Most people spend their leisure time using media to entertain themselves with delighting or enlightening stories, or to interact with others in their social network. My research aim is to understand the interaction between these two domains of social behavior by examining how narratives bind individuals into groups. Thus, I study moral clarity and moral ambiguity in narrative entertainment, including (a) their role in enjoyment and appreciation of media, (b) their effects on interpersonal trust, cooperation, moral values, and information-sharing behaviors, (c) the frequency and character of their depiction in content, and (d) their role in forming and maintaining audience groups. These varied goals naturally emerge from a more basic question: How do the media synchronize our thoughts and emotions so that we can cooperate as a society? The answer to this question is vital for scholars who seek to understand social functions of media and useful to practitioners who rely on interpersonal and institutional trust to persuade the public.
Ultimately, I believe my research will help tie together different theoretical approaches in communication and related disciplines with the common explanatory threads of moral clarity, moral ambiguity, and experiential synchrony. You can see my work in outlets such as the International Journal of Arts & Technology, Mass Communication & Society, Journal of Communication, and Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
Michigan State University 2008-2012
• PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in Communication, specialization in cognitive science
• Dissertation topic: Developmental differences in narrative evaluations in which I tested a model describing how narrative structure and moral development change media appraisals. o Lewis, R. J. (2012). Understanding Developmental Differences in Narrative Appeal. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order No. AAT 3524450)
University of Missouri – St. Louis 2006-2008
• MA (Master of Arts) in Communication
• Thesis topic: Trait affection and anterior brain asymmetry in which I examined how baseline electrical activity in the cortex is related to the tendency to express affection.
Southeast Missouri State University 2000-2004
• BA (Bachelor of Arts) in Mass Communication
• Minor in Computer Science