Skip Navigation

Elena Bessarabova

Skip Side Navigation

Dr. Elena Bessarabova

Elena Bessarabova

Position: Associate Professor
Education: Ph.D., University of Maryland, 2010


Office: Burton Hall Room 136
Office Hours:  By Appointment

Spring 2024 Courses

  • COMM 2213 - Interpersonal Communication  
  • COMM 3810 - Deception

Academic Interests

Dr. Elena Bessarabova is a quantitative social scientist who studies persuasion, focusing on the roles of emotion and cognition in information processing. She’s particularly interested in maladaptive decision-making, including bias, mis/disinformation, deception, and conspiratorial beliefs. Her current research focuses on communication strategies that can help mitigate bias and misinformation. Professor Bessarabova also studies the effects of message design and framing on adaptive attitudes and behaviors. In theoretical terms, her research advances the theory of psychological reactance, inoculation theory, and mediated intergroup contact. Her recent theoretical contribution involves the integration of the psychological reactance theory with the terror management health model to explain how autonomy-limiting language can be beneficial in situations of high risk. 

Dr. Bessarabova’s research appears in top communication (e.g., Human Communication ResearchCommunication Monographs, Communication Research, Health Communication) and high-quality psychology and interdisciplinary journals (e.g., Motivation and Emotion, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Risk Analysis, Journal of Media Psychology, Computers in Human Behavior). 

Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, Oklahoma Aerospace & Defense Innovation Institute, Data Institute for Societal Challenges, and United Nations Development Program (Uzbekistan Office). She has received Top Paper Awards from the Health Communication Division and Social Cognition Division of National Communication Association (NCA), and the Article of the Year Award from the Communication and Social Cognition Division of NCA in 2019. She has served as Chair of the NCA’s Communication and Social Cognition Division (2017-2018).

She teaches courses on persuasion, deception, interpersonal relationships, risk and crisis communication, and quantitative research methods.

Representative Publications

Bessarabova, E., & Massey, Z. B. (2023)The effects of death awareness and reactance on texting-and-driving prevention. Risk Analysis.

Banas, J. A., Bessarabova, E., Penkauskas, M., & Talbert, N. (2023). Inoculating against anti-vaccination conspiracies. Health Communication, 1-9. Advance online publication.

Bessarabova, E., & Banas, J. A. (2023). Emotions and the QAnon conspiracy theory. In M. Miller (Ed.). The social science of QAnon: Understanding a new social and political phenomenon. Cambridge University Press.

Banas, J. A., & Bessarabova, E., (2023). Employing inoculation theory to mitigate conspiratorial beliefs. In M. Miller (Ed.). The social science of QAnon: Understanding a new social and political phenomenon. Cambridge University Press.

Bessarabova, E., & Massey, Z. B. (2020). Testing terror management health model and integrating its predictions with the theory of psychological reactance, Communication Monographs, 87, 25-46, doi:10.1080/03637751.2019.1626992

Bessarabova, E., Banas, J. A., & Bernard, D. R. (2020). Emotional appeals in message design. In D. O’Hair & M. J. O’Hair (Eds.), Handbook of Applied Communication Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Banas, J. A., Bessarabova, E., & Massey, Z. B. (2020). Reducing prejudice via mediated contact: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 46, 120-160. doi:10.1093/hcr/hqaa004

Bessarabova, E., Miller, C. H., & Russell, J. (2017). A further exploration of the effects of restoration postscripts on reactance. Western Journal of Communication, 81, 362-384. doi:10.1080/10570314.2016.1254815

Bessarabova, E., Piercy, C., King, S., Vincent, C., Dunbar, N. E., Burgoon, J. K., Miller, C. H., Jensen, M., Elkins, A., Wilson, D., Wilson, S. N., & Lee, Y.-H. (2016). Mitigating bias blind spot via a serious video game. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 452-466. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.03.089

Bessarabova, E., Turner, M. M., Fink, E. L., & Blustein, N. B. (2015). Extending the theory of reactance to guilt appeals: “You ain’t guiltin’ me into nothin’.” Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 223, 215-224. doi:10.1027/2151-2604/a000223