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This study investigates playing hooky in higher education classrooms and associates this behavior with students' communicative dispositions, instructor perceptions, and language use. We define "playing hooky" as students skipping class and explaining their absence to their instructor with deceptive health messages. The purpose of Study 1, an online survey (N = 177), is to further understand the characteristics of students who engage in this type of deceptive health communication. Study 1 measures communication apprehension and perceived instructor credibility in students who had played hooky from class and those who had not. Findings reveal that students who communicate playing hooky health messages (a) reported more instructor communication apprehension and (b) perceived the instructors with whom they had played hooky to be less credible. Study 2 uses facework theory and MEH analysis to reveal the different linguistic strategies students use to communicate (a) truthful health messages (N = 165) and (b) deceptive heath messages (N = 82) to their instructor following an absence. Results demonstrate that students' facework strategies are more geared toward saving instructors' negative face in the deceptive health message condition. Implications of both studies are offered.
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Health Communication
ISSN: 1041-0236 (Print) 1532-7027 (Online) Journal homepage:
“Playing Hooky” Health Messages: Apprehension,
Impression Management, and Deception
Ashley Barrett, Melissa Murphy & Kate Blackburn
To cite this article: Ashley Barrett, Melissa Murphy & Kate Blackburn (2017): “Playing Hooky”
Health Messages: Apprehension, Impression Management, and Deception, Health Communication,
DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2016.1266578
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Published online: 06 Jan 2017.
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Playing HookyHealth Messages: Apprehension, Impression Management,
and Deception
Ashley Barrett
, Melissa Murphy
, and Kate Blackburn
Department of Communication, Baylor University;
McCombs Business School, University of Texas at Austin;
Department of Psychology, University
of Texas at Austin
This study investigates playing hooky in higher education classrooms and associates this behavior with
studentscommunicative dispositions, instructor perceptions, and language use. We define playing hooky
as students skipping class and explaining their absence to their instructor with deceptive health messages.
The purpose of Study 1,anonlinesurvey(N = 177), is to further understand the characteristics of students
who engage in this type of deceptive health communication. Study 1 measures communication apprehen-
sion and perceived instructor credibility in students who had played hooky from class and those who had
not. Findings reveal that students who communicate playing hooky health messages (a) reported more
instructor communication apprehension and (b) perceived the instructors with whom they had played
hooky to be less credible. Study 2 uses facework theory and MEH analysis to reveal the different linguistic
strategies students use to communicate (a) truthful health messages (N= 165) and (b) deceptive heath
messages (N= 82) to their instructor following an absence. Results demonstrate that studentsfacework
strategies are more geared toward saving instructorsnegative face in the deceptive health message
condition. Implications of both studies are offered.
People miss work for a number of reasons. They sometimes
feel physically ill, stressed, or mentally fatigued. At other
times, people simply need a break from their coworkers.
Health-related absenteeism is a concern in workplaces across
the United States, leading to missed learning and interactive
opportunities and productivity loss (Mitchell & Bates, 2011).
Reports show that health-related absenteeism costs U.S. busi-
nesses between $39.3 million and $118 billion annually
(Prater & Smith, 2011). This type of absenteeism is not only
a problem in the workplace, but also pervades the college
classroom (see Mikami et al., 2013). Approximately one-
fourth of college students are absent from the classroom
every day (Alexander & Hicks, 2016), and studies reveal
students often attribute their absences to health-related rea-
sons (Friedman, Rodriguez, & McComb, 2001; Gump, 2004).
For example, one survey found that 80% of the college stu-
dents sampled listed actual illness as a reason for their class-
room absences, making this the most popular reason for their
nonattendance; yet another 28% attributed their absences to
pretending illness(Longhurst, 1999).
Pretending illness is a unique type of health-related absen-
teeism because it requires students to create and send deceptive
messages to their instructors about why they missed class.
Deception is traditionally defined as a message knowingly
transmitted by a sender to foster a false belief or conclusion
by the receiver(Buller & Burgoon, 1996, p. 205). Students send
these strategic, deceptive health messages to achieve a desired
end (e.g., avoid academic penalties). Arguably, communicating
these deceptive messages is even easier for the contemporary
student because email is largely relied upon in studentinstruc-
tor communication (Bolkan & Holmgren, 2012). The asyn-
chronicity of e-mail allows students to strategically craft
health messages by rereading, editing, and more deeply reflect-
ing on the messages meaning before pushing send(Dennis,
Fuller, & Valacich, 2008). In doing so, students use mediated
deceptive health messages to maintain face with their instructor
(Goffman, 1959).
Previous research has investigated deceptive computer-
mediated communication (see Hancock, Curry, Goorha, &
Woodworth, 2007), communicatorsuse of excusesor exter-
nal attributionsto protect desired impressions (Mehlman &
Snyder, 1985), and studentshealth-related absenteeism
(Friedman et al., 2001; Hidayat, Vansal, Kim, Sullivan, &
Salbu, 2012). However, very little, if any, empirical work has
studied deceptive health-related absenteeism (conceptualized
as playing hookyin this study), and how students use com-
puter-mediated communication channels to facilitate this
message exchange.
Our research is important because deceptive health-related
absenteeism is a costly and prominent problem that originates
in the classroom, but extends into the global workforce. For
example, Kronos Incorporated (2011)found a startling num-
ber of employees around the world admitted to calling in sick
to work when they were not actually sick. China led all other
surveyed regions with 71% of employees admitting to playing
hooky; other countries polled included India with 62%,
CONTACT Ashley Barrett Department of Communication, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97368, Waco, TX 76798-7368.
© 2017 Taylor & Francis
Australia with 58%, Canada with 52%, the United States with
52%, the United Kingdom with 43%, Mexico with 38%, and
France with 16%. On average, this playing hooky behavior
costs organizations 8.7% of their payroll each year, which is
more than half the cost of healthcare. (Kronos Incorporated,
2010). Similarly, this behavior in the classroom is strongly and
negatively correlated with academic success as well as faculty
and student morale (Gump, 2004). Therefore, this research
paper has two primary objectives, which are accomplished in
two separate studies. First, Study 1 attempts to better under-
stand students who play hooky by exploring their commu-
nicative dispositions and instructor perceptions. Study 2 then
investigates the linguistic strategies students use through
email to explain their truthful and deceptive health absences
to instructors.
Study 1
Health-related absenteeism has negative productivity implica-
tions for both students and employees; however, we know
very little about the dispositions and perceptions that accom-
pany this behavior. To fill this gap, Study 1 relies on commu-
nication apprehension (CA) and source credibility literature
to demonstrate how studentsdeceptive portrayals of health
are associated with their fear of communicating with instruc-
tors in traditional classrooms and their perceptions of instruc-
tor credibility. Below we begin by describing how the
classroom can pose as a difficult environment for CA
Playing Hooky and Student Dispositions: Communication
CA and Student Academic Performance
Although the college classroom can be an exciting place for
students to learn, explore, and meet new people, many stu-
dentsone study claims as many as 20%experience fear and
anxiety that can affect their ability to communicate with their
instructors as well as other students (Richmond, Wrench, &
Gorham, 2001). Communication apprehension, or an indivi-
duals level of fear and anxiety with either real or anticipated
communication with another person,can be a debilitating
impediment in the college classroom, where success is often
hinged upon active participation and processing messages in a
timely manner (McCroskey, 1977, p. 78). Students experien-
cing CA often communicate less with their peers and instruc-
tors in the classroom and as a result, face significant
reductions in learning as measured by GPAs and standardized
test scores (Scott & Wheeless, 1977). Moreover, these students
often score low in self-perceived competency and educational
motivation (Schrodt, Wheeless, & Ptacek, 2000) and are less
likely to willfully self-disclose in the classroom (McCroskey &
Richmond, 1977).
Furthermore, instructional strategies grounded in perfor-
mance and interactionsuch as in-class group discussion,
dyadic work, and competitive group workare surpassing
the lecture in classroom education techniques (Rocca, 2010).
Instructors can use studentsdesires to outperform their peers
as a way to enhance studentsefforts and achievement in the
classroom. Achieving these performance goals can heighten
studentsself-concept and value for academic work, and feed
their need for positive identity (Anderman & Patrick, 2012).
