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SoCJ’s Freiberger publishes two papers

Nina Freiberger headshot

Nina Freiberger headshotNina Freiberger, a postdoctoral associate at the Alda Center for Communicating Science and the School of Communication and Journalism, recently published two articles in peer-reviewed journals. One article found that educational videos increase science learning in children; the other found that the gender disparities in diagnosing depression are shrinking.

The first, “Of Scientists and Superheroes: Educational television and pretend play as preparation for science learning,” was published in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. It found that educational videos, followed by fun learning activities, help children understand and engage with age-appropriate science. 

The second, “(Men)tal health: Perceptions of depression in men and women,” was published in SSM – Mental Health. It found that people are increasingly able to recognize and identify symptoms of depression, regardless of gender.

“Like all research, science communication research is only as effective as it is useful and applicable to everyday life,” said Laura Lindenfeld, executive director of the Alda Center for Communicating Science and dean of the School of Communication and Journalism. “These two papers from Nina and her colleagues give the rest of us insights into how educators and others can help children learn to engage with science and how we can combat health disparities to improve mental health outcomes for all. These studies, and others like them, are one of the core ways the Alda Center and the SoCJ are working to create a fairer, more just, more rational world for us all.”

In the first paper, Freiberger and her colleagues showed one group of children an educational video before a hands-on activity, while another group of children did the activity first and watched the video second. Researchers tested which group better understood the science behind the exercise, and found that children understood science concepts better when they saw an educational video first. They also found that unrealistic story elements, such as humans with superpowers, had no effect on the children’s learning.

For years, researchers around the country have consistently found that depression is underdiagnosed in men, possibly in part due to gender stereotypes that expect men to be tougher and more likely to express anger. In the second paper, Freiberger and her colleagues examined this trend again and found that the gender disparity seems to be diminishing. They suggest the change may be in part the result of the high-profile national conversations about mental health sparked by the covid-19 pandemic. 

Freiberger collaborated with researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Georgia on the publications. 

After completing her PhD at Ohio State University, Freiberger joined the SoCJ and Alda Center as a postdoctoral associate in August 2023. Her research focuses on health communication and health disparities. She is currently working on multiple projects including one about antidepressant medication. 

By Menka Suresh, science communication graduate student

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