Doctoral student Hamilton researches relationships with technology

Kristy HamiltonWhat is the best way to take notes to promote learning: Taking notes by hand? Taking photos of the slides? Recording the lecture? Such questions about the ways we use technology drives doctoral student Kristy Hamilton’s research. 

Her goal is to help media users learn how to make smarter decisions concerning when and how to use technology to accomplish their social and intellectual goals.

A fourth-year PhD candidate in the College of Media’s Institute of Communications Research (ICR), Hamilton is manager of the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising’s AdLab, which features the Advertising Research Participation System. She is currently collaborating with Dr. Mike Yao, head of the Sandage Department of Advertising and professor of digital media, and Dr. Adrian Ward, marketing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, on a study that examines whether interpersonally interacting with technology influences judgment of knowledge differently than technology that is seen as an “extension of self,” like smartphones. 

In 2019, they presented the findings from their first study at the annual conference of the International Communication Association, and the findings from their second study at the annual meeting of the Association for Consumer Research

“We found when students were told to use a ‘program’ on a digital assistant to help them make decisions, they believed that they themselves were smarter than students who were told to use a digital assistant named ‘Sasha’ to help them make decisions,” Hamilton said. “This suggests that making our interactions with technology more interpersonal could be one way to reduce this search-induced overconfidence we have seen in earlier studies, where people used smartphones or computers to help them make decisions.”

Hamilton is collaborating with ICR students Seo Yoon Lee, Un Chae Chung, Weizi Liu and Dr. Brittany Duff, associate professor in advertising, on an experiment that uses digital assistants to investigate “self-endorsement,” a new advertising strategy that has been shown to trigger favorable attitudes toward brands and products.This project started as a group project in ADV 580: Advertising Theory and is now published in New Media & Society.

Hamilton in AdLab
ICR doctoral student Kristy Hamilton teaches undergraduate researchers how to collect data in the College of Media's AdLab. 


She is also working on a project with engineering researchers that explores cybersecurity and how people decide to learn when they know they are being watched by someone who does not have their “best interest in mind.” 

“I hope my research can help illuminate some of the positive and negative consequences of technology use so people feel more confident and in control while making decisions about when and how to use technology in their daily life,” she said. 

Hamilton currently teaches a discussion section for ADV 281: Advertising Research Methods, which covers topics related to advertising research principles, research ethics, secondary research, qualitative methods, surveying, and experimental methods. She has also taught a dozen undergraduate researchers at the Technology and Social Behavior Lab how to conduct experimental research. 

Hamilton published her first research project as an undergraduate with faculty in psychology at Trinity University, who helped her combine two experiments examining the relationship between the way people organize files on their computers and their judgment of their own intelligence. From those studies, they found that people who maintained more organized digital files were more confident in their general knowledge. 

Some of her earlier findings showed that searching for and accessing online information causes people to become overconfident in their own knowledge, and to attribute the Internet’s “knowledge” to themselves. She co-authored “Blurring boundaries: Effects of device features on metacognitive evaluations” in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, with Professor Yao. Last year, she published a paper with Dr. Aaron Benjamin, psychology professor at Illinois, in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition entitled “The Human-Machine Extended Organism: New Roles and Responsibilities of Human Cognition in a Digital Ecology.” 

Hamilton will be joining the Department of Communication at UC Santa Barbara in Fall 2020 as an Assistant Professor in the area of digital communication.

—Kimberly Belser, Communications and Marketing Intern