Rachel Smith, Ph.D. | The Methodology Center

Rachel Smith, Ph.D.

Rachel Smith, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Communication Arts & Sciences

Investigator, The Methodology Center

Co-Hire, Huck Institute


The Methodology Center

The Pennsylvania State University

400 Calder Square II

State College, PA 16801



Personal website

Communication Arts & Sciences website

Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics website





Ph.D., Michigan State University, 2003 (Communication)

M.S., University of Arizona, 1999 (Communication)

B.S., Boston University (Broadcast TV/ Film); B.A., Boston University (Psychology)


Research Interests & Collaborations

My research focuses on developing and testing theories of social influences (e.g., stigma, social networks, and social cognition) in health communication (e.g., compliance, message sharing and network circulation, disclosure, and behavioral adoption) in domestic and international contexts. Specific interests include developing theories of how communication choices trigger stigma-related processes, how stigmas shape communication, and how people use communication to manage stigmas and stigmatization. My research has addressed a variety of health and wellness topics, with particular attention to infectious disease, genomics, and antibiotic resistance.


I collaborate with Donna Coffman on causal inference in interdependent situations (e.g., how a husband’s communication shapes his wife's communication). We are currently funded to investigate how married adults manage genomic test results. I collaborate with Linda Collins and Donna on issues of analyzing factorial experiments to better test social science theories and to more rigorously evaluate campaign effects. Finally, I work with Bethany Bray and Megan Piper to investigate whether different smokers maintain different kinds of support networks, and whether particular support networks are more likely to be associated with attempts to quit smoking. The dynamic version of this question is to assess whether the participants’ social networks change over time and as a function of their attempts to quit, using latent transition analysis. Identifying different profiles (or audience segments) of support networks would allow for targeting at-risk groups in future interventions.


Recent Grants

Dyadic influence in genomic medicine: Couples beliefs, disclosures, & wellbeing.

National Human Genome Research Institute, R21 HG007111
2014-2016; Role: Principal Investigator


Predicting vulnerability and improving resilience of the Maasai communities to vector borne infections: an Ecohealth approach in the Maasai Steppe ecosystem 

World Health Organization

2013-2016; Role: Co-investigator


Increasing bean productivity and Household food security in stressful environments in Mozambique.

McKnight Foundation

2010-2014; Role: Investigator





Recent Publications

Smith, R.A., Quesnell, M., Glick, L., Hackman, N., & M'ikanatha, N.M. (in press). Preparing for antibiotic resistance campaigns: A person-centered approach to audience segmentation. Journal of Health Communication.
Smith, R.A., Parrott, R.L., & Wienke, S.E. (in press). Keeping secrets or educating others: A dyadic analysis of group entitativity’s influence on spouses’ label management connected to AATD. Health Communication.

Smith, R. A., M’ikanatha, N. M., & Read, A. F. (2014). Antibiotic resistance: A primer and call to action. Health Communication. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2014.943634

Smith, R. A. (2014). Testing the model of stigma communication with a factorial experiment in an interpersonal context. Communication Studies, 65(2), 154-173.

Smith, R. A. (2014). Social network analysis. In B. B. Whaley (Ed.), Research methods in health communication: Principles and application. New York, NY: Routledge.

Smith, R. A., Greenberg, M., & Parrott, R. (2014). Segmenting by risk perceptions: Predicting young adults' genetic-belief profiles with health and opinion-leader covariates. Health Communication, 29(5), 483-93.

Smith, R. A., Hernandez, R., & Catona, D. (2014). Investigating initial disclosures and reactions to unexpected, positive HPV diagnosis. Western Journal of Communication, 78(4), 426-440.

Smith, R. A., & Hughes, D. (2014). Infectious disease stigmas: Maladaptive in modern society. Communication Studies, 65(2), 132-138.

Smith, R. A., Wienke, S.E., & Baker, M. (2014). Classifying married adults diagnosed with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency based on spousal communication patterns using latent class analysis: Insights for intervention. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 23(3), 299-310.

Smith, R. A., Wienke, S.E., & Coffman, D. (2014). Alpha-1 couples: Interpersonal and intrapersonal predictors of spousal communication and stress. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 23(2), 212-220. 

Smith, R. A., Wienke, S. E., & Baker, M. (2014). Segmenting married adults diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Based on their Communication Patterns using Latent Class Analysis: Insights for Intervention. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 23, 299-310. doi: 10.1007/s10897-013-9661-8

Fink, E., High, A., & Smith, R. (2014). Compliance dynamics within a friendship network II: Structural positions used to garner social support. Human Communication Research. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/hcre.12038 

Parrott, R. L. & Smith, R. A. (2014). Defining genes using “blueprint” versus “instruction” metaphors: Effects for genetic determinism, response efficacy, and perceived control. Health Communication, 29, 137-146. DOI:10.1080/10410236.2012.729181 PMID: 23448621

Parrott, R. L., Smith, R. A., Hong, S. J., & Worthington, A. (2014). Congruence-incongruence patterns in Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency couples’ genetic determinist beliefs and perceived control over genes: Implications for clinical and public health genomic communication. Journal of Genetic Counseling. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10897-014-9786-4

Rossetto, K., Lannutti, P., & Smith, R. (2014). Investigating self-efficacy and emotional challenge as contributors to willingness to provide emotional support. Southern Journal of Communication, 79, 41-58. doi:10.1080/1041794X.2013.854404

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