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Teaching Adolesence

Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Chia-chen Yang

April 2018

Chia-chen Yang, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research at the University of Memphis. Her research focuses on the use of communication technologies by adolescents and emerging adults and its associations with young people’s identity development, social relationships, and psychological well-being. She received the college-wide Faculty Research Award at the end of her second year in Memphis, and is the most recent recipient of the Emerging Scholar Best Article Award for the Journal of Youth and Adolescence (article downloadable here).

After receiving her B.A. in English with a minor in psychology from National Taiwan University, Chia-chen served as a high school student teacher in Taiwan for a year, after which she started her graduate career at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Around this time, Facebook became more than a campus network and the first iPhone was released. This was also the first time Chia-chen was away from her family and friends, and thus communication technologies took on a new meaning to her. The convergence of these events sparked her passion for investigating how these new means of communication would associate with youth’s development and well-being. Under the mentorship of Dr. B. Bradford Brown, Chia-chen started exploring youth development in the digital age.

Chia-chen’s research is interdisciplinary in nature and methodologically diverse. Her work commonly features the integration of developmental research with social psychology and communication literature. This allows her to develop models and designs incorporating multiple approaches to the research question, engaging readers across numerous disciplines. Using longitudinal surveys, meta-analysis, focus group interviews, and individual interviews in the form of a Facebook Tour (see details of this method in this paper), Chia-chen’s rich data is helping to advance knowledge in her field.

Chia-chen believes that instead of asking, “Are communication technologies instrumental or detrimental,” we should ask, “What conditions make communication technologies instrumental or detrimental?” Her research suggests that the implications of technology use vary by at least four dimensions: Which technologies are used (devices or platforms), why they are used (motives), how they are used (ways of usage), and with whom they are used (communication partners). Her recent short-term longitudinal study explored college freshmen’s social media use at the transition to college, and confirmed that different forms of usage had differential identity implications. Specifically, on social media, engagement in the competition-based comparison (i.e., social comparison of ability) was related to concurrent diffuse-avoidant identity processing style, which predicted lower identity clarity months later. In contrast, the information-based social comparison of opinion was associated with the informational identity processing style, although its indirect, prospective relationships with self-esteem and identity clarity were not significant (full paper available here).

One thing Chia-chen wishes to share with emerging scholars is the importance of managing self-doubt. In her experience and observation, self-doubt can be the biggest enemy to achieving one’s goals. It is easy to feel “less” and insufficient in comparison to how much others have achieved. In those moments, instead of engaging in the competition-based social comparison (e.g., “I’m so far behind her/him”), turn those thoughts into an information-based comparison and consider what new information can be gleaned (e.g., “I wasn’t aware of that fellowship. Maybe I can apply next year”). She also sees the need to constantly remind ourselves that there is more than one way to succeed (however success is defined), and everyone has their own pace in their own journey. Here is what she tells her mentees (and herself), “As long as we keep moving forward, some detours are fine, some breaks are fine, and each small step counts. If we are persistent enough, eventually we will get there, in our own way.”

You can visit Dr. Yang’s university page here.

Recent Publications:

Yang, C.-c., & Lee, Y. (in press). Interactants and activities on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: Associations between social media use and social adjustment to college. Applied Developmental Science. doi: 10.1080/10888691.2018.1440233

Yang, C.-c., Holden, S. M.,& Carter, M. D. K. (2018). Social media social comparison of ability (but not opinion) predicts lower identity clarity: Identity processing style as a mediator. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10964-017-0801-6

Yang, C.-c., & Robinson, A. (2018). Not necessarily detrimental: Two social comparison orientations and their associations with social media use and college social adjustment. Computers in Human Behavior, 84, 49-57. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2018.02.020

Yang, C.-c., Holden, S. M., & Carter, M. D. K. (2017). Emerging adults’ social media self-presentation and identity development at college transition: Mindfulness as a moderator. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 52, 212-221. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2017.08.006

Yang, C.-c., & Liu, D. (2017). Motives matter: Motives for playing Pokémon Go and implications for well-being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, & Social Networking, 20(1), 52-57. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2016.0562


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