|Prof. Jonathan Cohen
Narrative persuasion, Identification, Para-Social Interaction
Jonathan Cohen (Ph.D., University of Southern California, 1995) has been teaching at the Department of Communication at Haifa University since 1995. He teaches courses on the psychology of entertainment, graduate courses in research methods and on effects theories, and a doctoral workshop. His research focuses on narrative persuasion, the relationships people develop with mediated characters, and perceptions of media influence and hostile media. His work has been funded by various foundations including the Israel Science Foundation and the Second Authority for Radio and Television. He is currently serving as an associate editor of Communication Theory and is a board member of the International Communication Association. His publications have appeared in many journals among them in: Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Media Psychology, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Communication Theory, and Critical Studies in Media Communication.
Cohen, J. (2001). Defining identification: A theoretical look at the identification of audiences with media characters. Mass Communication and Society, 4(3), 245-264.
Cohen, J. (2002). Deconstructing Ally: Explaining viewers' different interpretations of popular television.Media Psychology, 4, 253-277.
Tsfati, Y. and Cohen J. (2003). On the effect of the third person effect: Perceived influence of media coverage and residential mobility intentions. Journal of Communication, 53(4), 711 -727.
Cohen, J., Tsfati, Y., and Sheafer, T. (2008). The influence of presumed media influence in politics: Do politicians' perceptions of media power matter? Public Opinion Quarterly 72(2), 331-344.
Tal-Or, N. & Cohen, J. (2010). Understanding Audience Involvement: Conceptualizing and Manipulating Identification and Transportation. Poetics, 38, 402-418.
Eyal, K. & Cohen, J. (2006). When Good Friends Say Goodbye: A Parasocial Breakup Study. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 50(3), 502-523.
Cohen J. (2006). What I watch and who I am: National pride and the viewing of local and foreign television in Israel. Journal of Communication, 58, 149-167.
If you could give your students just one reading item, which book or article would you choose?
I can't name one book that is good enough for me to give up all others, so I think I would choose an edited volume that represents different perspectives. I think the most interesting collections for me are the old volumes of "Sociology of Communication" variety - today we're still trying to prove what the authors of these articles wrote. They show great theoretical thinking, the kind of thinking that scholars of the old school had the courage to think. Even if today it is clear that much of what they thought was wrong, they still comprise the foundations for our thinking, and so I would recommend one of these collections. Examples of such collections are the collection by White and Dexter from 1964, or Tunstall's collection from 1970. There are also other similar ones, and it doesn't matter which one you choose, it's the style of writing and the scope that really inspire me.
With which communication scholar would you most like to have a cup of coffee?
With Marshal McLuhan - I read his works over and over, and I have no idea what he's trying to say. I think he's contradicting himself, and that those who quote him often do so without really understanding his claims. I'm very curious to find out if it's just that I am a bit slow-witted, or if he really was a bit deranged and incoherent. Maybe I would find out over a cup of coffee. Anyway, I have a feeling he was an original man, very creative and probably very amusing.
What technology could you not live without?
E-mail - the ability to communicate in writing and a-synchronically has become a huge advantage for me.
Which book do you return to most often?
Professionally I tend more towards articles than books, and there are several classic articles I return to. I think the article I return to most often is the one by Horton and Wohl on Para-Social Interaction. Although there are a lot of ideas in it which turned out to be wrong, it is an original and inspiring article. I also find Sonia Livingstone's article on reception theories, in the book by Liebes and Curran, very useful.
When it comes to literature, I feel that there is so much I would like to read and can't find the time (see my answer regarding TV and you'll understand why), that I tend not to return to the same books. Authors that I tend to return to include John Irving, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon and Haim Be'er, whose writing I like a lot.
Which TV shows do you watch frequently?
Many American shows, where lots of effort is put into the writing, and less into production. I think the classic example of sophisticated TV is "The West Wing", but I also find good comedy shows like "Seinfeld" entertaining and sophisticated. I also enjoy investigative TV shows like "60 minutes" or political comedy like "Jon Stewart". And, of course,... American sports.
If you could go back in time and take a course you didn't take during your studies, which course would you take?
I would like to know more about two topics: the first is classic rhetoric, which is the foundation of many communication theories and which I did not have the chance to study. Second, because I'm starting to understand that the future of research into the questions that interest me is moving in the direction of physiological-neurological research, I'm sorry I didn't learn more about the brain.
What is the most important thing you have learned from your students?
The importance of focusing on details. As a student, I often understood things holistically, without insisting on going into detail or understanding things fully. But when I came to teach, I found out that in order to explain things well, you have to understand them fully and in detail. These insights, which became clear to me in my first years as lecturer, changed my thinking patterns, and are the result of the feedback I got from my students.