April 2019 Spotlight, Chia-chen Yang, Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Chia-chen Yang (cyang2@memphis.edu) as our member in spotlight. Dr. Yang is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research at University of Memphis and is transitioning to Oklahoma State University. Her research focuses on adolescents’ and emerging adults’ psychosocial development in the digital era. Specifically, she studies young people’s use of social media and its association with their social experiences as well as identity/self development.


1) What drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field?

I left Taiwan to pursue my graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2007. This was the first time I was that far away from my family and friends, and thus communication technologies took on a new meaning to me. Around this time, Facebook became more than a campus network and the first iPhone was released. The convergence of these events sparked my passion for investigating how these new means of communication would associate with youth’s relationships, well-being, and sense of self. Under the mentorship of Dr. B. Bradford Brown, I started exploring the role of communication technologies in youth’s development, and my research and teaching of this topic have been inspired by the works of leading scholars such as Drs. Amy Bellmore, Kaveri Subrahmanyam, Monique Ward, Stephanie Reich, Marion Underwood, and Sarah Coyne.

2) A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it. 

My most recent project focuses on two types of social comparison in relation to social media use: ability comparison and opinion comparison. Our findings suggest that whereas ability comparison is related to negative psychosocial outcomes, opinion comparison appears to be adaptive. Specifically, in our short-term longitudinal studies (see here and here), we found that college freshmen who performed more ability comparison on social media, judging whether they were doing better or worse than others, ruminated more, and thus reported higher identity distress a few months later. They also processed identity-related information in a passive, avoidant manner, and thus reported a less clear sense of self. In contrast, freshmen who reported a high level of opinion comparison on social media, spending time comparing the similarities and differences in their opinions and others’, were self-reflective (i.e., being self-attentive in a healthy manner) and were likely to proactively approach or resolve identity issues. Whereas many studies have identified social comparison as a process detrimental to users’ psycho-emotional well-being, our project shows that different types of online social comparison can have very different implications. For a more detailed review of our findings and research implications, please see this blog post.

3) Any recent talks or presentations?

I recently presented at SRCD 2019:

Yang, C.-c., Webb, J. J., Holden, S. M., & Carter, M. D. K. (March, 2019). Social media social comparison, introspection, and identity distress at the college transition: A dual-path model. In K. Burnell & M. Underwood (Chairs), Social media use and adolescent adjustment: Considering quality over quantity. Symposium to be presented at the biennial meeting of Society for Research in Child Development, Baltimore, MD.

4) A preferred weblink


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