"The Communicative Dynamics of Social Support", presented by Stephen Rains

Abstract: Social support plays an integral role in health and well-being. The importance of social support is illustrated in part by the sustained attention it has received from researchers working across numerous academic disciplines in the behavioral sciences and medicine. Communication scholars have made noteworthy contributions to this body of scholarship by examining the properties of more and less effective support messages. Although these efforts have yielded valuable insights about the features of (un)helpful emotional support messages and advice, the broader conversations in which supportive messages are embedded have been largely overlooked. There remains a need to better understand the processes involved in communicating social support. In this talk, a series of studies investigating social support as an interactive communication phenomenon will be discussed. The behavior of support seekers and support providers will be considered along with the implications of communication technologies to gain insights about the dynamics of supportive communication.

Bio: Steve Rains (University of Texas at Austin) is Professor of Communication at the University of Arizona. His research is situated in the general areas of communication and technology, health communication, and social influence. Much of his research examines the implications of communication technologies for health communication and, in particular, coping with illness. He has conducted studies investigating the use and effects of communication technologies for social support, self-disclosure, information seeking, and related activities. He recently published the book, Coping with Illness Digitally, at MIT Press exploring these and related topics.


2 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 19, 2021