With that said, public recognition, which is a prominent
feature of performance goals, can also impede the identity
and self-efficacy of communication apprehensive students in
the classroom (Anderman & Patrick, 2012). For students
experiencing CA with their instructor specifically, instructor-
imposed performance goals likely exacerbate their CA con-
cerns, which are largely grounded in public evaluations by the
instructor (McCroskey, 1977). Altogether, this research points
to the challenges CA students face with success in college and
presents concerns for their attendance in face-to-face class-
room settings.
CA and Deceptive Health Messages
Due to many of the struggles noted above, students experien-
cing CA often anticipate feelings of anxiety, embarrassment,
or stress when they enter a face-to-face classroom
(McCroskey, 1977). Consequently, they are confronted with
a choice to flee or endure the situation. For instance, students
experiencing CA are more likely to drop out of school at the
college level and thus, choose to avoid the classroom as much
as possible (Ericson & Gardner, 1992). However, due to col-
lege attendance policies, avoidance is often not a viable option
if students desire to pass class. Consequently, CA students
seeking a degree must engage in an environment that combats
their innermost insecurities, eliciting uneasiness and heigh-
tened uncertainty. Yet, CA students can opt for breaks by
playing hookythat is to miss class and communicate a
deceptive health message to their instructor, hoping for the
absence to be excused. We argue that CA is associated with
deceptive health communication because CA students are
more likely to play hooky from classwhich they perceive
as anxiety-producing. Thus, H1 is offered:
H1: Students who have played hooky, versus those who have not,
experience more instructor communication apprehension.
Playing Hooky and Student Perceptions: Perceived
Instructor Credibility
Studentswillingness to communicate deceptive health mes-
sages to their instructors might also be related to their percep-
tions of instructor credibility. Impression managementor
the process by which people attempt to control the impres-
sions others form of themis highly salient in educational
settings and has a direct impact on interaction designs
(Baiocchi-Wagner, 2011; Sabee & Wilson, 2005). The inter-
personal nature of the studentinstructor dyad requires stu-
dents to focus on the goals of the instructor and vice versa
(Frymier & Houser, 2000). Students and instructors rely on
each other to satisfy their own personal objectives of achieving
their desired impression, or what impression management
scholars call impression construction (Canary & MacGregor,
2008). Yet, a students desire to impress his/her teacher is
likely a product of his/her respect for the teacher and/or the
class. For example, students may perceive protecting their
impression and avoiding violating the expectations of their
instructors as two fundamental goals of their communication
in classrooms where they find the instructor credible (Allen,
Alternatively, if a student carries low levels of respect for
an instructor or rather perceives the instructor as having low
levels of credibility (i.e., competence, trustworthiness, and
goodwill), we argue that the student will (a) put forth less
effort in managing their classroom identity and as a result, (b)
play hookythat is, use deceptive health messagesmore
frequently with that instructor. Furthermore, students
increased deceptive health-related absenteeism can perpetuate
deficits in perceived instructor credibility because instructors
efforts to enhance their credibility in the classroom go unde-
tected (see Frymier & Thompson, 1992). Because playing
hooky can be a reflection of instructorsperceived credibility,
H2 is proposed:
H2: Students who play hooky will perceive the instructors
with whom they have played hooky to be less credible
than the instructors with whom they have not played
Participants and Procedure
This study sought to understand how students(a) instructor
communication apprehension and (b) perceived instructor
credibility were connected to their aptitude to play hooky,
or communicating deceptive health messages to their instruc-
tors. We recruited full-time undergraduate students from a
small private school in the southwestern region of the United
States that enforces a strict 75% attendance policy and
requires documentation for health-related absences. Students
were offered extra credit in their classes for their participation.
Participants received an email with a link to the survey and
were instructed to follow the directions. They were also asked
to forward the survey to other students. The sample (N= 177)
was comprised of 49% male and 51% female with a mean age
of 20.43. Fourteen percent of the participants were freshman,
31% were sophomores, 32% were juniors, and 23% were
seniors. Finally, the majors most represented in the sample
included business majors61% of the sampleand commu-
nication, film, or journalism majors20% of the sample.
Instructor Apprehension
The Richmond, Wrench, and Gorhams(2001)Teacher
Apprehension Test was used to measure studentsapprehen-
sion to communicate with their instructors. On a 5-point
Likert scale, ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (5) strongly
agree, students were asked the degree to which they believed a
set of statements characterized how they generally feel about
receiving communication from their instructors (e.g., I feel
uneasy when my instructor talks to me). This scale had a
M= 2.1, SD = .52, and a= .91.
Perceived Instructor Credibility
To measure studentsperceptions of instructor credibility, we
used McCroskey and Tevens(1999) Source Credibility
Measure. This instrument measures three different constructs
that comprise credibilitycompetence, trustworthiness, and
goodwill/caring. Participants were asked to assess the degree
to which several pairs of opposing adjectives described
instructors (e.g., intelligent/unintelligentfor competence).
Participants ranked their construal of their instructors on a
seven-point semantic differential scale, which was placed
between each set of polar opposite adjectives.
Participants were asked to answer the complete measure
twice: once to assess the credibility of instructors with whom
they had played hooky and again to assess the credibility of
instructors with whom they had not played hooky. In this
study, the subscales measuring the credibility of the instructor
with whom students had not played hooky reported the fol-
lowing: the competence subscale had a a=.90, the trust-
worthiness subscale had a= .90, and the caring/goodwill
subscale reported a a= .84. The subscales measuring the
credibility of the instructor with whom students had played
hooky reported the following: the competence scale had a
a= .84, the trustworthiness subscale had a a= .90, and the
caring/goodwill subscale reported a a= .86. The means and
standard deviations for the subscales are offered in the results
section below.
Before we proceeded to test the hypotheses, we had to confirm
that deceptive health-related absenteeism was an issue with
this sample. We asked students to reflect on their playing
hooky behavior across all of their classes over the past two
semesters. Surveys were collected at the end of the spring
semester so that freshman had two semesters on which to
reflect. It is important to reemphasize that the University
where this research was collected has a strict 75% attendance
policy. As such, students will fail a class if they have more
than (a) ten absences in classes that meet three times a week
and (b) six absences in classes that meet twice a week. All
instructors in the College of Arts and Sciences at this
University are required to use this attendance policy.
Health-related absences are universally accepted as excused
if students submit the proper documentation. Given this
strong focus on attendance, we suspect that student recall of
absence numbers is considerably accurate. Students partici-
pating in this research are largely reflecting on class sizes of 25
students or fewer.
Descriptive statistics revealed that 43% of the students sur-
veyed in our sample admitted to communicating deceptive health
messages to instructors in attempts to be excused from class.
Frequency analyses further revealed that 40% of students claimed
to have skipped and falsely claimed sickness 15 times, 18% had
skipped 610 times, 22% had skipped 1120 times, 12% had
skipped 2130 times, and finally, 8% had skipped over 30 times.
Students reported a broad range of reasons as to why they really
missed class, as opposed to being sick. Results revealed that 31.6%
of the students claimed they were doing homework or studying
for another class, 20.3% claimed they skipped class because they
simply did not want to go, 19.8% said they had overslept, 12.4%
said they felt unprepared for class, 6.2% said they skipped class
because they were having interpersonal/family issues, 5.3%
claimed they attended a social event, and 4.4% reported other.
Hypothesis 1 Supported: Playing Hooky and
Communication Apprehension
The first hypothesis proposed that students who skip class and
engage in deceptive health messages with their instructor via email
would report higher levels of instructor CA in comparison with
those who do not. This hypothesis was supported. An indepen-
dent sample t-test analysis revealed that there was a significant
difference in instructor apprehension between students who
admitted to playing hooky (M=2.3,SD = .57) and those who
claimed to have never played hooky (M=2.0,SD = .47), t
(154) = 2.31, p< .05. These data suggest that CA is significantly
higher in students who skip class and communicate deceptive
health messages to their instructor versus those who do not,
Hypothesis 2 Supported: Playing Hooky and Perceived
Instructor Credibility
The second hypothesis projected that students claiming to have
played hookyor skipped class and engaged in deceptive health
communicationwould perceive instructors with whom they had
played hooky to be less credible than the instructors with whom
they had not. This hypothesis was supported. Paired sample t-test
analyses revealed that there was a significant difference in the
means of perceived competence for the instructors with whom
students had played hooky (M=4.9,SD =1.1)andtheperceived
competence of those instructors with whom students had not
played hooky (M=5.4,SD =1.1),t(84) = 4.3, p< .001, d=0.5.
