Xiaoquan Zhao

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Interests: health message design and effects, evaluation of public communication campaigns, health information seeking, information disparities affecting vulnerable populations, news effects on health and risk perceptions, and the role of the self in health behavior and persuasive communication.


Web:  GMU page

Email: xzhao3@gmu.edu
Phone: 703.993.4008
Address: Robinson Hall A 325
4400 University
Fairfax VA, 22030


Xiaoquan Zhao received his Ph.D. (2005) from the Annenberg School for Communication, the University of Pennsylvania.

The substantive topics of his work include smoking, drug use, cancer, medical adherence, and climate change. Dr. Zhao’s recent projects include research on the effectiveness of graphic warning labels on cigarette packets, message testing for FDA’s youth tobacco prevention campaigns, evaluation of climate change communication campaigns featuring TV meteorologists as message sources, and studies of self-affirmation as a method to reduce resistance to health and risk communication messages. Dr. Zhao’s has published in leading journals both within and outside of the field of communication, such as the Journal of Communication, Human Communication Research, Communication Research, Communication Monographs, Health Communication, Journal of Health Communication, and Nature Climate Change. His work has received support from both public and private foundations. In 2013-2014, he worked as a Tobacco Regulatory Science Fellow at the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

Dr. Zhao joined GMU in fall 2005. The courses he offers include health communication, persuasion, foundations of mass communication, and research methods.


No laughing matter? Comparing humor and fear appeals in message pretesting for FDA’s The Real Cost campaign

Conclusions: Both humor and fear appeals in TRC appear to have potential to move youth risk perceptions in a favorable direction. Fear appeals may also increase negative smoking attitudes, whereas the effect of humor appeals in this domain is indistinct. Message-targeted emotions play an important role in youth receptivity to these messages and post-exposure risk perceptions and attitudes. In the interest of diversifying message strategy, employment of both types of appeals in the campaign appears justifiable.

Selected Publications

Zhao, X., Mao, Q., Kreps, G, Yu, G., Li, Y., Chou, W-Y., Persoskie, A., Nie, X, Xu, Z., Song, M., & Kim, P. (2015). Cancer information seekers in China: A preliminary profile. Journal of Health Communication, 20(5), 616–626. http://doi.org/10.1080/10810730.2015.1012244

Zhao, X., Rolfe-Redding, J., & Kotcher, J. (2014, online first). Partisan differences in the relationship between newspaper coverage and concern over global warming. Public Understanding of Science. Doi: 10.1177/0963662514558992

Zhao, X., Peterson, E., Kim, W., & Rolfe-Redding, J. (2014). Effects of self-affirmation on daily vs. occasional smokers’ responses to graphic warning labels. Communication Research, 41(8), 1137-1158. doi: 10.1177/0093650212465433

Zhao, X., Nan, X., Yang, B., & Iles, I. A. (2014). Cigarette warning labels: Graphics, framing, and identity. Health Education, 114(2), 101–117. doi:10.1108/HE-06-2013-0024

Zhao, X. (2012). Personal values and environmental concern in China and the US: The mediating role of informational media use. Communication Monographs, 79, 137-159. doi:10.1080/03637751.2012.672999

Courses Taught

COMM 230- Case Studies in Persuasion

COMM 400- Introduction to Communication Research

COMM 302- Foundations of Mass Communication

COMM 430- Persuasion

COMM 600- Research Methods

COMM 620- Health Communication

COMM 632- Persuasion

COMM 750- Advanced Research Methods

Dissertations Supervised

Wan-Lin Chang , Taiwanese Mother-Daughter Breast Cancer Communication and Its Influence on Daughters’ Prevention Behaviors (2015)

Emily Peterson , Toward the Development of a Physician Training Curriculum to Improve Discussions about Electronic Cigarettes with Adolescent Athlete Patients (2016)


Multi-Channel Health Communication Applications Research

Thursday April 27, 2017
Fair Lakes Hyatt, Fairfax, VA
Organized by GMU Department of Communication


Xiaoquan Zhao, George Mason University
Kevin Wright, George Mason University
Kathy Rowan, George Mason University


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