Media psychology

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Media psychology seeks to understand how media as a factor in the growing use of technology impacts how people perceive, interpret, respond, and interact in a media rich world. Media psychologists typically focus on identifying potential benefits and negative consequences of all forms of technology and work to promote and develop positive media use and applications.[1][2][3] The term 'media psychology' is often confusing because many people associate 'media' with mass media rather than technology. Many even have the idea that media psychology is more about appearing in the media than anything else. The 'media' in Media Psychology means 'mediated experience' not any single kind of media or technology. It applies to the development and use of everything from traditional media, such as print and radio, to the expanding landscape of new technologies such as virtual worlds, augmented reality and mobile applications and interfaces.[4]

Media Psychology applies the science of psychology from multiple disciplines within the field, such as cognitive, marketing, advertising, social, positive and narrative psychology as well as neuroscience and clinical practice, to research, analyze and develop mediated experiences using technology with the goal of benefiting society. There are media psychologists working in virtually every field from marketing, entertainment and healthcare to education. Among the applications of media psychology are social media and community development, development of online educational curriculum and learning environment, entertainment consulting, translation of psychological information for media distribution, ethical and practical applications of emerging technologies like virtual and augmented reality, the development and use of technology for clinical and self-help applications, product and brand development, the use of persuasion for messaging and product placement and game theory and game design for both serious and recreational games.[5]

Academic discipline[edit]

Media psychology is a specialized area of psychology that emerged as an academic and professional discipline in response to the expansion of media and technology and the demand for research needed to explain the potential impact on human welfare. Psychology is fundamental to understanding the influence of individuals and groups on the integration of technology in our society.[5] In general, this field attempts to encompass the full range of human experience of media-—including developmental, cognition, and behavioral—using extensive research that contains numerous empirical and qualitative studies.[6] It recognizes the that people are not just passive consumers of media, but active producers and distributors as well.[citation needed] Media include all forms of mediated communication, such as pictures, sound, graphics, content and emerging technologies.

Media psychology derives from multiples disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, neuroscience, political science, computer science, communications, and international relations. As a result, it provides a large realm of opportunities for conducting valuable research.[6]

Media psychology promotes research about the effects of media to enrich the teaching, training, and practice of media psychology. As well, new findings in researched can be incorporated into the development of new media across a wide array of applications, ranging from business and entertainment to education and healthcare. Media psychology also contributes to expanding the general public’s understanding of psychology and how to effectively disseminate key research to the public through media channels. Media psychology is not a clinical degree; however media psychology is relevant to clinicians who employ technology to expand the availability of therapeutic resources.

An executive summary of the task force study on psychology and new technologies conducted by Bernard Luskin and Lilli Friedland is available on the Society for Media Psychology and Technology, APA Division 46 website. Research revealed twelve major areas in which media psychology is fundamental:[7][8] Psychology is best learned one theory at a time. Applied psychology combines the understanding of theory as applied to individual situations. Media psychology is considered a scholar/practitioner field.

Major areas in media psychology are:

1. Writing about media or performing as expert guests on various media

2. Consulting with media personnel

3. Researching ways to improve all forms of media

4. Making new technologies related to media more effective and user friendly

5. Using new technology in media to enhance the practice of clinical psychology

6. Most areas of education or training including delivery by traditional, blended and online methods

7. Developing media standards

8. Working in commercial fields

9. Studying the sociological, behavioral and psychological effects of media

10. Developing media materials for physically and developmentally challenged populations

11. Developing media materials for all underserved populations

12. Working with deviant or criminal populations

Theoretical perspectives[edit]

A vast number of approaches and perspectives can be implemented to design experiments and conduct research in media psychology. For instance, with the social perspective, research focuses on the types of media that involve topics of violence, race, gender, and body image.[9] As well, it can also extend research to areas of advertising, politics, various other social issues.[9] The first graduate MA, PhD and EdD programs in Media Psychology and Media Studies were launched by Dr. Bernard Luskin at Fielding Graduate University in 2002. The first undergraduate course in Media Psychology was designed and taught by Dr. Jerri Lynn Hogg at University of Hartford in 2006.