In addition, a paired sample t-test indicated that there was a
significant difference in the means of perceived trustworthiness for
the instructor with whom students had played hooky (M=4.9,
SD = 1.2) and the perceived trustworthiness of instructors with
whom students had never played hooky (M=5.3,SD =1.1),t
(83) = 3.15, p<.05,d= 0.4. And finally, a third paired t-test
revealed that there was a significant difference in the means of
perceived caring/goodwill for instructors with whom students had
played hooky (M=4.3,SD = 1.1) and those with whom students
had never played hooky (M=4.9,SD =1.1),t(85) = 3.78, p<.
001, d=0.6.
In general, students who admitted to sending deceptive playing
hooky health messages in college evaluated the instructors with
whom they had played hooky as less crediblecompetent, trust-
worthy, and caringthan the instructors with whom they had
attended class faithfully.
Instructor Apprehension, Instructor Credibility, and
Deceptive Health Messages
Findings from Study 1suggest that students with higher
instructor CA play hooky more frequently, seemingly casting
the student and his/her personal characteristics as one viable
culprit for deceptive health-related absenteeism. However,
students also rated the instructors with whom they had com-
municated false health messages to be less credible, which
casts instructor characteristics as the culprit. One reason for
this finding could be that in order to satisfy positive self-
image and identity goals, students nullify the wrongful nature
of their deceptive health communication by attributing blame
to the instructor. For example, students could rationalize their
own wrongdoingskipping class and lying about their health
by claiming that the instructors failed identity (poor repu-
tation) and/or impression management with students was a
precursor to studentsdeceptive health acts. To put it differ-
ently, studentsdecreased perceptions of instructor credibility
might be a surface-level signal of deeper internal strides for
self-justification. Following this point further, students might
experience cognitive dissonance for their deceptive health
behaviors (Festinger, 1962), because this delinquent act exem-
plifies a counterattitudinal behavior. Students seek to fulfill
identity goals by communicating to others they are a good
student and person, but realize they are manipulating others
using their health status as a bargaining chip. Thus, they are
responsible for an unwanted outcomefailed identity
(Cooper, 1971). To decrease dissonance and the discomfort
associated with it, students turn to measures of self-justifica-
tion for failed identityone of which could be dismantling
the competency of the instructor.
On the other hand, students with heightened levels of
instructor CA could be more compelled to play hooky from
class because they interpret their instructor as less caring and
trustworthyboth of which are components of perceived
credibility. In fact, perceived instructor credibility and
instructor CA could act as self-reinforcing variables that are
negatively related to one another and together, impact levels
of deceptive health-related absenteeism.
Study 2
Now that we know more about the communicative disposi-
tions and perceptions of students who play hooky from class,
Study 2 seeks to understand the specific language strategies
associated with this behavior. More specifically, Study 2
adopts an impression management framework to explore the
health messages students use to communicate truthful versus
deceptive health messages to their instructor via email when
they are absent from class. We suspect that underlying self-
presentation and face-saving goals are determining factors in
studentslanguage choices when communicating both truthful
and deceptive health messages to their instructor. Because
students have lower relative power and are communicating
to instructors via emailas compared to face-to-faceit
becomes necessary for them to mitigate the face threats their
health behaviors elicit (Holtgraves, 2005). Moreover, these
facework strategies can be more easily and strategically
manipulated and prepared when using email as a communi-
cation channel (Dennis et al., 2008). Accordingly, Study 2
explores the different language themes students use to strate-
gically communicate face-saving goals to their instructor
when they are (a) truthfully versus (b) deceptively explaining
their health-related absences to their instructors.
Students Playing Hooky as Threatening InstructorsFace
Goffman (1967)refers to face as the positive social value a
person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume
he has taken during a particular contact(p. 5). Lines are
acted out in social encounters and refer to the pattern of
verbal and nonverbal acts people use to express their view of
the situation and their evaluation of participants, especially
themselves. Importantly, this definition means (a) our face lies
within the minds and perceptions of others, and henceforth
(b) we have limited control over our face. Facework refers to
the strategies people pursue to restore, uphold, or enact face
after a face-threatening episode. Brown and Levinson (1978)
further defined face by dividing it into two wants: the desire
to be affirmed, appreciated, approved, liked, and honored
when interacting with others (positive face), or the desire to
be independent and free from constraints, impositions, or
intrusions when interacting with others (negative face). In a
college classroom, for example, instructors and students often
interact in ways that affirm one anothers comments and seek
not to abnormally constrain each others time, efforts, and
impressions. However, face-threatening acts (FTA), or behav-
ing in a way that violates face needs, do occur in college
classrooms, potentially straining relationships. Instructorstu-
dent relationships are especially vulnerable to face threats,
which can damage instructorspositive perceptions of stu-
dents and vice versa (Witt & Kerssen-Griep, 2011).
When committing face-threatening acts, people design
messages to mitigate the violation, also known as face-threat
mitigation (FTM), in five major ways (Brown & Levinson,
1978). FTM strategies vary on a continuum from most to
least threatening. Delivering the FTA can take the form of
(1) bald on-record, or directly communicating the FTA with
no attempt to compensate for face threat; (2) positive redress,
or delivering the FTA with positive politeness strategies; (3)
negative redress, or delivering the FTA on record with nega-
tive politeness strategies; (4) off-the-record, or delivering the
FTA indirectly or ambiguously, leaving its interpretation up
to the receiver; and finally (5) not deliver the FTA at all, or
avoiding the face threat entirely. Individuals purposefully
choose these strategies based on their evaluations of social
distance, power, and the risk of hurting othersface (Brown &
Levinson, 1978). To mitigate face threats to their instructors,
students can design a variety of messagesincluding one or
more of the FTM strategies listed below (See Table 1). Given
that people have an ongoing interest in how others perceive
and evaluate them, and this interest is exacerbated when
power dimensions are involved, it is likely that students will
attempt to redeem their face-threatening behavior by proac-
tively managing their image with their instructor.
FTM, Health, and Deception
We suspect that the FTM strategies students decide to use
after a health-related absence will depend on whether or not
the person was actually sick or feigning illness. It would make
sense for students who are playing hooky from class to
accompany this deceitfuland therefore riskyhealth com-
munication with lesser threatening FTM strategies. For exam-
ple, playing hooky students could deliver an off-the-record
FTM strategy, such as I came down with something,which
is vague and leaves a large window of interpretation for the
instructor. However, students who are designing truthful
health messages following an absence might rely on more
threatening FTM strategies, given that their underlying rea-
sons for threatening the instructors face are valid and uncor-
rupt. For instance, students designing truthful health
messages following an absence could use the bald on-record
strategy, which is comprised of directly communicating the
FTM message with little effort to counteract the face threat.
Accordingly, students could candidly claim, I have been sick
with food poisoning all night and am vomiting. I will not be
able to make it to class today.
Recent deception literature also gives insight into the dif-
ferent linguistic strategies students may use when construct-
ing truthful and deceptive health messages. Sporers(2016)
research on the working memory model of deception suggests
that, to construct lies, liars draw upon related or similar past
experiences they have stored in their long-term episodic and
semantic memory. These memories are used to form scripts
or an abstract, generic sequence of actions that are easily
retrieved in our memory and usually contain schema-consis-
tent information. Irrelevant schema details of concrete epi-
sodes will fade from the memory, but schema-consistent
details will prevail to generate coherent, logically consistent
stories, or lies, based on past truthful experiences. Ergo, lies
are built from truths (McCornack, Morrison, Paik, Wisner, &
Zhu, 2014).
On the other hand, schema-inconsistent information, or
deviations from the generic schema, is often how truthful
information is stored; these deviations are more notable in
the encoding process and therefore leave a stronger memory
trace. In short, the memory working model argues that,
because of the way our minds store and retrieve information,
lies are composed of more typical information, while telling
truths will involve atypical, unique, and distinctive informa-
tion (Sporer, 2004). Invented accountsor deceptive playing
hooky messageswill be starved of the rich details that are
found in truthful accounts. Rather, playing hooky messages
will manifest as generic scripts that are derived from past
events students have themselves experienced, witnessed, or
Table 1. Face-threat mitigation strategies and student absences.
mitigation (FTM)
FTM strategies following student
Bald on-record No mitigation I have been sick with food poisoning
all night and vomiting. I will not be in
Positive redress Positive
This is one of my favorite classes. It
wont happen again.
