Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Mass Communication and Society
For a Special Issue on
Media & Mental Health: Empirical Investigation of Outcomes
01 July 2022
01 April 2023
Media & Mental Health: Empirical Investigation of Outcomes
Media & Mental Health:
Empirical Investigation of Outcomes
Guest editors: Dr. Scott Parrott (University of Alabama) and Dr. Robert McKeever (University of South Carolina)
Mass media are ubiquitous in modern society: People spend hours each day watching television, streaming videos, reading news, and using social media. It stands to reason that media use carries both positive and negative implications for our mental health, whether emotional reactions to reading news, dampened self-esteem after encountering ridicule via social media, ruminating thoughts while traversing the echo chamber, or self-fulfillment through playing video games.
While the potential outcomes are abundant, our field lacks a wealth of theoretically driven research that examines how media use affects users' mental health. With this call for papers, we seek research that examines the relationships among media exposure and mental health-related cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes. We welcome diverse methodological and theoretical approaches. As outlined below, we will follow a two-stage review process that involves study registration prior to data collection and analysis. (Authors are also strongly encouraged to separately register their research plan through the Center for Open Science.)
Manuscripts will undergo a two-round double-blind review process. Deadlines appear below. First, authors will submit a registered research report. Reviewers and editors will accept or reject the work in principle (revisions might be requested as part of this process). Second, authors whose work is accepted in the first round will be asked to submit a full manuscript for publication in this special issue. The same reviewers from Round 1 will work with the editorial team to determine whether the completed manuscript should be accepted or revised and resubmitted. In limited cases, manuscripts may be rejected when they deviate from journal guidelines or when manuscripts do not strictly adhere to the accepted stage one protocols, but in general, registered studies approved at the first stage will be accepted for publication regardless of findings.
We broadly define mental health outcomes, welcoming studies that examine the relationship between media exposure and beliefs, attitudes, emotions, behavior, social norms, and other variables related to mental health and well-being. Outcomes might include symptoms of mental illness, self-esteem, sleep, physical activity, social connectedness, social comparison, mindfulness, anger, sadness, and other variables. Regardless of outcome, the connection with mental health should be clear and paramount, and the study (or studies) should address an overarching question of "How does media exposure affect people's mental health?"
Below, we illustrate potential areas of inquiry, while acknowledging there are certainly additional topics that warrant research and could potentially be welcomed for this issue.
1) Stigma. We are not seeking content analyses related to mass media representations concerning mental illness. Nonetheless, studies in the special issue might examine how exposure to media stereotypes and/or counter-stereotypes affect participants' attitudes toward mental illness and behavioral intentions. In addition, the field is generally lacking studies concerning the role of media exposure in self-stigma, or negative beliefs/attitudes a person with mental illness might feel toward himself/herself following media exposure.
2) Video games. While researchers, politicians, and parents have devoted substantial attention to negative outcomes related to video game play, there are potentially positive outcomes related to mental health and gaming, including social support, self-esteem, and other outcomes.
3) Social media. How do adolescents use social media to compare themselves to others, and with what effect? How do adults do so? Does extensive social media use supplant or supplement interpersonal relationships (or both), and with what effect on mental health?
4) Suicide. How might big data techniques or mass media be used to mitigate the increasing number of deaths by suicide
5) Help-seeking. How does exposure to media content (including strategic messages) inform participants' attitudes toward therapy, mental health care, medication, and other treatments?
6) Social norms. How does media exposure shape people's perceptions concerning "what others think" regarding mental illness, medication, therapy, and other mental health-related subjects?
7) Longitudinal. How does media exposure reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety? What outcomes can be documented using pre-test, post-test designs or studies accounting for an extended period of time/exposure?
8) Uses and gratifications. Do people who are experiencing mental health crisis seek out media content that confirms or challenges their thinking/affect? What mental health gratifications do people elicit from music? Do people with mental illness use social media to connect with similar others, and with what consequence?
Authors should submit a 4,500-word registered report by July 1, 2022 via the traditional submission portal for Mass Communication & Society. The word limit does not include the title page, abstract, references, and appendices. When submitting through the MC&S site, please be sure to indicate “Special Issue Submission: Media and Mental Health” immediately below the title and above the abstract on the title page.
The document should include (a) an anonymous title page and abstract, (b) an introduction, (c) literature review/theoretical foundation, (d) hypotheses and/or research questions, (e) proposed methods, (f) analysis plan, and (g) discussion concerning the potential theoretical and practical contributions. Authors should also include a timeline indicating when data will be collected, analyzed, and the manuscript completed. Separately include a title page with author names, affiliations, ORCID-IDs, and contact information for the corresponding author.
Editors and reviewers will review submissions using common evaluative considerations such as methodological rigor, theoretical/practical contribution, and quality of writing. Authors will receive editorial decisions along with reviewer feedback, and be given an opportunity to revise study designs as recommended by reviewers before final decisions as applicable. Acceptance at this stage does not guarantee publication. Authors are required to submit completed manuscripts by April 1, 2023, at which point manuscripts will be reviewed by the editors and blind peer reviewers. Final manuscripts must subscribe to standard MC&S guidelines (9,000-word limit, including abstract, tables, references). The special issue will be slated for publication Fall 2023. Final submissions will also be made through the Mass Communication & Society system as a revision to the provisionally accepted registered report.
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