No “persuasion” needed for communication studies professor to receive award

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    A TCU professor’s dissertation about the power of persuasion is being recognized as one of the top works in the field of communication.

    Adam Richards, an assistant professor in the department of communication studies, will receive the Gerald R. Miller Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation award in November from the National Communication Association (NCA).

    Richards, who received his doctorate degree at the University of Maryland, examined how people’s appearance and how they sound effects how persuasive they are. He found that there are three main elements that influence a person’s ability to persuade: a person’s attractiveness, similarity to others and their biological sex.

    “Using evolutionary theory, I explained that our preferences to be persuaded by certain people were at one point adaptive,” Richards said.

    Richards titled his dissertation “Survival of the Persuasible: An Evolutionary Approach to Interpersonal Influence.”

    “The reason we think people are more persuasive is because we evolved to do that,” he said.

    The NCA is the largest communication association in the United States. The association serves its members by supporting their professional interests in research and teaching.

    Richards worked on his dissertation for about two years under the direction of his dissertation committee and his dissertation adviser, Dale Hample, a professor at the University of Maryland.

    Richards’ research was “an entrancing idea that has the potential to unify a lot of apparently unrelated findings. Adam is one of the first in the field to take evolution seriously as an explanation for communication processes and effects,” Hample said.

    “He was productive from the first day,” Hample said. “It is fun to see students develop their own ideas into first class research studies.”

    Richards, who teaches Interpersonal Communication, Communication Inquiry and Communication and Social Influence, came to TCU in 2013.

    “He was a great hire,” said David Whillock, dean of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication. “He is easy to talk to and to work with. The award itself says basically that this is a very important piece of scholarship. I suspect that we just begun with Richard. He is an amazing individual personally but also an amazing scholar and I think there will be more things coming from him.”

    Richards will receive his award during the NCA’s 100th annual convention, which will be held in Chicago from Nov. 21-23.