Because I'm lazy this morning...I'm just going to copy from the nomination letter I wrote on his behalf. If you want "the long story" you should contact Sam himself:
The dissertation itself consists of two experiments and a neural network model. The two experiments utilize a motivational activation theory to explore the role of the orienting response in the cognitive processing of television. Orienting has long been conceptualized as a physiological mechanism offering a protection against interference for information encoding of novel or signal stimuli in the environment. Past work conducted in the Institute for Communication Research has established that structural features of a television message (i.e., cuts from one screen shot to another) provide sufficient novelty to elicit orienting. Sam’s overarching goal was to test the “zone of protection” conceptualization of the orienting response by selecting camera cuts occurring during real-time television processing in which the emotional context was positive, negative, or neutral. At varying time points following these cuts (133, 267, and 800 ms) subjects were given an auditory startle probe in order to determine whether orienting to the cut would provided protected processing of the information following it, or whether the startle probe would interrupt processing. Both startle magnitude and recognition memory data showed that, contrary to predictions derived from past work using simple stimuli, orienting to structural features in television messages only provided protected encoding of information when the emotional context was neutral, not when it was particularly positive or negative. In the discussion , Sam elegantly explains why these findings are understandable given the dynamic nature of the medium compared to the static emotional slide presentation in which pre-pulse inhibition has been found.
Sam has successfully set up a new lab at Ohio State and is navigating the sometimes difficult waters of being a new Assistant Professor. Not only that, but he updates his blog much more regularly than I do. It was nice to see him, plus it was just my luck to run into his wife Emily and their three kids in the lobby of the Indiana Memorial Union yesterday afternoon. It's always nice to see "the kids" return home.