National study will determine motives that drive consumers' media preferences and behaviors

Study goal is to discover keys to designing more effective online news and advertising

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and the Missouri School of Journalism will partner with HCD Research to conduct a national study among 18-70 year-olds to determine their media use and reactions to how news sites are structured and navigated.

The study is under the direction of Reynolds Fellow, Paul Bolls, an associate professor of strategic communication and co-director of the PRIME (Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects) Lab in the Missouri School of Journalism.

The study seeks to obtain a deeper understanding of psychological motives that drive media preferences and use to help news outlets and advertisers optimize content and delivery platforms for their target audiences. The study will identify how internet-use habits and preferences are determined by physiologically-based motivations.

"The Bolls-HCD Research partnership will open up new doors and opportunities for the news industry," said Esther Thorson, director of research at RJI. "We expect the findings to have immediate implications for how to best organize and interrelate news website components. Our next step will be to apply the findings and test their impact."  

The primary brain-based mechanisms include an approach-focused orientation toward ones world. That is where there is active seeking of more stimulation of all types, and an avoidance-focused orientation where people attempt to defend themselves from stimulation they see as punishing. The ratio of these two orientations have been shown to be important predictors of all kinds of communication behaviors. But they have not been related to the processing of news online. that determine how the human brain processes information. The outcome of the study will be detailed psychological profiles of news audiences that go beyond existing audience data.

"HCD Research has tremendous experience studying psychological effects of a wide range of media content which makes them the perfect industry partner for this study" said Bolls. "We believe that our research findings will aide editors and advertisers in designing news content and advertising campaigns that are more effective at engaging their target audience."

HCD Research is conducting this study as part of a growing collaboration with the PRIME Lab and Missouri School of Journalism to conduct scientific research on the psychology of media audiences. The current project is funded by RJI and results are expected to be available at the beginning of 2012.

"Through our work with the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, and specifically the PRIME Lab, we are aligned with one of the nation's premiere journalism schools and communications research organizations," said Glenn Kessler, president and CEO, HCD Research. "Our partnership enables us to leverage the knowledge and insights that we gain in the area of physiological measures and apply it to the research that we conduct for our clients."

For more information, contact:
Vince McGourty, HCD Research, 908-483-9121

Brian Steffens, RJI director of communications, 573-882-8251

About HCD Research
Headquartered in Flemington, NJ, HCD Research conducts communications research for clients in the pharmaceutical, financial, food and beverage, politics and entertainment industries. For additional information on the company's consumer studies go to: or research services go to:

Kelly Peery
Communications Coordinator
Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

About the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute 
The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute works with citizens, journalists and researchers to strengthen democracy through better journalism. RJI seeks out the most exciting new ideas, tests them with real-world experiments, uses social science research to assess their effectiveness and delivers solutions that citizens and journalists can put to use in their own communities.

About The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation
The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, it has committed more than $100 million to its National Journalism Initiative in the United States.

About the Missouri School of Journalism
The Missouri School of Journalism, the world's first, is an international leader in journalism education. Some of the best journalists in the world have learned their profession through the Missouri Method, which provides practical hands-on training in real-world news media and strategic communication agencies. The School works with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute to create the future of journalism and has six research centers dedicated to journalism. More than a dozen professional organizations, programs and centers are headquartered here.


About Us

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) is a world-class center for researching and testing new models of journalism in this era of technological advances.