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Conference Spotlights Student Research

Four undergraduate students from the Department of Communication—Sarah Coon, Daniel Haddad, Matthew Laurie, and Sarah Pollock—showcased their research at the 27th Annual Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Conference held April 8–9.

Their research projects on multitasking in the classroom, online dating and effective email communication were conducted under the guidance of three Department of Communication faculty members: Professors Narine Yegiyan, Jorge Peña, and Bo Feng, respectively. 

Project abstracts

Communication Sarah Coon explaining her poster on her research on multitasking and learning. "Overcoming Student Distraction: How Cognitive Stress Affects Multitasking and Learning"

Sarah A. Coon (pictured)

Faculty Mentor: Narine Yegiyan, Ph.D.

With the advent of mobile technology, off-task multitasking has become the norm in college classrooms. Previous research has shown that the prevalent choice of multitasking by students has a negative effect on their learning. Yet, little is known about factors that can discourage students from engaging in multitasking. The primary objective of this study was to address this question. Specifically, the effect of cognitive stress on students’ goals and their decisions to multitask during lectures was explored. This study collected data on the multitasking activities of students during a pre-recorded lecture that was projected on a large classroom screen. Students were asked to attend to the lecture material under high and low stress conditions. In conditions where cognitive stress was high, the decision to multitask was expected to become less rewarding, incentivizing students to allocate cognitive resources toward relevant educational goals and away from off-task activities. In conditions where cognitive stress was low, students were expected to shift cognitive resources toward activities that met their personal goals (i.e. social interaction). The findings can help more efficiently control the amount of multitasking in classrooms by adjusting instructor teaching style, leading to improved learning outcomes.

Smiling students stand arm in arm with UC Davis Communication Professor Jorge Pena in front of their poster showing their research about online dating. "Online Dating Platforms: Effects of Extroversion on Self-Disclosure and Relational Goals"

Daniel M. Haddad (right, in photo)

Matthew Laurie (left)

Faculty Mentor: Jorge Peña, Ph.D. (center)

The use of online dating apps and websites for individuals to form romantic relationships has steadily increased over the last few decades. A vast majority of individuals from all ages and demographics are turning to such method and has shown to be effective. For instance, over one-third of all marriages in the U.S. between 2005-2012 were a result of online dating experiences (Cacioppo et al., 2013). This study expands and replicates previous research investigating the link between users’ self-disclosure and their relational success in online dating. This study also explores how personality, relational goals (e.g., seeking short or long term relationships), and gender affect online dating behaviors. The results are based on a sample of approximately 1,000 UC Davis students, and the findings are linked to computer-mediated communication theories in order to shed light on the use of online dating technologies, as well as how young people transition from online communication to a face-to-face interaction.


Sarah Pollock presents her research on effective email subject lines at an oral session during the 2016 undergraduate research."Small Cues Make a Big Difference: Strategic Email Communication in Professional Contexts"

Sarah Pollock (shown, left, at oral session)

Faculty Mentor: Bo Feng, Ph.D.

Individuals use all interpersonal cues available to form impressions upon first contact with a stranger. Those cues are severely limited for receivers of text-based messages, such as emails. The few cues that are not filtered out in email communication, including a sender’s email username and subject line, may influence email recipients’ responses. While prior research has shown that individuals form impressions based on email usernames, no empirical research to date has demonstrated the impact of usernames on the achievement of interpersonal goals. Additionally, no research has explored the impact of subject line clarity on responses to strangers. This study on email communication tests the hypothesis that the use of a professional email username and a clear subject line will increase the likelihood of a response to a request made in a professional context. A 2x2x3 factorial design was used, with username, subject line and time of sending as the independent variables. Results of the study were based on data collected from approximately 1,200 university professors. Whether or not the email was opened, as well as whether the recipient took the survey, were recorded as the outcome measures. Results of this study can provide guidance for more effective email communication in professional contexts. 

Learn more about the conference