Maria D. Molina

Maria Molina

Assistant Professor

  • Advertising + Public Relations
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Maria D. Molina is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Advertising & Public Relations. She received her PhD in Mass Communications from Penn State University.

Her research explores the real-life and societal benefits of sharing online, and the role played by technological affordances in the process. Two areas currently define her research. First, the role played by technological affordances in promoting sharing of both positive content (e.g., reporting workouts in fitness apps for motivating healthy lifestyle) and negative content (e.g., spreading fake news via social media).  Secondly, she is exploring automated tools using AI for flagging problematic content such as suicidal ideation and hate speech, particularly investigating how to increase user acceptance and understanding of such AI-based systems.

Research and Teaching

My research lies at the intersection of communication technology, media effects, and computational social sciences. More specifically, I research technological affordances of social media and the mechanisms by which they persuade us. Although I am interested on several contexts of study within that larger framework,  I largely focus on the role of technological affordances on 1) the dissemination of misinformation, 2) incentivizing heathy behaviors (i.e.: workout behaviors, healthy eating) and 3) user responses to automated tools using artificial intelligence.


Recent Publications

Sundar, S. S., Kim, J., Rosson, M. B., & Molina, M. D. (2020). Online privacy heuristics that predict information disclosure. Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘20), Paper 725. doi:10.1145/3313831.3376854

Molina, M. D. & Myrick, J.G. (2020) The ‘how’ and ‘why’ of fitness app use: Investigating user motivation to gain insight into the nexus of technology and fitness. Sport in Society, 1-16.

Wang, J., Molina, M. D., & Sundar, S.S. (2020). When expert recommendation contradicts peer opinion: Relative social influence of valence, group identity and artificial intelligence.  Computers in Human Behavior, 107, 1-7.

Molina, M. D. (2020). What makes an internet meme a meme? Five essential characteristics. In S. Josephson, K. Smith, & J. Kelly (Eds.)., Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media (2nd., ed.). Routledge.

Molina, M. D., & Sundar, S. S. (2020). Can mobile apps motivate fitness tracking? A study of technological affordances and workout behaviors. Health Communication, 35(1), 65-74.

Molina, M. D., Sundar, S. S., Le, T., & Lee, D. (2019). “Fake news” is not simply false information: A concept explication and taxonomy of online content. American Behavioral Scientist.

Molina, M. D., & Sundar, S. S. (2019). Technological affordances can promote misinformation: What journalists should watch out for when relying on online tools and social media. In J. E. Katz & K. K. Mays (Eds.), Journalism and truth in an age of social media (pp.182-197). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Contact Information


404 Wilson Rd, Room 330
Communication Arts and Sciences Building
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824