Francesca’s research primarily focuses on the unintended effects of media messages; she is fascinated by our automatic processing of message elements and how these elements slip under our radar into our thought processes and affect our social judgments. Likewise, she is interested in how we might harness this processing of message elements for good, leading to positive rather than detrimental outcomes.
Much of her research on potentially detrimental outcomes focuses on young adults’ exposure to sexual depictions in media. Specifically, she examines how sex portrayed within the context of sexual gratification or romantic encounter can change the way we think of others, as well as ourselves, in terms of sexual partnership and permissiveness. Francesca’s research in sexual media has been published in The Journal of Social Psychology, Media Psychology, Mass Communication & Society, and Sexuality & Culture.
Focusing on potentially positive outcomes, Francesca has also been researching ways to harness the engaging aspects of media, in efforts to use media as an instrument in identifying and treating health issues (mostly focusing on depression) in younger people (most often Latino youth). Formative work in understanding and tapping media use for these purposes is reported in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Health Communication, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Journal of Emergency Medicine, Journal of Primary Prevention, Journal of School Violence, and Media Psychology.
Francesca has been a project manager on large-scale federally-funded intervention focusing on Latino youth and mental health, responsibilities of which included everything from recruitment and retention of study participants across the longitudinal design to data collection and analysis. She is co-PI on a project aimed at understanding the role of television as an educator of sexual and romantic relationships among rural youth with little exposure to mainstream media. Francesca is also a recent recipient of two small grants, one of which is funding further exploration into concepts of sexual responsibility and risk within contexts of sex and romance, and the other of which is funding pilot work on understanding the language and perceptions Latina youth use when thinking about depression.