Negative redress Negative
This absence is completely my fault. I
will make up the missed work.
Off-the-record Indirect or
I came down with something
Not deliver at all Avoiding ———–
heard in conversations with others. Also, although research
has discovered that handwritten deceptive messages are longer
than truthful messages (Luria & Rosenblum, 2010), we do not
yet know how different mediasuch as computers and smart-
phoneswill affect the linguistic strategies in truthful and
deceptive messages.
In sum, health-related absences and their repercussions can
take the form of face threats to instructors and students.
Students, who depend on their instructor for desired out-
comes, can take strides to communicatively save face with
their instructor after such an event. With that said, we know
very little in regard to what facework and linguistic strategies
people use in tandem with truthful versus deceptive health
absences. Hence, the following research question is posed:
RQ1: What linguistic strategies do students use when they
are (a) truthfully explaining their health-related
absence to their instructor versus (b) deceptively
explaining their health-related absence to their instruc-
tor (i.e., playing hooky)?
Our research team was interested in comparing the different
types of health message strategies students use when truthfully
explaining their absence (e.g., an actual illness) as compared
to deceptively explaining their absence (e.g., playing hooky) to
their instructor. To investigate these communicative strate-
gies, the meaning extraction method was applied to the lan-
guage students used in email messages sent to their instructor
following a health-related absence. This study uses secondary
data that were originally collected for Study 1; the sample and
characteristics of participants are the same.
Deceptive and Truthful Corpora
To learn what type of language students use in their deceptive
and truthful health messages to instructors, we used the 247
student email responses collected in Study 1 to compile two
corpora, which we named deceptive and truthful. Students
were asked to copy and paste an email they had recently
written to an instructor explaining their absence after having
played hooky. These hookyemails were used to create the
deceptive corpora. If students claimed they had never played
hooky, they were asked to copy and paste an email explaining
their absence to an instructor the last time they were truth-
fully sick and could not attend class. These messages were
used to create the truthful corpora. Students who had been
both truthfully absent from class and played hooky were asked
to copy and paste an example of each type of email.
Meaning Extraction Method (MEM)
The meaning extraction method (MEM) was created to help
researchers identify a list of common content words that co-
occur with one another across a body of text and in turn,
generate a list of themes associated with these co-occurrences
(e.g., Chung & Pennebaker, 2008). To do this, a three-step
analysis procedure is performed to mathematically track
words that co-occur with one another across a body of text
(Chung & Pennebaker, 2008). Researchers have found that, by
examining the themes associated with those co-occurrences,
information about peoples psychological states and the com-
munication strategies used during social interactions are
revealed (Chung & Pennebaker, 2008; Stanton, Boyd,
Pulverman, & Meston, 2015).
To help automate MEM process, Boyd (2015) developed
the Meaning Extraction Helper (MEH), a text analysis com-
puter program. The MEH is performed in three steps. First,
the MEH systematically extracts common words from a body
of text by excluding function words (e.g., the) and uncom-
mon words or words with low base rates (Krippendorff, 2004;
Pennebaker, 2011). Next, each common content word is
assigned a binary score (i.e., 0, 1) in each text observation.
The binary score reports whether or not a single text observa-
tion includes a word from the common content word list. For
instance, if 100 common content words are identified, each
word will either be assigned a 0or 1to show whether the
word is used or not in the text observation. Each common
word for each text observation will report a 0 or 1 for each
text observation. Finally, binary word scores for each observa-
tion are submitted to a principal components analysis (PCA)
with varimax rotation to discover the extent to which groups
of words co-occur. Note that all terms that received a binary
word score were subjected to PCA analysis. These factors
identify and generate thematic content to be interpreted by
The MEM produces themes based on saturation (Bowen,
2008), or the co-occurrence of communicative patterns, in
order to discern threads of similar meaning. The first and
third author of this study relied on similar inference techni-
ques in addition to using literature as a framework in which
to evaluate themes. We first used a deductive process to
extract themes with the MEH. The second step in our analyses
relied on using an inductive approach that required authors to
look at the themes and evaluate their meaning using past
literature. In our study, we used the MEH to perform the
MEM and analyze language patterns within truthful and
deceptive health messages sent by students to their professors
via email.
Initial MEH Analysis: Word Count and Frequency
Word count descriptives were calculated for each corpus. An
independent sample t-test analysis was conducted to compare
word count for the truthful and deceptive corpora. The t-test
revealed that there was no significant word count difference
for the truthful corpora (N= 152, M= 48.2, SD = 26.8) and
deceptive corpora (N= 62, M= 39.2, SD = 20.1), t
(212) = 2.36, p> .05). Thus, students used a similar amount
of words to craft truthful and deceptive health messages.
Initial MEH analysis produced a frequency output file that
calculated how frequently words appeared in the truthful and
deceptive corpora. The top 20 most frequently used words in
truthful and deceptive statements were examined. Studies
have shown that, by looking at the top words used across
corpora, researchers are able to discover similarities and dif-
ferences between individuals and groups of people (Stanton
et al., 2015). As seen in Table 2, there is some overlap and
difference between the types of words being frequently used in
each corpus. Overall, descriptives revealed the most com-
monly used words in each corpus and captured the average
number of words being used in each student message.
MEM PCA Analysis
Finally, a PCA was performed to explore emergent themes
within the truthful and deceptive corpora (see Tables 3 and 4).
The first and third author used an inductive thematic coding
process, alongside facework and FTM literature (Brown &
Levinson, 1978), to generate themes in studentsemailed
health messages.
Truth Corpora
Five themes were identified in the truth corpora (see Table 5
for examples from each category). Theme 1, Documentation
Bald on-Record, shows direct truthful communication offered
by students and reveals the absence of facework strategies. In
these messages, students straightforwardly communicated that
they were sick and reported they had received physician
documentation and would bring it to the next class. Theme
2, Positive Redress, illustrates how students sought approval
from their instructor after their absence. Students explained
that they were unable to be in class for a particular reason and
often asked their instructor whether there was anything they
could do to make up their absencein the class but also
seemingly to the instructor. Theme 3, Reference, describes
general references in conversations. Most often these words
co-occur in a way to suggest a routine identification of
instructor title and location of class (i.e., professor, class,
and work). In Theme 4, Hope, students acknowledged their
social, or classroom, norm breach, but communicated a hope
to regain face with the instructor. Theme 5, Empathy, captures
studentsattempts to create a connection with their instructor
by disclosing personal information. Students often expressed a
state of feeling unwellcognitively or physicallyto help
instructors understand their absence.
Deceptive Corpora
Seven themes were exposed within the deceptive corpora.
Theme 1, Minimize Imposition, is the delivery of the mes-
sage by the student to reduce negative face threats to the
instructor, which in turn allows the instructor to be free
from imposition and distraction. Ultimately, this face-sav-
ing mitigation theme appears to allow the instructor to
maintain authority within the relationship. Theme 2,
Distancing Through Agency, gives responsibility to an out-
side force (e.g., abug) and acts as a distancing mechan-
ism for the student. In this study, students often assigned
agency to a bug as a way to assign blameor responsibility
as to why a class was missed. Theme 3, Office Hours,
revealed what could be considered violations of instructors
negative face, yet these messages were seemingly designed
to appeal to instructorspositive face. In these messages,
students communicated appreciation or interest in the class;
however, they usually asked the instructor for more of his/
her time. Theme 4, Documentation Promise,isusedbythe
student to uphold an instructors positive face. This theme
reveals studentsdesires for their instructors to approve
their behavior. However, because students are not actually
ill, this promisewhich is considered a positive politeness
strategyis likely a faulty one. Theme 5, Negative Redress:
Table 2. Top 20 most frequent words.
Truthful Deceptive
Word Frequency Word Frequency
class 237 class 85
today 150 today 60
feel 84 feel 29
professor 72 professor 25
attend 72 attend 24
thank 56 thank 19
note 52 thanks 17
sick 48 Dr. 13
doctor 46 need 13
morning 42 morning 12
Dr. 34 sick 12
thanks 33 work 11
need 29 absence 10
wake 24 due 10
time 24 understand 9
absence 23 time 9
due 22 note 9
unable 21 assignment 9
see 21 apologize 7
work 20 personal 7
Note. Frequency is determined by the number of times each word was used in
each condition. Bold words represent different words within each condition.
Authors may be contacted for the Full Word Frequency List used in this study.
