Ross Buck, PhD

Professor, Communication & Psychology (Affiliate)

Research Overview

My research interest is the interaction of emotion and reason in decision-making in situations involving risk, and, more specifically, in nonverbal/emotional factors in safe-sex communication and persuasion. Learning about one’s own subjectively experienced feelings and desires can be problematic due to inaccurate and erroneous emotional communication. Because of this, the understanding of important aspects of many feelings and desires–their causes, their labels, what to do when they occur–may be imperfect or erroneous to a growing child or even a mature adult, producing a kind of situated alexithymia: no words for mood. This lack of understanding can pose hazards when the individual encounters risky situations she or he is unprepared for emotionally, from temptations about sex and drugs, to learning to drive safely, to dealing with a serious illness. I propose that this lack of understanding can be countered by Targeted Emotional Education Modules (TEEMs), which are brief interventions targeted at educating the individual about the particular emotions typically encountered in a specific risky situation. Such learning may, in effect, inoculate the individual against falling prey to unexpected and unanticipated feelings and desires, and encourage more rational, optimal, and safer choices.

Two kinds of emotion particularly important in safe-sex communication tend to be overlooked in the risk literature: (1) reptilian emotions (“raw” sex and power) and (2) positive and negative prosocial emotions (attachment, love, caring, play, bonding, loss/bereavement). The affect-reason-involvement (ARI) model is a general model of how emotion and reason interact in producing involvement, and this model is widely relevant to persuasion and marketing applications. For example, the ARI model has been applied to the analysis of safe-sex communication, using the SAFECOMM scale (Safe-Sex Communication Scale), which involves emotions specifically relevant to safe-sex communication.


Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 1970 (social psychology)
M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1965 (social psychology)
B.A., Allegheny College, 1963 (psychology)

Recent Publications

Contact Information
Mailing AddressDepartment of Communication
850 Bolton Road, Unit 1085
(Phillips Communication Sciences Building, PCSB)
Storrs, CT 06269-1085