Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Science (DSc) in Emergency Management


Emergency Management & Public Administration

Committee Chair

Jane Kushma


The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the significant role that mass media plays in disseminating messages to the public during disasters and public health crises. Information disseminated during a disaster influences individuals’ decision-making process regarding protective actions, or mitigation behaviors. This study examined the relationship between media dependency theory, parasocial relationship, and media effects (cognitive, affective and behavioral) during the COVID-19 pandemic. A quantitative approach was used with a convenience sample. The sample focused on residents in the state of Arkansas and specific generational cohorts. The results found that the generational cohorts had different media preferences during the height of COVID-19. While media dependency was found to have a significant relationship with media effects, they were small effect sizes. PSR was not found to have any relationship with media effects but the variable trust did significantly predict media effects. Lastly, a relationship between media dependency and PSR was found. This information can assist those responsible for communicating in disasters tailor message campaigns to specific audiences. Crisis communication professionals and emergency managers should consider the different media behaviors between age groups in order to effectively communicate with their audience. Future studies can further examine the role that mass media plays in the decision-making process during disasters.


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