Pro-Social Behaviors Subprojects

Faculty fellows and research assistants of the ISS’ collaborative project on Pro-Social Behaviors have begun research on the prevention of anti-social behaviors and the promotion of pro-social behaviors in technology-mediated settings. 

Adolescent Sexual Health in the Digital Age: Provider and Parent Assessment of Knowledge and Need

Janis Whitlock, BCTR; Jane Powers, BCTR; Julia Chapman, BCTR; Hannah Light Olsen, BCTR

The objective of this study is to assess parents and youth serving professionals perceptions about how youth use the internet to access sexual information and content, as well as their own thoughts on perceptions surrounding “technology mediated sexuality.” The goal of this project is to better understand differences in how parents and professionals perceive technology use as it relates to sexual information, and to provide resources to these groups to discuss these topics with youth based on their own recommendations.

Does it Work? The Effectiveness of Crowd-Sourced Support in Reducing Distress

Janis Whitlock, BCTR; Natalie Bazarova, Communication; Kaylee Kruzman, RA, Communication; Dominic DiFranzo, RA, Communication; Julia Chapman, RA, BCTR

A growing body of research provides support for the efficacy of web-based and mobile applications (apps) in reducing distress. Availability of apps and other web-based platforms that use “crowdsource” models to provide peer based support are a pro-social and potentially effective means of reaching individuals experiencing distress. This project assess the efficacy of using one such peer-based support app, Talk Life, in reducing self-harm and increasing readiness to engage in therapy.

Social Influence in Online Environments: Examining the Effects of Media Literacy, Social Norms, and Design Interventions on Self-Disclosure in Social Media

Philipp K. Masur, Media Psychology (University of Hohenheim); Dominic DiFranzo, Communication; Natalie Bazarova, Communication

This research project aims to investigate whether higher media literacy and subtle alterations of a social network site’s (SNS) architecture can promote more privacy-aware behavior. Prior research has shown that users of SNSs adapt to prevailing social norms. Many SNS users share intimate details of their life, thus promoting a social norm of sharing private information as an appropriate or even expected behavior. The goal of this research project is to investigate whether critical and reflective abilities and subtle design interventions can mitigate the effects of prevailing social norms and thereby promote more privacy-aware behavior on SNSs. By examining relevant behavioral antecedents of privacy and disclosure behaviors in social media, this study will have important implications for privacy-friendly designs and educational interventions that will help to instill more privacy-aware behavior in social media users.

Underestimating Others’ Willingness to Help

Vanessa Bohns, Organizational Behavior; Lauren DeVincent, RA, Organizational Behavior; Sebastian Deri, RA, Psychology; Daniel Stein, RA, Organizational Behavior, UC-Berkely; Charlie Stewart, Undergraduate RA, ILR

This project explores help-seekers’ perceptions of the likelihood that they will receive help should they ask for it. Specifically, we are testing the hypothesis that help-seekers underestimate others’ willingness to help them to different degrees across a variety of contexts (e.g., asking for help from friends vs. strangers, making large vs. small requests).

Understanding Fact-checking Dynamics on Reddit

Drew Margolin, Communication; Deven Parakh, PhD Student, McGill; Derek Ruths, Professor, Computer Science, McGill.

In this project, we study how fact-checking resources, such as, and other sources of factual information, such as, are deployed in online discussions on Reddit, and how audiences or readers respond to their use.

What User Data Tells Us about How People Seek and Receive Social Support for Self-harm in On-line Forums

Kaylee Kruzan, Communication; Janis Whitlock, BCTR; Natalie Bazarova, Communication

Many people go online for information and support on mental health concerns. In this project, we explore how a population that is usually difficult to engage in treatment (individuals who self-injure) exchanges information and support on self-injury through an online peer-to-peer support application. In this project we aim to (1) describe behavioral and linguistic patterns of users, (2) explore peer support patterns to assess the interaction between solicitation and response, and (3) we examine the relationship between online behaviors and self-injury over the course of two months.