Shiela Reaves is a professor in the Department of Life Sciences Communication and an affiliate faculty member of American Indian Studies. She specializes in visual communication and is interested in how neuroscience supports interdisciplinary theories of visual imagery used in science communication and technology studies. Currently she is interested in how the visual brain is attracted to science media messages. For LSC she teaches classes in photography and visual analysis for the life sciences. She also teaches LSC 100: Science and Storytelling and oversees the teaching assistants for the class.
Her interests are enriched as a member of two steering committees that represent vision science, the University of Wisconsin–Madison McPherson Eye Research Institute and the UW Center for Visual Cultures. She was also elected to the steering committee for the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies in spring 2015. She serves on the editorial boards of Visual Communication Quarterly and the Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Reaves also serves on the nonprofit educational wing for News From Indian Country.
In her latest publication she argued that our highly social brains tend to believe media depictions of women, the ultra-thin “mono-body” found in society. She suggests that social comparison theory between self and others is actually an ancient process that proves maladaptive with modern Western media and the Internet. This supports scholars studying evolution who believe identifying maladaptations is just as important as exploring evolutionary adaptations.
Her research on the ethics of visual manipulation in the media and attitudes among media editors was published in the Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, the Newspaper Research Journal, and the Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Her outreach work with Native American journalists and interests in how to support the pipeline of Native journalists into the media was published in Mass Comm Review and the Newspaper Research Journal.