- Ph.D. Communication, Michigan State University, 2003.
- M.S. Communication, University of Arizona, 1999.
- B.A. CLA, Psychology; B.S. COC, TV/Film, Boston University, 1994.
Research Activities and Interests
I study how communication influences health, and health influences communication.
My research focuses on social influences (e.g., social networks, social support, social cognition, and stigma) in health communication (e.g., disclosure, compliance, message diffusion and behavioral adoption) in both domestic and international contexts. Put differently, I develop and test theories of how exposure to communication (verbal and nonverbal messages) induce behavior change in individuals and larger social units (e.g., communities). I study communication influences on a variety of health and wellness issues, including infectious disease (a particularly social health context). I develop and test theories to understand the systemic diffusion, maintenance, and elimination of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that may promote or inhibit health and wellbeing. Specific interests include:
- Developing theories of how communication choices trigger stigma-related processes, how stigmas shape communication, and how people use communication to manage stigmas and stigmatization
- Developing theories, techniques, and decision-making to optimize health interventions (e.g., identifying critical message features and critical people within social networks that facilitate and inhibit compliance, diffusion, and behavioral adoption in managing health ailments; developing theories and techniques for person-centered and network-based approaches to persuasion)
- Identifying impacts of social influence (e.g., support, norms, and stigma) on communicators' susceptibility to health aliments and immunity
- Research methods in non-independence (e.g., social network and dyadic analysis)
- CAS 202: Communication Theory
- CAS 253/453: Health Communication
- CAS 471: Intercultural Communication Theories and Research (Next offered, Spring 2014)
- CAS 557: Health Communication
- CAS 561: Quantitative Research Methods (Next offered, FALL 2013)
- CAS 597: Quantitative Methods for Interdependent Data (Spring 2012)
- CAS 597: International Health Campaigns (Fall 2012)
- Social Influence: Stigma
- Health Communication
- System sciences
- Stigmas in Genomic/Genetic Communication (Alpha-1 project)
Examples of Recent Publications
- Smith, R. A., & Hughes, D. (in press). Infectious Disease Stigmas: Maladaptive in Modern Society. Communication Studies, Special Issue on Stigma.
- Smith, R. A., Wienke, S. E., & Baker, M. (in press). Segmenting Married Adults Diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Based on their Communication Patterns using Latent Class Analysis: Insights for Intervention. Journal of Genetic Counseling.doi: 10.1007/s10897-013-9661-8
- Smith, R. A. (in press). Testing the Model of Stigma Communication with a Factorial Experiment in an Interpersonal Context. Communication Studies, Special Issue on Stigma.
- Smith, R. A., Wienke, S. E., & Coffman, D. L. (2013, online first). Alpha-1 couples: Interpersonal and intrapersonal predictors of spousal communication and stress. Journal of Genetic Counseling. Doi: 10.1007/s10897-013-9639-6
- Smith, R. A. , Greenberg, M. & Parrott, R. L. (in press). Segmenting by risk perceptions: Predicting young adults’ genetic-belief profiles with health and opinion-leader covariates. Health Communication. Doi: 10.1080/10410236.2013.768475
- Parrott, R. L. & Smith, R. A. (2013, online first). Defining genes using “blueprint” versus “instruction” metaphors: Effects for genetic determinism, response efficacy, and perceived control. Health Communication. DOI:10.1080/10410236.2012.729181 PMID: 23448621
- Smith, R. A. (2012). An experimental test of stigma communication content with a hypothetical infectious disease alert. Communication Monographs, 79, 522-538. DOI:10.1080/03637751.2012.72381
- Smith, R. A., & Findeis, J. (2012). Investigating adopter categories for an agricultural innovation in Mozambique with Latent Class Analysis. Journal of Health Communication, 18, 6-19. DOI:10.1080/10810730.2012.688249
- Smith, R. A. & Baker, M. (2012). HIV Stigma and Centrality in the Community’s Network in Namibia. AIDS & Behavior, 16, 525-534. PMID:22327408
- Smith, R. A., & Parrott, R. (2012). Mental representations of HPV in Appalachia: Gender, semantic network analysis, and knowledge gaps. Journal of Health Psychology, 17, 918-929. Doi: 10.1177/1359105311428534
- Smith, R. A. & Lanza, S. (2011). Testing theoretical network classes and HIV-related correlates with Latent Class Analysis. AIDS Care, 23, 1274-1281.
- Smith, R. A., Barclay, V.C., & Findeis, J.L. (2011). Investigating preferences for malaria prevention technologies in Mozambique with Latent Class Analysis. Malaria Journal, 10:200 doi:10.1186/1475-2875-10-200
Teaching Excellence Award, Texas Exes at the University of Texas at Austin, 2007. Nominee for Distinction in Teaching, Phi Beta Kappa, Texas Chapter, 2006.
Top Paper Awards, International Communication Association, Mass Communication Division (2006), Information Systems Division (2004).
Marisa Greenberg (MA, 2014); Katharine Pecorino (Schreyer Honors student, 2014); Lydia Glick (Schreyer Honors student, 2015). Maddie Quesnell (MA, 2015); Sara Salmon (MA, 2015)
Rachel A Smith, PhD is an Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences and Human Development & Family Studies, and an Investigator in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and the Methodology Center at the Pennsylvania State University. Smith studies social influences in health. Her research program focuses on how social identities, social interactions, and social memberships shape and are shaped by communication. She uses a variety of quantitative methods, including dyadic analysis and social network analysis, to study patterns of relationships as well as interpersonal or intergroup influences in persuasion and compliance. She tends to focus on social health conditions, such as infectious diseases and genomics. Her current research centers on building and testing theories focusing on the relationships and dynamics among stigmas, communication, and health.
She has expertise in health message design and evaluation, and extensive experience with the evaluation of funded programs nationally and internationally. For example, she led the community-characteristics research arm of PEPFAR program evaluations with JHUCCP for Namibia (2004-2007), including network mapping and analysis, completed formative research to inform the development of two innovations for malaria and food security in Mozambique (2009-2011), and contributed to a working team focused on scale up for impact for the Gates Foundation (2012). She has made numerous presentations in scientific, technical, policy, and advocacy fora, and authored over 50 scientific, technical, and public health articles and chapters, the majority in peer-reviewed journals.