The developmental perspective is another approach to analyzing media psychology, which most specifically uses research to examine effects of media and technology on human development.[10] For instance, numerous research has investigated the effect of media violence on children.[10] Such research remains controversial.[11]

Research using the sociocultural perspective helps to investigate the influence of media and the response to sociocultural expectations.[12] In particular, this perspective places an emphasis on children, minorities and acculturation issues, and disfigured populations.[12]

Media psychologists can also use the cognitive perspective to investigate how various stimuli from media and technology can impact perception, memory, and cognitive process. Research based on this perspective includes experiments such as investigating camera angles influence the judgments of videotaped police interrogations.[13]

Recently evolutionary psychology perspectives have been applied to areas such as news values and media naturalness.[14][15]

Common methodology[edit]

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is useful to identifying media effects by lights up various brain structures that respond to media stimuli. The method reveals brain structures that are influenced by various aspects of certain media and technology.[16]

Furthermore, the eye-tracking procedure is a type of methodological approach that tracks and records eye-movement patterns using specialized an instrument.[17] Using this procedure where the eye frequently move and how long the eye prolongs gaze towards a stimuli of media or technology.[17]

Numerous studies have investigated the effects of media by measuring reactions of behavior and self-reported responses using standardized scales and assessments. For example, psychologist Louis Leon Thurstone developed scales for the measurement of attitudes in response to movies about the highly debated research of Payne Fund Studies.[18]

Other popular scales have been use to evaluate attitudes and opinion of varying issues. Some of the scales include, Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale,[19] Contingencies of Self-Worth Scale,[20] Objectified Body Consciousness Scale,[21]

Key findings[edit]

Body image[edit]

A meta-analysis of 204 studies revealed findings that "thin-ideal" media effects are generally minimal and limited to those with preexisting body dissatisfaction.[16] The evidence further did not support substantive links between media use and eating disorder symptoms.[16]


A correlational study investigated the effects of promoting in mainstream media that the self-worth of women connected to maintaining youthful represents the ideal beauty and that aging is undesirable.[22] Researchers conducted an experiment using 311 undergraduate female students to examine the variable of internalized ideas of ideal beauty as youthful and thin in relation to anti-aging attitudes.[22] Participants self-report the measures of internalized attitudes of ideal beauty portrayed by the media and their attitudes towards elder adults. The study found that higher levels were internalization for ideal beauty was significantly related to more negative attitudes towards elderly.[22] This suggests that media portrayals of ideal beauty may influence the perpetuation of negative attitudes toward the elderly.[22]

Media literacy[edit]

A quasi- experimental study evaluated how implementing a media literacy in the curriculum of adolescence would influence their attitudes of sexual portrayals in the media and decision made about sex.[23] The study involved 992 adolescent participants who were either enrolled in the media literary training or had not received any media literacy training. The analysis shows that participants who were in the media literacy training were more likely to recognize the media effects on teenagers and report that the sexual portrayals in the media were not accurate depictions of teen sexual behavior. Furthermore, despite the sexual portrayals, the participants with media literacy were more likely than the control group to accept the view that teenagers often practice abstinence.[23]

Research trends[edit]

Early work in media psychology concentrated on the impact of the media on the user, which is known as 'media effects.' In specific, media psychologist have had a particular concern for the impact on children of mass media programming and advertising The book, Media Effects, provides an early overview from this perspective.[24]

Furthermore, another trend of research explores media content that possess that dominant views, regarding opinions of sex and gender, certain professions and social classes, race, ethnicity and culture; and how it may be perpetuated through mass media as a form of ‘normality’.[25]

The proliferation of new technologies created a broader topic of interest that investigates how the rapid expansion and increase of technology moderate on social connectivity, interpersonal, social behaviors, and individual and collective agency.[26] For instance, there have been studies investigating the effects of text messaging in correlation to interpersonal interaction.[27]

Media studies is the field of research and media psychology is the behavioral discipline where applied psychology is evolving this new field. The first Ed.D. program in Media Studies and M.A., Ph.D programs in Media Psychology were launched in 2002 by Dr. Bernard Luskin. These programs ignited a series of college and university programs that have started during the past decade. Media Psychology is a significant and growing area of specialization.

Code of ethics[edit]

Because media psychology branches from the larger field of psychology, which is highly structured in the APA Code of Ethics, it must also follow ethical codes and try to prevent issues that may occur in the field. As well, the vast number of roles that it plays in society requires that there exist rules of regulation that enforce ethical conduct. Thus far, there are several regulations in the APA Code of Ethics that help guide media psychologists to make ethical decisions. For example, section 5 and 5.04 both addresses issues of media presentation:

.5.01 Avoidance of False or Deceptive Statements (a) Public statements include but are not limited to paid or unpaid advertising, product endorsements, grant applications, licensing applications, other credentialing applications, brochures, printed matter, directory listings, personal resumes or curricula vitae or comments for use in media such as print or electronic transmission, statements in legal proceedings, lectures and public oral presentations and published materials. Psychologists do not knowingly make public statements that are false, deceptive or fraudulent concerning their research, practice or other work activities or those of persons or organizations with which they are affiliated.