Table 3. Factor loadings for themes developed, words, means (and standard
deviations) for the truth condition, varimax PCA (N= 152).
Theme 1 Theme 2 Theme 3 Theme 4 Theme 5
Eigenvalue 2.7 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.9
Variance % 6.6 6.4 5.5 4.9 4.4
M(SD) .33 (.56) .49 (.72) .32 (.55) 4.1 (1.8) .74 (.88)
doctor .80
bring .74
appointment .68
note .65
excuse .42
due .80
illness 70
attend .53
good .52
unable .50
class .64
professor .43
work .40
good .46
thanks .57
hope .42
feel .73
wake .53
morning .56
Notes. Although, the scree plot computed for the principal component analysis
in this study showed a clear break from factors 5 and 6, the eigenvalues were
not significant. However, given that the purpose of this method is to extract
language patterns, traditional statistics, such as eigenvalues, play a limited role
in interpreting the results of the principal component analysis (see Boyd,
2015). Therefore, the main purpose of the meaning extraction method is to
identify peoples language patterns within a given communicative context or
psychological state. The PCA performed in this study illustrated various cate-
gories that were related to the way students construct truthful and deceptive
health messages to send to their professors via email. Authors may be
contacted for loadings for each term across all factors.
Getting Notes,illustrates how students attempt to main-
tain a positive relationship with their instructor by promis-
ing to get the notes from class and not further troubling the
instructor with their absence. Students strive to diminish
their FTA, or health absence, through communicating mes-
sages that they have recruited the help of other students, or
are relying on learning management systems like Canvas,
and consequently, are up-to-date on all class material.
Theme 6, Scripted Illness Story, represents a common
morning sick story. Most students in this condition con-
structed their message by providing a scripted tale of
becoming sick in the morning. Perhaps this shows how
students rely on a consistent schema or common narrative
to generate believability with their instructor. Theme 7,
Negative Redress: Apology, demonstrates recognition of a
break in the social contract and appealing to instructors
negative face by offering apologies. Apologizing gives defer-
ence to instructors by acknowledging their authority (see
Table 6 for examples from each category).
The goal of our exploratory study was to learn more about
the language students use to communicate truthful or
deceptive health messages to their instructors when missing
class. Our results suggest that themes generated in the
tancing mechanisms. These results contribute to past litera-
ture on excuses that portrays these linguistic acts as
attempts to mitigate responsibility for poor performance
by externalizing causes for poor performance to outside
Higgins, 1988). Below we explain two of these distancing
Table 5. Themes developed from truth corpora.
Themes Examples
Documentation Bold-
I was unable to attend class today because I had an
appointment with an eye doctor to diagnose what is
going wrong. I would like to ask that you excuse my
absence and give me an opportunity to complete or
turn in any assignments due at todays class.
Positive Intent Good afternoon. I will not be attending class today due
to my illness. I fully intend on making up any work I
am unable to do today because Im not there. Thank
you for your time!
Reference Professor, I will not be in class today because I am sick.
Please let me know if I can makeup the missed work
from today. Adam
Hope Good morning. Im so sorry to contact you this short
notice but I wont be able to make it to class today. I
hope you will excuse my absence because I am feeling
very sick. . .I hope you understand and please let me
know how I can make up this absence. Thanks.
Empathy Professor. . . I woke up feeling very ill and lethargic
this morning. Could you give me a brief summary of
how to make up my missed work in class today?
Table 4. Factor loadings for themes developed, words, means (and standard deviations) for the lie condition, varimax PCA (N= 62).
Theme 1 Theme 2 Theme 3 Theme 4 Theme 5 Theme 6 Theme 7
Eigenvalue 3.8 3.0 2.9 2.5 2.4 2.2 2.0
Variance % 8.9 7.0 6.8 5.8 5.6 5.1 4.7
M(SD) .18 (.42) .23 (.71) .51 (.67) .54 (1.1) .78 (.91) .45 (.86) .25 (.66)
due .75
email .74
inconvenience .73
hope .57
illness .54
assignment .76
catch 75
appointment .75
bug .70
assignment .76
office .85
unable .83
thank .52
name .60
better .56
attend .52
doctor .51
feel .58
note .58
need .55
thanks .53
morning .56
wake .54
apologize .74
absence .74
excuse .72
Notes. Although, the scree plot computed for the principal component analysis in this study showed a clear break from factors 7 and 8, the eigenvalues were not
significant. However, given that the purpose of this method is to extract language patterns, traditional statistics, such as eigenvalues, play a limited role in
interpreting the results of the principal component analysis (see Boyd, 2015). Therefore, the main purpose of the meaning extraction method is to identify peoples
language patterns within a given communicative context or psychological state. The PCA performed in this study illustrated various categories that were related to
the way students construct truthful and deceptive health messages to send to their professors via email. Authors maybe contacted for loadings for each term
across all factors.
Scripted Illness Story
corpora is the Scripted Illness Story. In the deceptive corpora, the
Scripted Illness Story emerged to show the words students used to
craft messages that followed an expected, consistent storyline.
Students used the words wakeand morningto linearly
describe the symptoms they experienced(e.g., nauseated)
when waking up in the morning. The words then acted as a way
to create a story of symptoms that ultimately prohibited the
student from attending class. The scripted nature of these stories
also contributes to Sporers(2016) argument that deceptive com-
munication is comprised of schema-consistent information. This
information is drawn from the long-term memory and manifests
as generic procedural steps or surface-level knowledge associated
with a life event students previously experiencedsuch as being ill
and the symptoms that often accompany it. This information
creates a common, coherentalthough abstractstoryline with
which others can (hopefully) identify.
In contrast, students in the truthful condition used the words
morningand wakealongside feel.Studentsmessages did
not offer a storyline for the illness, but instead captured how they
were feeling as a way to connect with their instructor.
Additionally, the word feelwas often followed by atypical or
schema-inconsistent information, which Sporers(2016)
research claims is indicative of truthful communication.
Longer Words
Initial findings showed that, within the truthful and deceptive
corpora, there is strong overlap in the most common words
used. Moreover, unlike past research exploring handwritten
truthful and deceptive communication (Luria & Rosenblum,
2010), our results did not show significant differences in the
length of truthful versus deceptive messages communicated
online. These results exemplify McCornack and colleagues
(2014) proposition that, rather than being strikingly different
from one another, deceptive and truthful communication
should be fundamentally similar, given that lies are built
from truths.
With that said, our findings did show clear differences in
the types of words used most frequently. For instance, 35% of
the most common words in the deceptive corpora were longer
than six letters, whereas the truthful corpora only had 15%.
Words longer than six letters have been associated with ela-
borative, sophisticated, and distancing writing styles. For
instance, Gortner and Pennebaker (2003) found student run
newspaper articles written one week after a traumatic event
on campus (i.e., Texas A&M bonfire) used more six-letter
words compared to articles written when the event first hap-
pened. One explanation for using more six-letter plus words
one week after the event is that writers were distancing them-
selves from the event. Another explanation could be that
longer words reveal the level of cognitive energy people use
in crafting deceptive messages. Studies have speculated that
longer word use requires people to use more cognitive
resources as compared to shorter word use (Sexton &
Helmreich, 2000). In our study, the use of longer words in
deceptive health messages could be signaling that it takes
more effort to create a deceptive message as compared to a
truthful message. Sporer (2016) has discussed the careful,
calculated nature of constructing deceptive messagesas
compared to the spontaneity of truthful messagesand
described how deceptive messages exploit the long-term
Finally, in addition to dissociating oneself from a traumatic
event, longer words can reflect social status (Dino, Reysen,
and Branscombe, 2009). Specifically, in our study, the use of
longer words in studentshealth messages may indicate that
they see themselves as equals with instructors. Research
should continue to explore the use of longer words in pre-
meditated health messages.
General Discussion, Implications, and Future
Directions: Integrating Study 1 and Study 2
Our studies explored the communicative dispositions, instruc-
tor perceptions, and language use accompanying health-
related behavior that is rooted in deceptive health commu-
nication. As we have argued, this communication involves the
strategic, self-interested use of deception in crafting health
messages to manage and/or maintain impressions. While
our specific research topic has not yet been a focus of health
communication scholarship, it combines and builds on several
areas of current health communication research. For example,
health communication scholars have examined self-interested
Table 6. Themes developed from the deceptive corpora.
