Jessica Myrick, a media psychology expert and an assistant professor in the IU Media School and a former professional distance runner, studies the role of emotions in shaping our reactions to media as well as how we process and respond to health information.

“The Olympics are one of the most emotional events we see in the media. Between the triumph and the tears, there is no shortage of feelings flowing through news coverage and into our living rooms," Myrick said. "It’s why so many people watch the Olympics even if they aren’t normally die-hard track and field or rowing fans -- we are all sucked in by the emotional narratives of the athletes, by the drama and suspense of each event, and by pride for our country.

“This Olympics in Rio is also interesting from a health communication perspective as both athletes and spectators will encounter a number of severe health risks, including the Zika virus and antibiotic-resistant bacteria," she added. "News media coverage of the Olympics will no doubt overlap with stories about these health concerns, and the way in which reporters talk about these issues can shape how willing the American public is to push legislators and policymakers to address them, too.

"The athletes themselves will likely also use social media to talk about the state of their health and these potential threats, providing another channel for informing American audiences thousands of miles away about health threats.”

Myrick, author of the 2015 book "The Role of Emotions in Preventative Health Communication (Rowman & Littlefield)," can be reached at 812-856-7380 or [email protected].