Dr. Austin Beattie

Assistant Professor of Communication
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Dr. Austin Beattie’s interests lie at the intersections of social support, computer-mediated communication and human-machine communication. His interest in this area was sparked by his experiences working in the fundraising and telecommunications industries during his undergraduate education, and formalized during his master’s program when he became a member of the Western Michigan University Communication and Social Robotics Lab (where he now mentors other undergraduate and graduate researchers). 

His work examines how people interact through (and with) technology. His most recent line of research is centered on how the characteristics of a message, its type and source, influence the ways in which social support is engaged, facilitated and evaluated via supportive human-machine communication — in other words, through humans’ use of machine agents such as chatbots to buffer stress. 

Dr. Beattie’s courses include Media and Society, Social Media Theory, and Quantitative Research Methods in Communication. He joined the Department of Communication in 2023.

Areas of Expertise

  • Computer-mediated and human-machine communication
  • Interpersonal and supportive communication
  • Quantitative research methods


  • Ph.D., communication studies, University of Iowa, 2023
  • M.A., communication, Western Michigan University, 2017
  • B.S., communication studies and economics, Northern Michigan University, 2014

Honors and Awards

  • Featured researcher, University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research, 2022
  • 2021 Top Ten “GIFT” (Great Idea for Teaching Speech) honors, National Communication Association, 2021
  • 2016 Top Paper award, Interpersonal Division, Central States Communication Association, 2016

Selected Publications and Presentations

  • Physical Activity and Technology, with E. M. Glowacki, E. Slattery and K. Magsamen-Conrad, 2nd edition of the International Encyclopedia of Health Communication, Wiley, 2023
  • “The ‘Horror’ of Metatheory: How Scary Movies Help Explain Research Paradigms,” presentation at National Communication Association annual conference, 2023
  • “I Get By with a Little Help from My Bots: Implications of Machine Agents in the Context of Social Support,” Human Machine Communication, 2022
  • “A Bot and a Smile: Interpersonal Impressions of Chatbots and Humans Using Emoji in Computer-mediated Communication,” Communication Studies, 2020
  • “Alexa, Why Are You So Stupid? Exploring Empathy Towards Insulted Virtual Personal Assistants Versus Humans,” presentation with R. Richards at International Communication Association annual conference, 2019

Outside the College

When Dr. Beattie is not working, he enjoys cooking, movies and playing music. 

Profile photo of Dr. Austin Beattie
Dr. Austin Beattie

Phone Number616.395.7595

Martha Miller Center Room 107 257 Columbia Avenue Holland, MI 49423
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