Dr. Sam Bradley is a professor at Texas Tech University doing research in Communication.
I first met Dr. Bradley back when I was a student at Tech and working IT in the college of Mass Communications. He was one of the few professors at Tech who seemed to remember what it was like to be a student.
He has joined me and a few other Lubbock photographers in doing a 365 project in 2010.
1. Who are you/ what is your background?
I am a cognitive scientist who grew up in a media family. Before I was born, my father was a radio engineer, disc jockey, and eventually president and general manager of a radio station that he co-owned. It was one of the early Top 40 radio stations in the country, and he met my mother at that radio station. Later, they shifted into advertising, and I literally grew up in that advertising agency.
Through these experiences — and their retelling of their experiences — I fell in love with mass communications. As an undergraduate, I took an honors psychology class titled “The Human Mind.” That changed my life.
When I quickly tired of the hours and the low pay (but never the actual work) of my chosen profession, print journalism, I went to graduate school. There, I met Dr. Bob Meeds (now my boss at Tech), and he showed me the intersection of communication and psychology. I have never looked back.
2. What is Communication & Cognition?
In truth, it’s a domain name. When I wanted to host my own Web site, I tried to best describe what I do. My thoughts live at the intersection of mind and message. A lot of people are interested in media psychology with a heavy emphasis on media. I treat both equally. That’s why I have a joint doctoral degree in mass communications and cognitive science from Indiana. I want to understand the mind at the level of the cognitive psychologist, not just a former media guy who took a couple of classes.
3. Why does the study matter? What is the merit of this study?
Look, we’ve been studying media effects for more than six decades, and we’ve made precious little progress. Why? Because the approach is all wrong. It’s not about the effects. It’s about the process. Would you study, say, gravity, by looking at effects? What happens when you drop something? It falls down! How interesting is that? Not very, and it does nothing for science. We want to know the how and why. Physicists have given us this. What happens between message exposure and subsequent behavioral effect is among the most complex events in the known universe. Communication scholars typically have not given the brain its due, and their result has been an inability to understand much. Unless you respect the brain, it will never reveal its secrets. And I’m speaking metaphorically here and not Indiana Jones style.
So we do a lot of studies. All designed to shed light on this picture. And progress is incremental and a lot slower than we would like. But we are making progress. And combined with a body of like-minded scientists around the world, together we are making progress.
4. Who uses the information for this study?
Most of what we look for is basic science. This is most appropriate for graduate students and other professors. Until we understand the basic science, applied studies tend to be well intentioned but not very illuminating. If you’re a practitioner, you want to know whether Ad A or Ad B (or news story or video game or whatever) will work best. But there are an endless supply of Ads A and B. We want to know why one works better than another. Then we can start to understand both the art and the science of communication.
5. What is the weirdest item (ad, movie, ect) that you have used in an experiment?
We used the RoboSapien v2. That was as weird as it gets. We either had the robot in person or via television to measure responses.