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Saraswathi  Bellur, Ph.D. - University of Connecticut. Storrs, CT, US

Saraswathi Bellur, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Communication | University of Connecticut


Saras Bellur is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut.


Saras Bellur is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut. Situated in the broad area of media effects paradigm, her research involves understanding the psychological and physiological effects of interactive media on key communication processes and outcomes. Her work adopts an interdisciplinary approach by combining theories from various disciplines such as media effects, human-computer interaction (HCI), computer-mediated communication (CMC), social cognition and health communication.

Areas of Expertise (4)

Interactive Health Technologies

Media Interfaces

Human-Computer Interaction

Mediated Content

Education (3)

Pennsylvania State University: Ph.D., Mass Communications

University of Mysore: M. A., Journalism & Mass Communication

Bangalore University: B. A., Journalism, English Literature & Psychology

Languages (3)

  • Hindi
  • Tamil
  • English






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Media Appearances (6)

Tweeting while watching TV makes show less enjoyable, study finds

NBC "Today"  


“This kind of behavior is encouraged by the television and movie industry because they’re thinking about it in terms of user engagement. But user engagement may not necessarily translate into enjoyment,” co-author Saraswathi Bellur, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Connecticut, told TODAY. “Just because you’re engaged doesn’t actually mean you may actually enjoy the show.”

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It’s harder to enjoy a TV show while tweeting about it, study says

Tribune Publishing  print


The UConn Department of Communication found in its study that tweeting reduces viewers' ability to immerse themselves into the TV narrative. "Social media metrics are an important and widely used measure of user engagement, (but) engagement may not necessarily mean enjoyment," Saraswathi Bellur, a UConn assistant professor of communication who co-authored the study, said in an email.

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Want to enjoy TV? Then don't live-tweet the shows, study warns

Washington Times  online


The most significant impact of the two-screen experience was on viewers’ ability to “transport” into the narrative and become immersed in the televised story. “Despite its popularity, live-tweeting has potential pitfalls on audience experience,” said Saraswathi Bellur, assistant professor in communication, who led the research.

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When smartphones go to school

Science News  

“A lot of students tend to think that they are good at multitasking,” or doing more than one thing at a time, says Saraswathi Bellur. She’s a communications researcher at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in Storrs. In fact, she and her colleagues found, multitasking in class “is likely to harm their academic performance.”

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Interactive health apps may inspire healthy behaviors, but watch the tone

Penn State News  online

Although the back-and-forth feel of a conversation could lead to improved health intentions, a more conversational tone in the messages may make users feel less susceptible to health risks such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, according to Sundar, who worked with Saraswathi Bellur, assistant professor of communication, University of Connecticut. The study found that when the online tool used short phrases, such as "Mm-hmm" and "Go on" to promote an informal conversational tone, users felt less susceptible to health risks, according to Bellur.

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Interactive history beats interactive chat for website engagement


Study participants also did not find a human chat agent to be any better than a chatbot, as long as interaction history was available, according to Sundar, who worked with Saraswathi Bellur, an assistant professor of communication, University of Connecticut

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Articles (8)

News Informatics: Engaging Individuals with Data-Rich News Content through Interactivity in Source, Medium, and Message

CHI '22: Proceedings of the 2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems

S. Shyam Sundar, Haiyan Jia, Saraswathi Bellur, Jeeyun Oh, and Hyang-Sook Kim


This paper introduces the concept of “news informatics” to refer to journalistic presentation of big data in online sites. For users to be engaged with such data-driven public information, it is important to incorporate interactive tools so that each person can extract personally relevant information. Drawing upon a communication model of interactivity, we designed a data-rich site with three different types of interactive features—namely, modality interactivity, message interactivity, and source interactivity—and empirically tested their relative and combined effects on user engagement and user experience with a 2 (modality) × 3 (source) × 2 (message) field experiment (N =166). Findings shed light on how interface designers, online news editors and journalists can maximize user engagement with data-rich news content. Certain interactivity combinations are found to be better than others, with a structural equation model (SEM) revealing the underlying theoretical mechanisms and providing implications for the design of news informatics.

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Do You Enjoy TV, while Tweeting? Effects of Multitasking on Viewers’ Transportation, Emotions and Enjoyment

Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Suji Park, Xiaowen Xu, Brenda Rourke & Saraswathi Bellur


The present study seeks to extend the extant body of work on media multitasking by examining the impact of second screen use (tweeting while watching television) on transportation into a narrative and enjoyment of a TV sitcom, mediated through affective experiences. In a between-subjects experiment, participants watched a TV show with or without tweeting about it. The findings support the assumption that media multitasking decreases people’s experience of transportation, which then impairs their emotional responses; reduced emotions further decrease enjoyment of the show. However, trait empathy does not moderate the impact of concurrent TV-viewing and tweeting.

