Current Projects

Parasocial Relationship Survey

Both adults and children form parasocial relationships, or one-sided, emotionally tinged relationships with media characters. Although much is known about adult parasocial relationships, less is known about children’s parasocial relationships.  Our team is interviewing children about their favorite characters and asking parents to fill out surveys about their children’s preferred media characters.  We hope to better understand these unique childhood parasocial relationships, and the implications these parasocial relationships may have on learning and behavior.

Parasocial Relationships and Children’s Food Preferences

We expanded our research on parasocial relationships with children’s favorite characters to their favorite media characters who market foods to them.  We are investigating children’s knowledge of media characters who market foods to them, and the strength of their parasocial relationships with the media characters they select as their favorite.  Through this approach, we can better understand how parasocial relationships with media characters can influence children’s food preferences.

DW App Study

In this study, children play a tablet app game that features DW from Arthur choosing healthy foods to gain energy and avoiding unhealthy foods to lose energy.  We then ask children which foods help DW and themselves gain energy and which foods ‘zap’ DW and their own energy.  Overall, we will examine what children learn about healthy and unhealthy foods from playing a game with a familiar character.

Intelligent Character Study

We are investigating whether children learn early math skills better from characters who interact in contingent, intelligent ways.  We have children play a game with an intelligent character: Dora the Explorer.  Dora asks the children math questions, and responds contingently to their answers.  We are interested to see whether this level of interactivity allows children to learn more effectively from digital media!