.04 Media Presentations When psychologists provide public advice or comment via print, Internet or other electronic transmission, they take precautions to ensure that statements (1) are based on their professional knowledge, training or experience in accord with appropriate psychological literature and practice; (2) are otherwise consistent with this Ethics Code; and (3) do not indicate that a professional relationship has been established with the recipient.

These issues are becoming more increasingly important as more psychologist use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkIn, and personal websites to market their services. In general media and technology has also impacted and changed the field of psychology as the social media network and the Internet begin to blur the lines between personal and professional information.[28] As well, it has been gradually occurring that clinicians are turning more to social media networks and online search engines to verify information about their clients to provide better services of psychotherapy.[28]

Currently, the clinicians are working towards creating social media policies that provide guidelines for appropriate interactions between clinicians and their clients.[28] The social media policies aims to outline proper conduct for using information upon the internet. As well, it suggests that information about the policies must be included in the informed consent given before treatment. The guidelines aim to address issues of the following: “clinician’s posting of status updates, management of friend or contact requests from clients, whether a clinician responds differently to these requests if they come from current versus terminated clients, clarification that a clinician’s presence on a consumer review site is not a request for a testimonial, and whether the clinician uses search engines to obtain information about clients in her care.”[29]

APA Media Psychology Division 46 Task Force Report[edit]

The Division was initially devised to bring awareness to the developing field of media psychology to increases the amount of research in the area as well as to establish more university programs in media psychology. The mission of the organization is to advance psychology in the practice and science of media communications and technology. The Society is a community of researchers, psychologists and other mental health providers, consultants, educators and communications professionals actively involved with all forms of traditional and evolving media and emerging technologies. The Society supports the study and dissemination of information related to the impact of the media on human behavior, as well as the development of media literacy essential to the public and professionals. The Division's objectives are to:

•Support research that enhances the understanding of the impact of media technologies and the effectiveness of media and technology to transmit information and influence behavior

•Develop a community for the discussion and development of theoretical frameworks for the study and practice of media psychology

•Support the development and use of positive and prosocial media and technologies

•Support efforts to educate the public and professionals in media and technological literacy and digital citizenship

•Facilitate the interaction between psychology and media representatives to encourage a fair and accurate representation of the science and practice of psychology

•Encourage the effective and ethical uses of media to inform the public about the science and profession of psychology and the impact of media and technology on individuals and society

•Prepare psychologists to interpret psychological research to the lay public and to other professionals