Themes Examples
Minimize Imposition Due to illness, I missed your class this morning. I am
terribly sorry for the inconvenience, however I
understand that we had two hard copy assignments
due in class today. ..I have attached both assignments
to this email and hope you at least count it for late
credit? If not I understand, Im willing to turn the
hardcopys to your office if need be.
Distancing through
It seems I have come down with a little bug.I
understand missing class will mean playing catch up
but with the way Im feeling and out of respect for
my peers I think it best to miss class today. Please let
me know what I must do to makeup for today.
Office Hours I am sorry I was unable to attend class today. . ..I
wanted to email you to see if there is a time I can
come by your office hours to check and see what I
missed. . ..I value your class and want to make sure I
stay on top of things. Thank you for understanding.
I do not feel well enough to attend class and I just
wanted to give a heads up. I plan on seeing a doctor
later today. Ill make sure to get something with my
name on it. If there is anything Ill need to make up, I
would greatly appreciate it. See you as soon as Im
feeling better.
Negative Redress:
Getting Notes
Instructor, I am not feeling that great today, so I will
unfortunately be unable to attend class. Is there
anything that I will be missing or need to catch up
on? I will be sure to get notes from a classmate. Hope
you have a great day!
Scripted Illness Story Dear Dr. Smith, I woke up with a fever this morning.I
tried to go to my first class but threw up so Im stuck
in bed. Can I make up any work I missed? Thank you,
Negative Politeness:
Iapologize greatly in advance, but I am really sick
and will not be able to attend class tomorrow. Is
there anything I am going to miss and is there
anything I can do to excuse my absence?
motives for disclosing health information (see Greenberg &
Smith, 2016) and strategies for disclosing health statuses that
violate norms (Romo, 2012). In addition, health communica-
tion scholars have analyzed the design logics, communicative
goals, and impression management behind college students
health messages (White & Malkowski, 2014). Our study con-
tributes to these areas of research by revealing the character-
istics of students who engage in deceptive health-related
absenteeism versus those who do not, and revealing the con-
tent of studentsfabricated and truthful health messages,
aimed to manage impressions.
Connecting CA, Facework Strategies, and Health-Related
While previous scholars have considerably dissected the
causes and physical and psychological effects of CA (see
McCroskey, 1984), this study shows how CA affects strategic
messages about ones health. Given our findings from both
studies, this research suggests that students who played hooky
the students scoring higher in instructor CAwere largely
using deceptive health messages to save the instructors nega-
tive face. In a sense, the playing hooky health messages were
often crafted to reduce the imposition studentsabsences had
on the instructors time. Playing hooky students strategically
built negative politeness strategies into their email messages
by showing deference to the instructor and specifically
accounting for how they would minimize the imposition
their healthcreated. Our research findings imply that stu-
dents experiencing more instructor CA were using deceptive
health communication to appeal to instructorsdesires not to
be impeded by studentsabsences.
Given that CA is often described as a fear or anxiety of
communicating with a particular targetin this case the
instructorthose students experiencing this type of appre-
hension very likely perceived a combined strategy of fabricat-
ing health while showing deference to, or minimizing
imposition on, the instructor as an attractive and safe option
for communicating their absence. This finding raises the
question of why, how, and when people feel comfortable
questioning othershealth-related excuses, excuses that dis-
rupt social-, work-, or school-related plans. Moreover, why
are we prone to question other types of excuses that impede
productivity, and have costly consequences (see Augustine,
2016), yet less prone to question health excuses?
In the workplace, and arguably the school environment,
perhaps the reluctance to question health excuses is associated
with expectations that managers and instructors will respect the
privacy of employees and students, especially when it comes to
health-related information (Green, 2015). More than expecta-
tions, U.S. legislation regulates what managers can legally ask
employees to disclose about their health. For example, the
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), passed in 1993, states
that employers, like college instructors, can require employees
to provide a doctors note when asking for sick leave; yet these
notes are only required to verify an employee visited a medical
professional, rather than requiring any personal health or diag-
nosis information (Graves, 2015). However, even if university
and U.S. governmental policies enable instructors and managers
to require doctorsnotes, thus providing evidence behind health
messages, doing so can have negative repercussions. These
repercussions can include dips in employee and student morale,
discouraging employees and students from staying home when
they are truthfully ill, and even inflating healthcare costs by
requiring that people seek medical care when they simply
need a few days of rest at home (Green, 2015). These arguments
suggest that health excuses and health-related deception are
often culturally and legally safeguarded from excess criticism
and therefore, offer a valuable area of future research in health
To explore why health-related excuses garner less criticism,
future scholarship should study playing hooky as a specific type
of counterfactual excuse-making (see Markman & Tetlock,
2000). In this type of excuse exchange, the excuse-maker
escapes responsibility for a negative action by attributing that
action to unforeseeable circumstancesin the case of this
study, unforeseeable health conditions. This behavior resem-
bles the Distancing Through Agency linguistic category discov-
ered in this studys deceptive corpora. However, the primary
difference between the excuse literature and playing hooky is
that excuses are often portrayed as delivered subconsciously to
safeguard perceptions of positive identity (Snyder & Higgins,
1988). In contrast, playing hooky is a deliberate form of a health
excuse motivated by strategic impression management goals
that are proactively pursued by deceptiveand apprehensive
Connecting Instructor Credibility and Deceptive Health
Message Facework Strategies
Our work also sheds light on how students craft messages
with instructors they perceive to be less credible. Study 2
found that students who played hooky often used larger
words like apologize,”“understand,”“assignment,and
inconveniencein the email health-related messages they
relayed to their instructors. These longer words could perso-
nify studentsefforts to flex their musclesor to imply their
worth. That is, we could be seeing students attempt to
symbolically infuse their messages with power and perhaps
compete with the status and authority of the instructor
whom Study 1 showed they perceive to be less credible (i.e.,
competent, caring, and trustworthy). Taken together, these
findings create opportunities for health communication
scholars to extend this line of exploratory research into the
workplace where employeesperceptions of managerscred-
ibility may impact their rates of deceptive health absentee-
ism. Furthermore, our data on skippingfrequency paint an
adverse picture for millennials faithfully attending class.
Millennials, often criticized as entitled in the workplace
(Ng, Schweitzer, & Lyons, 2010), may believe that they
reserve the right to skip outon work, a costly assumption
and pattern of behavior affecting office productivity and
morale (Gump, 2004).
Finally, students in the deceptive health message condition
promised to seek doctor documentation for their illness rather
than reporting they had already received itwhich was more
common in the truthful health message condition. This finding
again attracts new meaning and implications when we
remember that students also perceive the instructors with
whom they engage in deceptive health communication to be
less credible. This relationship could reflect that students care
less about the face needs of less credible instructors and there-
fore craft deceptive health messages that promise documenta-
tion for absences as compared to actually seeking or having
sought that documentation. Conversely, students could also be
less concerned with managing their identity with perceivably
less credible instructors and therefore more likely to lie about
their health status. Studentsintentions of following through
with a documentation promise are likely curtailed given that
students within the playing hooky condition are not actually ill.
Offering a broken or empty promise is a less taxingalthough
faultycommunicative strategy for maintaining both the
instructors and students positive identity in the presence of a
health-related absence. However, students who perceive their
instructors as less credible might also perceive this provisional
facework strategy to be sufficient in mitigating the intrusion
their absence caused.
Limitations and Conclusions
This studys sample is from a small private university driven by a
religious mission, strict attendance policy, and class sizes that are
generally fewer than 25 students. This study should be replicated
in a large public university setting to evaluate whether other types
of students use similar deceptive messages when playing hooky.
Perhaps skipping class would be more prevalent at a larger uni-
versity with no attendance policy, but playing hookywhich
involves studentsdeceptive explanationsis less frequent given
a decreased felt obligation to explain attendance.
In addition, the repeated credibility scales participants filled
out in our survey were not counterbalanced, and thus, answers
95 percent of the students who admitted to playing hooky fully
completed credibility scales for teachers with whom they had and
had not played hooky. Finally, although not a focus in our study,
researchers may want to consider the frequency of common
content words per individual. It could be that some people who
write playing hooky messages may be more strategic than others.
Our work takes the first step in understanding more
about the deceptive health-related absenteeism that often
plagues our work and college culture. We identified the
common linguistic strategies used to construct the deceptive
health messages that accompany this form of absenteeism.
