Beyond the comfort zone

For rising juniors Jackson Colvett and Adam Hoxie, a first-year seminar course totally unrelated to their majors gave them the opportunity to participate in a research project, leading them to present the findings to an international audience in Puerto Rico.

Communication professor Marina Krcmar teaches the first-year seminar, Children and the Media; last spring the class conducted a study to examine the effect of child television exposure on parent-child interactions and purchase behavior in a grocery story. At the end of the semester she asked if there were any volunteers to turn the data into a full-blown conference paper. Colvett and Hoxie stepped up and spent part of last summer working with her on the project.

Colvett points to Wake Forest’s emphasis on the liberal arts for making such an opportunity available to him and Hoxie.

“I am a psychology major with minors in biology and neuroscience while Adam is a chemistry major with a pre-dental focus,” Colvett said. “Neither of us is involved with the communication department, but we were still given this opportunity to do research. Wake prepared us to take on a challenge outside our comfort zone.”

“The students were pretty excited to find out they were going to Puerto Rico,” Krcmar said, adding that Wake Forest’s Undergraduate REsearch and Creative Activities Center (URECA) helped defer their costs. “I was so proud of them. They certainly did Wake Forest proud.”

Their road to Puerto Rico began on campus last fall with a poster presentation at Undergraduate Research Day. Then they presented at the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium in November. The paper was submitted to and accepted (with a 33% acceptance rate) by the International Communication Association (ICA), the largest international academic association for scholars interested in the study, teaching and application of all aspects of human and mediated communication. The trio traveled to the 65th annual ICA meeting in May where Colvett and Hoxie presented the findings.

For the study, the student researchers coded purchase-related interactions of parent-child pairs in stores, collected questionnaire data from them and collected questionnaire data from parents visiting stores without their children in order to assess the external validity. They found a negative relationship between children’s age and purchase-related requests and coercive behavior. Furthermore, parent television viewing and child initiated purchase interactions were positively related and control-orientation was negatively related to child product requests. Lastly, when considered simultaneously, lower income, less parental viewing, more control orientation, and less communication orientation were all related to more extensive back-and-forth interactions about products.

“Our presentation received some great comments and questions concerning the future of our project,” Hoxie said. “I was so grateful for the opportunity from Wake, especially when I found out we were two of the only undergraduates at the conference.”

Colvett and Hoxie said the next step for the paper is to submit it for publication in a peer-review journal.

“This gave us valuable practical experience designing research projects, conducting research, writing papers, and presenting research,” Colvett said. “Designing the project and writing the paper were certainly a lot of work, but it was fulfilling to see the finished project and presenting the research was truly rewarding.”

Categories: Faculty, Mentoring, Research, Student, Top Stories