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Apps and Autonomy: Perceived Interactivity and Autonomous Regulation in mHealth Applications

Communication Research Reports

Saraswathi Bellur & Christina DeVoss


Thousands of smartphone apps geared toward monitoring health behaviors are released regularly. Even as developers flood the market with mHealth apps, consumers seem overwhelmed with choices and report lack of sustained use, which raises questions about their efficacy. An online survey (N = 513) found that perceived interactivity not only has a direct effect but also exerts an indirect effect via greater autonomous regulation on users’ attitudes and behavioral intentions toward mHealth apps. Frequency of tracking and updating personal data showed significant effects on behavioral intentions. Theoretical and practical suggestions for the design and evaluation of mHealth apps are discussed.

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Theoretical importance of contingency in human-computer interaction: effects of message interactivity on user engagement

Communications Research

S Shyam Sundar, Saraswathi Bellur, Jeeyun Oh, Haiyan Jia, Hyang-Sook Kim

2016 A critical determinant of message interactivity is the presence of contingency, that is, the messages we receive are contingent upon the messages we send, leading to a threaded loop of interdependent messages. While this “conversational ideal” is easily achieved in face-to-face and computer-mediated communications (CMC), imbuing contingency in human-computer interaction (HCI) is a challenge.

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Clicking, Assessing, Immersing, and Sharing: An Empirical Model of User Engagement with Interactive Media

Communications Research

Jeeyun Oh, Saraswathi Bellur, S. Shyam Sundar

2015 This article explicates the concept of user engagement by synthesizing a disparate body of scholarship, and suggests a measurement and a structural model for empirically capturing the meaning and process of user engagement, specifically in the context of interactive media. A second-order confirmatory factor analysis of data from two experiments (N = 263) shows that four attributes—physical interaction, interface assessment, absorption, and digital outreach—together constitute a valid and reliable operationalization of the concept of user engagement. A structural equation model reveals that greater amount of physical interaction with the interface and a more positive assessment of the interface predict cognitive absorption with the content, which in turn is associated with greater behavioral intention to manage and socially distribute the content. In addition, predictive validity tests show that the four subscales are predictors of attitudinal and learning outcomes.

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User experience of on-screen interaction techniques: An experimental investigation of clicking, sliding, zooming, hovering, dragging, and flipping

Human Computer Interaction

S Shyam Sundar, Saraswathi Bellur, Jeeyun Oh, Qian Xu, Haiyan Jia

2014 From scrolling and clicking to dragging, flipping, sliding, hovering, and zooming, the wide array of interaction techniques has vastly expanded the range of user actions on an interface. Each of these interaction techniques affords a distinct action. But do these techniques differ in their ability to engage users and contribute to their user experience? Furthermore, do they affect how users view the content and how much they learn from it? We address these questions via two between-subjects laboratory experiments.

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How can we tell when a heuristic has been used? Design and analysis strategies for capturing the operation of heuristics

Communication Methods and Measures,

Saraswathi Bellur, S. Shyam Sundar

2014 Communication research based on social cognition draws heavily from dual process models such as the heuristic-systematic model. Both heuristic and systematic processing are said to be aided by quick rules of thumb or mental shortcuts called heuristics. However, the operationalization of heuristics is quite problematic because their use in decision-making is not directly measured. Scholars claim the operation of specific heuristics in specific situations, based often on clever experimental evidence. We propose a methodological framework that calls for both manipulation and measurement of heuristics in order to offer more direct evidence of their operation. We first review different existing approaches in the literature for operationalizing heuristics. We then discuss our approach and describe the application of moderated mediation to analyze the resulting data. We conclude with a study idea and simulated data that illustrate how our proposed design and analysis framework could be applied in communication research.

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Designing interactivity in media interfaces: A communications perspective

Perspectives on Design

S Shyam Sundar, Qian Xu, Saraswathi Bellur

2010 Interactivity has become ubiquitous in the digital media landscape. Numerous interactive tools are designed, tested, deployed and evaluated. Yet, we do not have generalizable knowledge about the larger concept of interactivity and its psychological impact on user experience. As a first step toward a theory of interface interactivity, this paper identifies three species of interactivity corresponding to three central elements of communication-source, medium, and message.

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