We also revealed that some people may be more predisposed
to communicating these deceptive health messages given
their predilection to experience CA and their credibility
perceptions. Ultimately, our findings lay the foundation to
test whether these communicator characteristics and health
message strategies exist outside the classroom and in the
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... MEM was designed to mathematically extract themes from a corpora by identifying common content words that co-occur with one another (e.g., Chung & Pennebaker, 2008). Studies have shown that, when applied to a large body of text, the MEM can reveal information about people's communicative behaviors and psychological states (Barrett, Murphy, & Blackburn, 2017;Chung & Pennebaker, 2008). Originally, the MEM was calculated in a series of steps. ...
... Although the KMO value did not exceed the recommended 0.80(Kaiser-Meryer-Olkin, 1974) the scree plot revealed a clear break from factors 9 and 10. Previous studies have used KMO values below the 0.80 threshold to extract themes based on how words statistically co-occur with one another in a corpora (seeBoyd, 2016;Barrett, Murphy, & Blackburn, 2017). The PCA performed in this study revealed themes produced from the Media Coverage Corpora. ...
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We examine the frames the elite news media uses to portray veterans on and surrounding Veterans Day 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. We use mental health illness and media framing literature to explore how, why, and to what extent Veterans Day news coverage uses different media frames across the four consecutive years. We compiled a Media Coverage Corpora for each year, which contains the quotes and paraphrased remarks used in all veterans news stories for that year. In our primary study, we applied the meaning extraction method (MEM) to extract emergent media frames for Veterans Day 2014 and compiled a word frequency list, which captures the words most commonly used within the corpora. In post hoc analyses, we collected news stories and compiled word frequency lists for Veterans Day 2012, 2013, and 2015. Our findings reveal dissenting frames across 2012, 2013, and 2014 Veterans Day media coverage. Word frequency results suggest the 2012 and 2013 media frames largely celebrate Veterans as heroes, but the 2014 coverage depicts veterans as victimized by their wartime experiences. Furthermore, our results demonstrate how the prevailing 2015 media frames could be a reaction to 2014 frames that portrayed veterans as health victims. We consider the ramifications of this binary portrayal of veterans as either health victims or heroes and discuss the implications of these dueling frames for veterans’ access to healthcare resources.
... The MEM provides a reliable way to mathematically uncover meaningful themes within corpora by tracking words that co-occur with one another across a body of text (Chung & Pennebaker, 2008). Studies have shown that by tracking the cooccurrence of words, researchers are able to uncover information about people's personalities (Chung & Pennebaker, 2008), cultural self-schemas (Ramírez-Esparza, Chung, Sierra-Otero, & Pennebaker 2012; Rodríguez-Arauz, Ramírez-Esparza, Pérez-Brena, & Boyd, 2017), communication strategies (Barrett, Murphy, & Blackburn, 2017), and behaviors . ...
... Past researchers have examined a range of top words (e.g., 20, 50, 100) in corpora to gain more information about the significant words that belong to groups and individuals (Barrett et al., 2017;Stanton, Boyd, Pulverman, & Meston, 2015). Building on the previously published studies, the top 50 most frequently used words in corpora were calculated to explore the way people communicated about food with one another. ...
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This exploratory study examined the ways in which people communicate about food online by analyzing food-related conversations on Reddit, a social news networking site. The Meaning Extraction Helper (MEH) was used to analyze 2 corpora and define central themes related to online food talk. In light of these themes, the researchers discuss socio-cultural components shaping the food conversations in our society in general as well as healthy versus unhealthy communities, and provided specific directions for future empirical research.
... MEM/PCA tracks words that cluster together to derive themes quantitatively [15]. This approach has been previously validated to reveal information about individuals' personalities, communication strategies, and behaviors [16,17]. ...
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Background: Despite the results of the Testosterone Trials, physicians remain uncomfortable treating men with hypogonadism. Discouraged, men increasingly turn to social media to discuss medical concerns. Objective: The goal of the research was to apply natural language processing (NLP) techniques to social media posts for identification of themes of discussion regarding low testosterone and testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in order to inform how physicians may better evaluate and counsel patients. Methods: We retrospectively extracted posts from the Reddit community r/Testosterone from December 2015 through May 2019. We applied an NLP technique called the meaning extraction method with principal component analysis (MEM/PCA) to computationally derive discussion themes. We then performed a prospective analysis of Twitter data (tweets) that contained the terms low testosterone, low T, and testosterone replacement from June through September 2019. Results: A total of 199,335 Reddit posts and 6659 tweets were analyzed. MEM/PCA revealed dominant themes of discussion: symptoms of hypogonadism, seeing a doctor, results of laboratory tests, derogatory comments and insults, TRT medications, and cardiovascular risk. More than 25% of Reddit posts contained the term doctor, and more than 5% urologist. Conclusions: This study represents the first NLP evaluation of the social media landscape surrounding hypogonadism and TRT. Although physicians traditionally limit their practices to within their clinic walls, the ubiquity of social media demands that physicians understand what patients discuss online. Physicians may do well to bring up online discussions during clinic consultations for low testosterone to pull back the curtain and dispel myths.
... En este sentido, Zhang, Zhang y Castelluccio (2011) señalan que cuanto menos creíble es un profesor, mayor es la resistencia u oposición del estudiante a los intentos de cumplimiento del docente. Asimismo, Barret, Murphy y Blackburn (2018) indican que cuando el docente es percibido como poco creíble los estudiantes faltan más a clase y Ledbetter y Finn (2016) destacan que cuando el docente es percibido como poco creíble los estudiantes tienden a utilizar con más frecuencia el móvil en la clase. ...
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En los últimos años la credibilidad docente ha sido considerada como una de las variables más significativas en la comunicación profesor-alumno, constituyendo un elemento fundamental en el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje. Las investigaciones realizadas sobre la credibilidad docente se han centrado fundamentalmente en analizar las variables que afectan a ésta y su impacto en el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje. Así, el objetivo del presente estudio consistió en establecer el estado de la cuestión acerca de la credibilidad docente a través de una revisión de la literatura existente, estableciendo las variables que la afectan y determinando su impacto en el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje. Se llevó a cabo una búsqueda bibliográfica en las bases de datos Web of Science, Scopus, PyscINFO y ERIC, seleccionándose para la revisión un total de 64 artículos científicos, publicados entre 1980 y 2018, que cumplieron con los criterios de inclusión establecidos. En relación con las variables que afectan a la credibilidad de los docentes, se identificaron 8 categorías mientras que, con respecto al impacto de la credibilidad docente en el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje, se identificaron 5 categorías, incluyéndose en cada una de ellas las principales aportaciones de los estudios incluidos en el análisis. . A partir de los resultados obtenidos, se destaca la influencia de los comportamientos de los profesores tanto en las evaluaciones de los estudiantes sobre los mismos como en el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje, por lo que se señala la necesidad de que los profesores tengan conductas positivas para ser percibidos por los estudiantes como personas creíbles y, por lo tanto, para que afecte positivamente al proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje.
Objective Causes of and treatments for long-COVID syndrome remain unknown. Drawing on uncertainty management theory (UMT), this study elucidates the communicative nature of crowdsourced medicine as a means by which COVID “long-haulers” respond to their poorly understood illness. Methods 31,892 posts on the long-haulers subreddit (r/covidlonghaulers) were analyzed, starting with its creation date, July 24th, 2020, until January 7, 2021. The Meaning Extraction Method was used to identify clusters of words that mathematically group together across the text observations. Results Analyses yielded 16 distinct factors of words, which we thematized based on their composition, the data, and UMT. The 16 themes encompassed symptoms (e.g., pain, respiratory, sensory), diagnostic concerns (testing, diagnosis), broad health concerns (immunity, physical activity, diet), chronicity, support, identity, and anxiety. Conclusion Findings provide a succinct, yet robust set of themes reflecting the information-seeking (i.e., “This is happening to me”) and support-seeking functions of long-haulers’ talk (i.e., “Is this happening to you?”). Findings have implications for collective uncertainty management, online crowdsourcing, and patient advocacy. Practice Implications We recommend that health care providers employ sensitivity when addressing the anxiety that long-haulers are experiencing while also validating that their physical symptoms are real. Online communities help long-haulers manage their uncertainty.
