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title. Life in the Lab: Past, Present & Future

date. 12.12.2018

author. Rachelle Prince (


The seasons are changing and so is our research! As the year come to an end, we thought it would be good to reflect on the past---beginning with a brief overview of how the SMART Labs got its start, where it's at currently, and where we are headed next.  Queue the nostalgia in 3... 2...1...

Our lab was cobbled together in 2012, when Dr. Tong arrived to Wayne State. At that time, no labs or research teams existed in the department, but she formed a small group of four graduate students who worked together on a set of research studies. Since 2012, we've grown considerably, welcomed many new members (several of whom have graduated with various degrees in Communication (BA, MA, and PhD) and Psychology (BS) and published a lot of research! 

Below, we outline our team's past, present, and future and share some of our work in downloadable PDFs. As always, if you want more details, feel free to contact us.


When I officially started working in 2016 the SMART Labs was primarily focused on investigating how technology affects the way people make decisions about their relationships. The team was busy collecting data for research studies that examined people's decision making, daters' perceptions of others, and self-presentation behavior across various online dating platforms. Foundational studies in this topic area were completed and solidified our ideas:

Tong, S. T., Hancock, J. T., & Slatcher, R. B. (2016). Online dating system design and relational decision-making: Choice, algorithms, and control. Personal Relationships, 23, 645–662. doi: 0.1111/pere.12158


The last few years have been busy! We've looked at a variety of different issues across online romantic relationships--how are these Internet technologies and mobile apps changing the way we encounter relationships, search for romance and sex, maintain our partnerships, and experience rejection and refusal? How do gender, culture, and religion influence these processes? We've spent years examining these kinds of questions, and in 2018, we decided to pen some book chapters to share what we've learned: 

Rochadiat, A. M. P. & Tong, S. T., & Corriero, E.F. (2018). Romance in the mobile age. In R. Ling, G. Goggin, L. Fortunati, S.-S. Lim, & Y. Li (Eds.), Oxford handbook of mobile communication, culture, and information. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.


Markowitz, D. M., Hancock, J. T., & Tong, S. T. (2018). Interpersonal dynamics in online dating: Profiles, matching, and discovery. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A Networked Self: Love. New York: Routledge.


Rochadiat, A. M. P., Tong, S. T., & Novak, J. M. (2018). Online dating and courtship among Muslim American women: Negotiating technology, religious identity, and culture. New Media & Society, 20 (4), 1618-1639. doi: 10.1177/1461444817702396


Once the research team developed a healthy obsession with the study of computer algorithms, AI, and the role of human emotion (or "affect"), a new set of ideas emerged: What if we looked at the role of AI and affect in the context of health decision making?


This focus on algorithms, AI, and affect has pushed us to question how people perceive and evaluate technology. This shift arguably led to more nuanced analysis, robust findings, and new projects. Moving forward, the SMART Labs will begin to focus more on algorithms and AI in the context of personal health and medical decision making---more specifically, in the context of diagnosis for those at risk of skin cancer:

Tong, S. T., Sopory, P., & Prince, R. (2018, September). Effect of patient behavior and affect on mobile health technology use. Poster presented at the 2018 Health Information & Technology Survey (HINTS) Data Users Meeting: “15 Years of HINTS: Lessons learned & future directions”. National Institutes of Health. Bethesda, MD. 


Tong, S. T., & Sopory, P. (forthcoming). Uncovering user affect towards AI in cancer diagnosis. Paper to be published in the Proceedings of 2019 HCI International.

Tong, S. T., & Sopory, P. (forthcoming). Does integral affect influence decisions to use artificial intelligence for cancer screening? A test of the Affect Heuristic. Paper to be published in Psychology & Health.

This is new area of research for SMART Labs that examines the expanding role of AI technology in our everyday lives. Exciting things lie ahead for our research team pursuing that ever-changing #LabLife. We can't wait to share them with you!

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