisciplinary work with other students, faculty, departments, and universities
in health communication. Broadly speaking, my research employs quantitative methods,
including experimental design, surveys, and content analysis. I also employ mixed methods
when required by certain research questions.
As I continue my current program of research, I plan to convert my conference papers
into journal articles. I am also interested in studying the development and effects of health and
nonprofit marketing messages in diverse populations. The effects of emotions may be
contingent on culture, age, race, gender, and other demographic variables. For instance, results
on the development of the Caring is Caring health intervention have indicated that there are
differences in message effects by race. Health providers also indicated a need to know which
differences matter. However, to further examine the intervention effects on differing
populations, a grant would be useful to properly access different racial populations of parents
and to examine the longitudinal effects of the intervention. For these reasons, I would be
especially enthusiastic to join a department where the pursuit of federal grants is both
encouraged and nurtured.
Furthermore, I envision my dissertation laying the foundation for a program of research
that examines the variables that affect health and nonprofit marketing messages, especially as
communication practitioners explore new media. For example, I may find other variables that
interact with the emotional predictions of future prosocial behavior, such as modality of
communication, specific social issues, other specific emotions, efficacy, message framing, and
social media characteristics. As innovative strategies for new media are being developed to
cope with the decreased time and length of advertisements, new effects of emotion may result.
Such effects may be an increase in the heuristic processing of messages or increased dependence
on emotions in processing information. By more fully conceptualizing the role of emotion in
health and nonprofit persuasion, we can better reflect and increase prosocial behavior in an era
of changing consumer communication.