As the new school year begins, members of the Department of Communication are undergoing exciting new research studies. Associate Professor Amanda Denes was just awarded a Waterhouse Family Institute (WFI) grant which will allow her to design and conduct a new research study on campus. WFI is a communication research institute, housed within Villanova University, where it funds research projects that focus on interconnections between communication and social change. Not only did Professor Denes receive the grant, but she received the largest single grant that WFI has ever provided.
Professor Denes, along with her main collaborator at the University of Washington, John Crowley P.h.D., will be studying the effects of positive affirmation towards sexual minorities who have been affected by hate speech. The study will ask members of the LGBQ community to share an experience that they have had with hate speech with their friends. The friends will then be trained to give good support or no support to their friend. The researches will be measuring physical stress by observing hormones to see whether or not communication intervention from friends can dampen stress. Professor Denes has received support from the UConn Rainbow Center, and she is hoping to provide information about how to communicate effectively with victims of hate speech.
Professor Denes feels that this is an important issue to be studying because hate speech is on the rise, and there’s a lot of negative sentiment towards many groups including the LGBQ community. There are many allies to this community that want to know how to be better allies, and what they as a community can do to help. There are also potential health benefits to this study, as stress can cause people to become sick. The study seeks to find ways to improve the mental and physical health of those being affected by hate speech by teaching allies how to communicate with them in an affirming way.
Currently, Professor Denes is designing the study and awaiting approval in order to start collecting data in the spring. Additionally, she will be looking for lab students to assist with her research.. If you are interested, email Professor Denes at email@example.com.
Professors in UConn’s COMM Department are constantly conducting innovative studies, but Professor Amanda Denes’ research proves that there’s a lot more to research than goggles and test tubes. Professor Denes joined the UConn community as an Assistant Professor in the fall of 2012. During her time here, she’s been focusing on interpersonal communication, gender in communication and sexuality studies in both her classes and research.
Professor Denes’ latest research is focused on self-disclosure in relationships—more specifically post-sex pillow talk. In her Pillow Talk Studies she observed the level of relational satisfaction in coorelation to pillow talk. Her interest in hormones and their role in communication inspired the study. Denes recalled stories from her friends of disclosing things post-sex that they did not truly feel, such as telling someone they loved them. She questioned the relationship between the amount of hormones released during sex and over-disclosure to partners after sex.
The findings of the study were very interesting, Denes found that disclosure of positive feelings after sex is linked to more satisfied relationships. The studies also had a connection to orgasms, where Denes found that orgasm was a large predictor in relationships because they release a significant amount of oxytocin which is a hormone that makes people feel happy. They also found that the more alcohol people consume, the less they disclose. Though many might think that alcohol would increase the likeliness of disclosure, it is believed that that the depressants in the alcohol counteracts the oxytocin, thus resulting in less disclosure and relational satisfaction.
Professor Denes feels that this study is important because people rarely think about what happens after sex. Communication doesn’t end after sex, the time afterwards matters, and in certain aspects she feels that it can be more important than sex itself.
Although it took a while for her to become comfortable with speaking to people about such an intimate topic, she has learned to view it as a scientific process in which she feels “immune” to it. The more comfortable she is discussing it, the more comfortable her subjects will feel about disclosing information. “It’s good for people’s sex lives to talk about it,” says Denes, “People want to tell you stories”.
In the future Professor Denes hopes to research social support in communication, and more specifically how social support can buffer difficult situations. In instances such as presence of hate speech, she wants to see if providing supportive communication can help people deal with stressful events.
In the 2017 spring semester, Professor Denes will be teaching a new hybrid version of COMM 3200 Interpersonal Communication, as well as finishing up her research.