Faculty Research Spotlight: Kathleen Searles




Assistant Professor of political communication, Kathleen Searles, holds a joint appointment in the Manship School of Mass Communication and the Department of Political Science at LSU. By training though, Searles is a political psychologist. Her interests include news media, campaign advertising, and political psychology. Specifically, her research examines the content of partisan news, poll coverage, and the influence of emotional appeals in campaign ads. Most recently her work focuses on using bio-metrics to better understand the effects of political television ads and direct mail.


“I use psychological theory to bear on political phenomenons and in particular, the effects of campaign advertising and also the influence of media,” said Searles.


Currently Searles has grant support to look at the bio-physical characteristics of advertisements. “I want to look at how people physically react to ads, specifically where their eye attention goes in ads to better understand which ads are working effectively,” said Searles.


Searles utilizes the Manship School’s Media Effects Lab eye tracking software to conduct her research on ads. “Without the Media Effects Lab, I wouldn’t be able to conduct my research and do what I have to do,” she said. Searles is also apart of the Media Effects Lab’s political communication research group. The political communication research group (PCRG) is a group where students and faculty members with a common interest in media and politics come together to share their ideas and work collaboratively on research projects.


Another project the Searles is currently a part of is Women Also Know Stuff, a website intended to provide an accessible database of female scholars in political science in a variety of areas. “It was really simple at first when it all started,” said Searles. “My good friend and colleague Samara Klar at the University of Arizona got tired of seeing another article that had all men in areas that she knew she was an expert in and that other women were experts in too.” After that, Women Also Know Stuff was birthed.


Women Also Know Stuff has a series of pages sorted by topics and sub-fields. The website has a growing list of scholars including women at all stages of their careers — from junior women with novel approaches to tackling new problems, to senior scholars whose groundbreaking work continues to influence the entire field of political science. So far, the site has been well-received by political scientists because it simultaneously raises awareness of political science and highlights women who are among the best and brightest in the field.


“We’ve gotten a lot of great feed back for Women Also Know Stuff,” said Searles. “We are currently applying for grant funding to hopefully be able to track what our impact actually is.” “But, the anecdotal evidence for the website has been overwhelming.” “We get messages from political scientists saying they use the website to update their syllabus or symposium organizers using the list to find panelist for their event,” said Searles.


Overall, Searles says, “I enjoy working in an interesting niche where I can look at all the things going on in the media and at the same time try to understand how people may or may not be affected by them.”


For more on Professor Kathleen Searles, please visit: https://kathleensearles.wordpress.com/.