•Enrich and encourage the teaching, training, and practice of media psychology

•Encourage adherence to APA ethical standards and guidelines in the use of media. The Division has liaisons with the APA Education, Practice, Science, and Public Interest Directorates.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Giles, D. (2003) Media Psychology, Lawrence Erlbaum
  2. ^ Rutledge (2007) "What is Media Psychology?"
  3. ^ Fremlin (2008) "Understanding Media Psychology" APS
  4. ^ Rutledge, Pamela. Arguing for a Distinct Field of Media Psychology. In K. Dill (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology (pp. 43-58). New York: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ a b Rutledge, Pamela (June 2010). "What is Media Psychology? And Why You Should Care". 
  6. ^ a b Luskin. "The Media Psychology Effect". Retrieved November 30, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Society for Media Psychology & Technology". American Psychological Association. 
  8. ^ "Society for Media Psychology & Psychology". Division 46. 
  9. ^ a b Scharrer, Erica. "Taking Media Entertainment Seriously". Sex Roles 63 (5–6): 439–441. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9784-4. 
  10. ^ a b Anderson, Craig A.; Prot, Sara (1 January 2012). "Myths and facts about youth and violent media". PsycCRITIQUES 57 (14). doi:10.1037/a0027628. 
  11. ^ "Scholar's Open Letter to the APA Task Force On Violent Media Opposing APA Policy Statements on Violent Media"
  12. ^ a b Thompson, J. Kevin; Heinberg, Leslie J.; Altabe, Madeline; Tantleff-Dunn, Stacey (1999). "Sociocultural theory: The media and society.". "Exacting beauty: Theory, assessment, and treatment of body image disturbance". p. 85. doi:10.1037/10312-003. ISBN 1-55798-541-3. 
  13. ^ Lassiter, G. Daniel; Ware, Lezlee J.; Ratcliff, Jennifer J.; Irvin, Clinton R. (2009). "Evidence of the camera perspective bias in authentic videotaped interrogations: Implications for emerging reform in the criminal justice system". Legal and Criminological Psychology 14: 157. doi:10.1348/135532508X284293. 
  14. ^ Maria Elizabeth Grabe. Evolutionary perspectives on sport and competition. In Roberts, S. C. (2011). Roberts, S. Craig, ed. "Applied Evolutionary Psychology". Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586073.001.0001. ISBN 9780199586073. 
  15. ^ Ned Kock. Media naturalness theory: human evolution and behaviour towards electronic communication technologies. In Roberts, S. C. (2011). Roberts, S. Craig, ed. "Applied Evolutionary Psychology". Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586073.001.0001. ISBN 9780199586073. 
  16. ^ a b c Ferguson, Christopher J. (1 January 2013). "In the eye of the beholder: Thin-ideal media affects some, but not most, viewers in a meta-analytic review of body dissatisfaction in women and men". Psychology of Popular Media Culture 2 (1): 20–37. doi:10.1037/a0030766. 
  17. ^ a b Jöckel, Sven; Blake, Christopher; Schlütz, Daniela (2013). "Influence of Age-Rating Label Salience on Perception and Evaluation of Media". Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications 25 (2): 83–94. doi:10.1027/1864-1105/a000086. 
  18. ^ Fischoff, Stuart. "Media Psychology: A Personal Essay in Definition and Purview". Stuart Fischoff. 
  19. ^ Rosenberg, M. (2011). "Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale". doi:10.1037/t01038-000. 
  20. ^ "Contingencies of Self-Worth Scale". 2011. doi:10.1037/t00082-000. 
  21. ^ "Objectified Body Consciousness Scale". 2011. doi:10.1037/t00899-000. 
  22. ^ a b c d Haboush, Amanda; Warren, Cortney S.; Benuto, Lorraine (15 December 2011). "Beauty, Ethnicity, and Age: Does Internalization of Mainstream Media Ideals Influence Attitudes Towards Older Adults?". Sex Roles 66 (9–10): 668–676. doi:10.1007/s11199-011-0102-6. 
  23. ^ a b Pinkleton, Bruce E.; Austin, Erica Weintraub; Chen, Yi-Chun “Yvonnes”; Cohen, Marilyn (1 April 2012). "The Role of Media Literacy in Shaping Adolescents' Understanding of and Responses to Sexual Portrayals in Mass Media". Journal of Health Communication 17 (4): 460–476. doi:10.1080/10810730.2011.635770. PMID 22273591. 
  24. ^ Bryant, Jennings & Zillmann, Dolf, Media effects – Advances in theory and research, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1994.
  25. ^ Shohat, Ella & Stam, Robert, Unthinking Eurocentrism – Multiculturalism and the media, London: Routledge. London: Sage, 1994. Bernstein, Matthew & Studlar, Gaylin, Visions of the East - Orientalism in film. London, Tauris, 1997. Van Ginneken, Jaap, Screening difference – How Hollywood blockbusters imagine race, ethnicity and culture, Lanham, M.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
  26. ^ Rutledge, Pamela Brown. (2012). Arguing for a Distinct Field of Media Psychology. In K. Dill (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology (pp. 43-58). New York: Oxford University Press
  27. ^ Pettigrew, Jonathan (27 October 2009). "Text Messaging and Connectedness Within Close Interpersonal Relationships". Marriage & Family Review 45 (6–8): 697–716. doi:10.1080/01494920903224269. 
  28. ^ a b c Kolmes, Keely (1 January 2012). "Social media in the future of professional psychology". Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 43 (6): 606–612. doi:10.1037/a0028678. 
  29. ^ Shapiro, David. "Ethical Issues in Media Psychology". "Technology Innovations for Behavioral Education". p. 59. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-9392-2_7. ISBN 978-1-4419-9391-5. 

11. Luskin, B. J., & Friedland, L. (1998). Task force report: Media psychology and new technologies. Washington, DC: Division of Media Psychology, Division 46 of the American Psychological Association. Link:


  • Giles, D. (2003) Media Psychology, Mahwah,NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
  • Rutledge, P. (2010) "What is Media Psychology?", Media Psychology Research Center [1]
  • Fremlin, J. (2008) "Understanding Media Psychology" APS Observer [2].

External links[edit]