College students often struggle with the decision to disclose personal health information to their instructors. Students have to weigh the benefits and risks of disclosing personal health information to their instructors. Guided by Communication Privacy Management Theory, this study examined the motivating factors that contribute to students' disclosure of personal health information to their instructors. Undergraduate students (N = 52) participated in focus groups that discussed disclosing personal health information to faculty. Findings indicated that three motivating factors drive students' disclosure of personal health information to instructors: (a) grades, (b) relational development and investment, and (c) a desire to save face with their instructors. These motivations have implications for how students and faculty communicate about personal health information.
Objectives To characterize themes of discussion and specific concerns expressed by users of an internet erectile dysfunction (ED) community using a mixed-methodology approach involving quantitative natural language processing (NLP) and qualitative annotation of content. Methods We extracted posts and responses from the Reddit community r/ErectileDysfunction (3100 members) during 6/2018-5/2019. We applied an NLP technique called the meaning extraction method with principal component analysis (MEM/PCA) to computationally identify themes of discussion. We manually annotated a subset (30%) of posts based on NLP-derived themes to evaluate specific content. Results We analyzed 329 posts and 1702 responses. MEM/PCA identified key themes: hypogonadism symptoms, masturbation/sex, evaluation/treatment, alternative therapies, and partner factors (posts); and performance anxiety, hypogonadism evaluation, pornography, and pharmacotherapy (responses). Subset annotation of 100 posts revealed a median author age of 24 years (IQR 20-31). 48% of discussants believed their ED was psychogenic, 38% reported depressive symptoms, and 2% mentioned self-harm/suicidality either attributed to or associated with their ED. 28% of discussants reported seeing a health care professional for ED, and 20% attempted abstinence from pornography/masturbation as a self-prescribed intervention. Conclusions Social media platforms like Reddit empower young men to discuss ED concerns. Fewer than one-third reported seeing a doctor for ED, suggesting that men turn to peers on the internet first, despite risk of misinformation. A majority attributed symptoms to psychological etiologies and excess pornography/masturbation. Depression, self-harm, and suicide emerged as potent concerns. These data underscore the importance of engaging proactively with young men, both in the consultation room and online.
Students often disclose personal health information to their instructors for a variety of reasons. This puts instructors in an awkward position where they must negotiate the students’ disclosure and what to do with the information. The authors conducted in-depth individual interviews with 23 university professors and identified three recurring tensions in the ways in which participants discussed their responses and actions based on student health disclosures: (1) encouraging and discouraging student disclosure, (2) changing and maintaining the instructor-student interactions based on the disclosure, and (3) personal involvement and professional detachment in responding to students’ disclosures. For instructors, communication privacy negotiation is more than a negotiation of privacy boundaries and co-ownership of information on the part of the instructor; it becomes a form of self-preservation and personal health navigation, which then dictates future interactions of instructors when students disclose personal health information.
What are the common linguistic features of top-rated romance novels? The open vocabulary method was performed on 703 romance novels to determine what words were commonly used in the highest rated romance novels. Results revealed that the highest rated novels contained words related to arousal, sexual/primal prowess, and sexual communication. Our research team discusses the ability for words to capture psychological underpinnings related to readers and directions for future research.
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Deception and Cognitive Load: Expanding our Horizon with a Working Memory Model Abstract Recently, studies on deception and its detection have increased dramatically. Many of these studies rely on the "cognitive load approach" as the sole explanatory principle to understand deception. These studies have been exclusively on lies about negative actions (usually lies of suspects of [mock] crimes). Instead, we need to re-focus more generally on the cognitive processes involved in generating both lies and truths, not just on manipulations of cognitive load. Using Baddeley's (2000, 2007, 2012) working memory model, which integrates verbal and visual processes in working memory with retrieval from long-term memory and control of action, not only verbal content cues but also nonverbal, paraverbal and linguistic cues can be investigated within a single framework. The proposed model considers long-term semantic, episodic and autobiographical memory and their connections with working memory and action. It also incorporates ironic processes of mental control (Wegner, 1994, 2009), the role of scripts and schemata and retrieval cues and retrieval processes. Specific predictions of the model are outlined and support from selective studies is presented. The model is applicable to different types of reports, particularly about lies and truths about complex events, and to different modes of production (oral, hand-written, typed). Predictions regarding several moderator variables and methods to investigate them are proposed.
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Student absenteeism is common across universities. Learning through attending lectures and tutorials is still expected in our technological age, though there are major changes in how information in lectures and tutorials can be transmitted via the use of iLearn and related packages, by video streaming of classes and by online technology generally. Consequently, availability of these supplementary resources and, in general terms, the issue of physical absence from classes, raises the question of whether missing class impacts on student learning. Does it matter if students attend classes or not? The aim of the current study was to assess whether student attendance in tutorials in first year subjects in psychology was associated with academic performance, that is, was attendance linked with improved performance? We took data from tutor held records on attendance and on results for article review assignments and laboratory reports for a total of 383 students who completed introductory psychology courses in classes over the years 2012-2015. The hypothesis that class attendance and performance would be significantly related was supported in 13 of the 14 class relationships examined separately, and, in the class that was the exception the correlation was in the expected direction. These results suggest that attending class continues to have a positive impact on student learning in this technological age. The limitations of the current study are discussed as are implications regarding instructor resource applications and/or compulsory class attendance policies.
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Research on eyewitness testimony has primarily focused on memory errors. In this chapter, the focus is not on eye-witness errors but on the application of Johnson and Raye's (1981) reality monitoring (RM) model to detection of deception. The central question is whether or not it is possible to discriminate truthful from deceptive statements on the basis of content aspects outlined by the RM theory. This approach is akin to Statement Validity Analysis, in particular the Criteria-Based Content Analysis (CBCA) component, which also has focused on qualitative differences between truthful and deceptive accounts (for reviews, see Ruby and Brigham, 1997; Sporer, 1983, 1997a, 1997b; Steller and Köhnken, 1989; Vrij, 2000, in press).
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Genetic test results reveal not only personal information about a person's likelihood of certain medical conditions but also information about the person's genetic relatives. Given the familial nature of genetic information, one's obligation to protect family members may be a motive for disclosing genetic test results, but this claim has not been methodically tested. Existing models of disclosure decision making presume self-interested motives, such as seeking social support, instead of other-interested motives, like familial obligation. This study investigated young adults' (N = 173) motives to share a genetic-based health condition, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, after reading a hypothetical vignette. Results show that social support and familial obligation were both reported as motives for disclosure. In fact, some participants reported familial obligation as their primary motivator for disclosure. Finally, stronger familial obligation predicted increased likelihood of disclosing hypothetical genetic test results. Implications of these results were discussed in reference to theories of disclosure decision-making models and the practice of genetic disclosures.
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This paper expands, refines, and explicates media synchronicity theory, originally proposed in a conference proceeding in 1999 (Dennis and Valacich 1999). Media synchronicity theory (MST) focuses on the ability of media to support synchronicity, a shared pattern of coordinated behavior among individuals as they work together. We expand on the original propositions of MST to argue that communication is composed of two primary processes: conveyance and convergence. The familiarity of individuals with the tasks they are performing and with their coworkers will also affect the relative amounts of these two processes. Media synchronicity theory proposes that for conveyance processes, use of media supporting lower synchronicity should result in better communication performance. For convergence processes, use of media supporting higher synchronicity should result in better communication performance. We identify five capabilities of media (symbol sets, parallelism, transmission velocity, rehearsability, and reprocessability) that Influence the development of synchronicity and thus the successful performance of conveyance and convergence communication processes. The successful completion of most tasks involving more than one individual requires both conveyance and convergence processes, thus communication performance will be improved when individuals use a variety of media to perform a task, rather than just one medium.
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The meaning extraction method (MEM), an advanced computerized text analysis technique, was used to analyze women's sexual self-schemas. Participants (n=239) completed open-ended essays about their personal feelings associated with sex and sexuality. These essays were analyzed using the MEM, a procedure designed to extract common themes from natural language. Using the MEM procedure, we extracted seven unique themes germane to sexual self-schemas: family and development, virginity, abuse, relationship, sexual activity, attraction, and existentialism. Each of these themes is comprised of frequently used words across the participants' descriptions of their sexual selves. Significant differences in sexual self-schemas were observed to covary with age, relationship status, and sexual abuse history. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
A theoretical rationale is provided which leads to the hypothesis that communication apprehension is negatively related to the amount of self‐disclosure. Data are reported which provide support for the hypothesized relationship. Additional results indicate that high and low communication apprehensives have different perceptions of their self‐disclosive communication behaviors on a variety of dimensions.