University of Michigan Institute for Social Research
                Research Center for Group Dynamics

 

Emily B. Falk

Research Assistant Professor, Research Center for Group Dynamics, ISR;
Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, LSA

Emily B. Falk

Persuasive messages surround us, primarily with the goal of convincing us to alter or maintain certain behaviors (e.g. quit smoking, wear sunscreen, buy a Volvo, vote in the next election). Although persuasive messages often alter peopleís self-reported attitudes and intentions, these self-reports do not necessarily predict actual behavior change. Emily Falk, RCGD Associate and faculty member in the Communication Studies and Psychology Departments, suggests that neuroimaging technology, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), may allow us to gain new insight into this problem. She has worked to develop a program of research in what she calls "Communication Neuroscience" to link neural activity (in response to persuasive messages) to behaviors at the individual, group and population levels. In particular, Falk is interested in predicting behavior change following exposure to persuasive messages and in understanding what makes successful ideas spread (e.g. through social networks, through cultures). Falk is also interested in the development of "neural focus groups" to predict the efficacy of persuasive communication at the population level. At present, much of her research focuses on health communication, including recent work exploring neural predictors of increased sunscreen use, neural predictors of tobacco cessation, and linking neural responses to health messages to population level behavioral outcomes; other areas of interest include political communication, cross-cultural communication, and the spread of culture, social norms and sticky ideas. Dr. Falkís work has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Prior to her doctoral work, Dr. Falk was a Fulbright Fellow in health policy, studying health communication in Canada. She received her bachelorís degree in Neuroscience from Brown University, and her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).