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SoCJ’s Li publishes research on perceptions of AI, refugees in social media

Wenbo Li in a yellow shirt and a black zip-up sweater

Wenbo Li in a yellow shirt and a black zip-up sweaterWenbo Li, assistant professor of science communication at Stony Brook’s School of Communication and Journalism, recently published four papers focused primarily on social media’s impact on communication.

The articles were published in Media Psychology, New Media and Society, Communication Research, and Computers in Human Behavior.

“I’m excited about having these papers published. They examined various phenomena associated with social media and offered a timely account of these occurrences,” said Li. “I hope these studies contribute to our understanding of the effects of social media on individuals and society.”

Two articles explored the impact of social media on Ukrainian refugees. The first article, “Interactive mediated contact on social media: Examining the effect on attitudes toward Ukrainian refugees,” was published in New Media & Society. It found that liking, commenting and sharing content about Ukrainian refugees on social media increased an individual’s empathy toward refugees. However, interacting with content that portrayed Ukrainian refugees as a threat to society resulted in the user having negative thoughts about them. The second, “The reciprocity of social media engagement and collective actions: A longitudinal study on Ukrainian refugees,” was published in Computers In Human Behavior. It found that users who liked, commented and shared social media content about Ukrainian refugees were also more likely to take action to help them indirectly through heightened collective efficacy.

“Like all media, social media can have a profound effect on how people understand and interact with each other and with society at large,” said Laura Lindenfeld, dean of the School of Communication and Journalism and executive director of the Alda Center for Communicating Science. “Studies like Wenbo’s help us to understand these impacts and what they may mean for the future.”

The third article, published in Media Psychology, is titled “You See You” (UCU): Self-representation affordance moderates bandwagon-cues’ impacts on selective exposure.” In it, Li found that users who created public social profiles were more likely to interact with content that has fewer likes, comments and shares, while a user who created a private profile was more likely to interact with content with higher levels of engagement.

The fourth article, “Examining the diffusion of innovations from a dynamic, differential-effects perspective: A longitudinal study on AI adoption among employees,” was published in Communication Research. It explored workers’ responses to the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace. It found that when AI was presented as a tool to increase productivity, employees were more likely to view it as helpful. By contrast, when AI was presented as a potential threat to job security, survey respondents were more likely to have negative attitudes toward the technology. The study also found a trend that over time, people’s perception of AI became more negative. 

Li co-authored the papers with colleagues from Texas Tech University, SUNY Albany, the University of North Florida, George Washington University, Ohio State University and the Technical University of Berlin.

Li came to Stony Brook in 2022 after earning his PhD from Ohio State University. His research focuses how social media influences individual and social change, with particular attention to how social media can impact health and racial disparities

By Menka Suresh, science communication graduate student

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