Tina Peterson earns her PhD

Congratulations to Tina Peterson, who successfully defended her dissertation,

Seeing, Believing, and Cooking: Visual Communication, Food-Media Literacy, and Self-Efficacy.


In this dissertation, Peterson explores the paradox of the growing popularity of food media and simultaneous decline in home cooking. The reasons why people are cooking less aren't fully understood, but negative consequences of this trend for nutrition and health are documented. Cooking skills give people more control over their food choices, and food knowledge enables them to evaluate information presented to them by food retailers, manufacturers and marketers. Food media ostensibly provide information regarding cooking and food, but since most such media are commercially supported the information is not necessarily in the public's best interest. Food-media literacy is conceptualized in this study as the ability to understand and critically evaluate the messages in food-media. 

Food-media literacy was found to have three primary facets. The first is Intents and Omissions, or the understanding that food media have authors with specific communicative goals, that techniques are used to further those goals, that many are commercially motivated, and that some things are intentionally left out of the messages. The second facet is Meanings, which addresses the multiple meanings that different people can make of the same message, the fact that messages can influence people, and that messages are carefully planned. The third facet is Realism and Representation, which is awareness of the fact that media depictions of food and cooking are styled, highly edited, and are not necessarily realistic.

The primary goal of this study was to begin to define food-media literacy empirically and "on the ground" in adult women's everyday interactions with food media. In achieving this the study was successful, as both the quantitative and qualitative components furthered understanding of women's interpretation of food media and the personal experience, background knowledge, beliefs and critical awareness they apply to them. A secondary goal was to study the influence of an image on a woman's interpretation of a food media text, and to measure the influence of intervening variables on her interpretation.

Congratulations to Dr. Tina Peterson, PhD, from her Examining Committee members:

Renee Hobbs, Advisory Chair, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Mass Media

Michael Maynard, Advertising

Andrew Mendelson, Journalism

Krishnendu Ray, External Member, Steinhardt School, New York University