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What Is Media Psychology?

Introductory overview to the field of media psychology. Includes brief discussion of theory and some applications.

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What Is Media Psychology?

  1. 1. What is Media Psychology? Pamela Rutledge, PhD, MBA January 2010
  2. 2. The last half century has seen an explosion of new media that has transformed our society
  3. 3. How do we understand human experience in this new world? Image generated using
  4. 4. Biological Imperative: Born to Communicate <ul><li>From early man to present, people have invented ways to communicate and connect </li></ul>
  5. 5. Media + psychology = ? +
  6. 6. How Do We Define Media Psychology? <ul><li>Psychology is the study of human behavior, emotions, and cognitions </li></ul><ul><li>Media includes all forms of mediated communications </li></ul><ul><li>Practitioners and scholars across many fields </li></ul><ul><li>Continually changing in response to emerging technologies </li></ul>
  7. 7. Why Do We Define Media Psychology? <ul><li>A Definition </li></ul><ul><li>Sets the compass and standards of a field </li></ul><ul><li>Frames the work of its practitioners </li></ul><ul><li>Creates an intellectual basis for exchange and integration </li></ul><ul><li>Informs the public </li></ul>
  8. 8. Psychological Perspectives
  9. 9. Theoretical Orientations <ul><li>Cognitive </li></ul><ul><li>Humanistic </li></ul><ul><li>Biological/Neuropsychological </li></ul><ul><li>Social </li></ul><ul><li>Developmental </li></ul><ul><li>Positive </li></ul>
  10. 10. Cognitive Psychology <ul><li>Cognitive Revolution </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reaction to Behaviorism </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Perception, Language, Attention, Memory, Problem Solving, Decision Making and Judgment, Intelligence </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Among the theorists, Piaget, Wundt, Chomsky, Broadbent, Gardner </li></ul><ul><li>Applicability for media psychologists includes Usability, Developmental appropriateness of technology and content, Information comprehension, and educational media based on Learning styles </li></ul>
  11. 11. Social Learning Theory <ul><li>Learning in a social context </li></ul><ul><li>People can learn by observing from others </li></ul><ul><li>Behaviorist perspective vs. Cognitive perspective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning can occur without a change in behavior </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Basis for research on violence, stereotype emulation, media framing </li></ul>
  12. 12. Social Cognitive Theory <ul><li>Roots in social psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Variety of researchers have moved to this perspective from other schools of thought </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bandura </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bruner </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allport </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Festinger </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reciprocal Determinism </li></ul>
  13. 13. Social Constructionism <ul><li>Shifts emphasis to social dimension </li></ul><ul><li>People construct beliefs about the world from their interactions with other people, environments, and culture </li></ul><ul><li>Learning is most successful when people provide “scaffolding” to help learners reach the next level </li></ul><ul><li>Basis for most research on identity development, multiple intelligences </li></ul><ul><li>Major theorists: Vygotsky, Gergen, and Mead </li></ul>
  14. 14. Narrative <ul><li>A qualitative and humanistic approach to cognitive processes focusing on the” storied nature of life” </li></ul><ul><li>People create meaning and identity through the development and sharing of narratives </li></ul><ul><li>Major theorists: McAdams, Josselson, Polkinghorne, Bruner </li></ul><ul><li>Basis for research on identity, brand development, persuasive communications, individual development </li></ul><ul><li>Applications: clinical/therapeutic narrative, marketing, group behavior/team building, entertainment media, gaming </li></ul>
  15. 15. Positive Psychology <ul><li>Focus is on the empirical study of </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Positive emotions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strengths–based traits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Healthy institutions and systems </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Major theorists: Seligman, Csikszentmihalyi, Deiner </li></ul><ul><li>Relevant to development of prosocial media including public service messaging, learning technologies, gaming, usability </li></ul>
  16. 16. Psychoanalytic Theory <ul><li>Focus is on understanding conscious and unconscious processes </li></ul><ul><li>Developed by Sigmund Freud </li></ul><ul><li>Major Theorists: Adler, Erikson, Jung, Fromm, Rank, Klein, Sullivan </li></ul><ul><li>Basis for understanding personality and elements of media effects tradition, uses and gratifications, parasocial relationships </li></ul>
  17. 17. Humanistic Psychology <ul><li>Holistic view that focus is on the human context for motivations, attitudes and needs </li></ul><ul><li>Major theorists: Rogers, Fromm, Maslow, Sullivan </li></ul><ul><li>People select media experiences that satisfy cognitive, social and emotional needs </li></ul>
  18. 18. Developmental Psychology <ul><li>Maturation across the lifespan where development progresses through stages, transitions, relational skills, or life tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Many draw from psychoanalytic theory and identified stages that must be successfully mastered for healthy development </li></ul><ul><li>Theorists include: Erikson, Piaget, Bowlby, Ainsworth </li></ul>
  19. 19. Neuropsychology & Evolutionary Psychology <ul><li>Biological and evolutionary explanations for behaviors and emotions </li></ul><ul><li>Implications for research on attachment style, relational style, attention, fear, persuasion, addiction as related to media use and influence </li></ul>
  20. 20. What Does a Media Psychologist Do? <ul><li>Many specializations combine the knowledge of psychology and media applications </li></ul><ul><li>As media technologies evolve, the demand for media psychology will grow </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Designers and producers of media for all distribution channels, from entertainment to corporate training </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assessment and evaluation of technology, interfaces, usability, and content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Integrating technology into education, media literacy education </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Media Psychology is the Future <ul><li>Media revolution leaves no industry, career, country, or process untouched </li></ul><ul><li>Tools to promote positive media technologies and use to help: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People thrive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Communities to come together </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nations to communicate </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Pamela Rutledge, PhD, MBA [email_address] Director, Media Psychology Research Center Adjunct Faculty, Fielding Graduate University School of Psychology, Media Psychology Program Twitter: Blog: Image constructed at
  23. 23. Resources <ul><li>American Psychoanalytic Association </li></ul><ul><li>Association for Humanistic Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>International Association for Cognitive Education and Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Positive Psychology Center at UPenn </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Anderson, J. R. (1995). Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications . New York: W. H. Freeman and Company. </li></ul><ul><li>Benjafield, J. G. (2005). History of Psychology . Oxford: Oxford University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of Mind . New York: Basic Books. </li></ul><ul><li>Giles, D. C. (2003). Media Psychology . Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. </li></ul><ul><li>Harris, R. J. (2004). A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication (4th ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. </li></ul><ul><li>Snyder, C. R., & Lopez, S. J. (Eds.). (2005). Handbook of Positive Psychology . Oxford: Oxford University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Pamela Rutledge, PhD, MBA </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Director, Media Psychology Research Center </li></ul><ul><li>Adjunct Faculty, Fielding Graduate University </li></ul><ul><li>School of Psychology, Media Psychology Program </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: </li></ul><ul><li>Blog: </li></ul><ul><li>Second Life: Media Writer </li></ul>