As the middle-aged woman watches the latest political debate, she turns the dial in her hand to register her dislike of what the candidate just said. In the next room, the college student watches clips of a football game as sensors on his skin register his excitement and engagement in the game. Across the hall in what appears to be an everyday living room, a young mother and her children watch a popular cartoon, while through a two-way mirror they’re being evaluated on their interactions with each other.
These scenarios are just a sampling of the kinds of research being conducted in the Center for Communication Research in Texas Tech University’s College of Media and Communication.
The Center for Communication Research (CCR) houses state-of-the art technology for studying all facets of audience response to media messages—video, audio, online, commercial, informational and more. The center contains more than 6,000 square feet of research labs and provides research services to those both within and beyond the Texas Tech community.
The CCR provides comprehensive research solutions using state-of-the-art tools, including dial-testing, eye-tracking and biometric measurement of audience response. The center comprises an Audience Testing Lab, Content Analysis Lab, Experimental Lab, Eye-tracking Lab, Focus Group Room and Psychophysiology Lab. View video here.
Glenn Cummins, associate professor, associate dean for research and director of the center, said the college does much more than produce students who create messages, edit video, write advertisements and design publications and web pages.
“Public perception, and even to some extent, on campus, the perception of Media and Communication is that we produce students who can be message producers,” Cummins said. “There is really a lot more to our graduate and undergraduate mission in terms of education and research, and these labs are an essential part of all that. Knowing how to produce messages to achieve specific results is really what we teach.
“How do you make a message that elicits a certain response? How do you make a message that improves memory of certain key points? All of these labs give us different ways to understand that perception process, how to create better messages. It’s a deeper, more critical way of looking at media and the thought process.”
Cummins said the labs also are one of the most important parts of bringing in potential faculty to join the college.
“It’s an impressive facility, but really the facility is a testament to our commitment to research in terms of making the tools available for them to use for their own research. It’s also impressive to potential graduate students.”
So impressive is the lab setup to prospective faculty, it lured Eric Rasmussen to come work for the college.
An assistant professor in public relations, Rasmussen just graduated from Ohio State University and was interested in finding a place he could go to do the research that he wanted to do.
“I study children and media,” he said. “I’m interested in bringing kids and their families in, show them different media clips – things kids watch on a regular basis – and see how that affects them. I’m also interested in how parents can talk to their kids about what they see on television.
“Texas Tech is one of the few places that has everything I would want in a research facility and they have it all under one roof,” Rasmussen said. “Other places might have all these facilities, but they’re all in different areas of the university. Here we have everything I could possibly ever think of needing and it’s all right here in one building.”
Cummins said in addition to supporting research within the college and Texas Tech University, the CCR also works with partners outside the academic community.
“We have a lot of very talented faculty and some top-notch facilities. There’s no reason we need to keep this a secret, so we’d like to use our resources to help everyone learn just how much we can offer in terms of communication research,” Cummins said.
Although such partnerships aren’t a primary focus, Cummins said that working with businesses outside the Texas Tech community allows the center and college faculty to help the university with community outreach and engagement.