- On November 29, 2019
- Media Psych 101, Mediated Technology
I get asked this question quite a bit, especially when folks learn my master’s and/or my doctorate-in-progress are both in Media Psychology. Folks seem confused by the media psychology term and then ask me, “What’s that?” They admit to understanding what psychology is but they’re clueless as to why media and psychology have been paired as a field of study.
Answering this question, at least at the time of this writing, is a bit multipronged and requires a somewhat layered response.
Let’s first start with the word “media.”
The Oxford dictionary defines media as follows:
Mass communication is the operative phrase in the above-shared definition; it implies there’s a message of sorts to be delivered to large groups of people. Today, messages reach the masses through a robust medley of distribution channels, mediums, and platforms. Mass message distribution is also a key aspect of today’s modern marketing, a professional discipline responsible for the communication of promotional messages and a brand’s storytelling.
With this backdrop, we can now shift our attention toward the word psychology.
What is “psychology?”
Here’s Oxford dictionary’s take on the word psychology:
When the word psychology isn’t paired with the word media, it can make most people think about counselors or therapy sessions. While these are not inaccurate associations, the most important part of Oxford’s definition is “the scientific study of the human mind.”
It is the mind, our human brains, that is at the crux of the psychology.
In other words, psychology is a multifaceted discipline that seeks to understand how our brains respond to emotional or other stimuli and how those responses impact our behaviors.
Multifaceted discipline = many sub-fields of study
Circling back to our original question (“What is media psychology?”) and given the context we now have as shared above, then we can derive at the following broad understanding:
Yes, now we’re getting closer and closer to understanding what media psychology is BUT we are still missing a few details:
(1) *MEDIATED* TECHNOLOGY
The distribution and consumption of media today is largely supported by robust technical underpinnings. Therefore, technology MUST be part of the media psychology conversation. And not just technology for technology’s sake but specifically mediated technologies in particular, which refers to some form of technology or conduit between interpersonal communications such as email, text messaging, and social media as quick examples.
We’ve established that media psychology is a sub-set field stemming from traditional psychology but what needs to be noted is that the field of media psychology itself ALSO has its own related and intersected sub-sets of study as well, including (but not limited to):
- Cyberpsychology (how technology impacts our brains and behaviors)
- Psybermedia (how artificial intelligence-based media impacts our brains and behaviors)
- Positive Psychology (how happiness impacts our brains and behaviors)
- Brand Psychology (how brands leverage brain science to influence consumer behavior)
- Political Psychology (how political systems, propaganda, and processes impact our behaviors and influences)
- Psychology of Image (how symbols, images, and other pictorial-centric contents influence our brains and behaviors)
The reason for this sub-set variance is because media (and its application) is EVERYWHERE. Look around and you’ll notice that media is an inescapable aspect of our layered, modern lives. This reality offers us an excellent segue way into our next point below.
(3) WE ARE THE WORLD
Media psychology examines how the intersection of mediated technologies and media impact individuals, groups, and cultures across society. This societal factor is an important detail as our daily activities often depend, in some cases quite heavily, on some kind of interactive device or digital service (aka mediated technology as used by senders and receivers).
While the above-shared comments represent my general take of things in so far as helping define just what media psychology is, all fields of study usually have their formal definitions available.
Here are several helpful curated explanations and links to help reinforce and expand the idea and importance of media psychology today:
- Defining and Describing Media Psychology & Explaining Media Psychology by Bernard Luskin, Ph.D.
- What is Media Psychology? And Why You Should Care (PDF) and What is media psychology? (a Slideshare presentation) by Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., MBA (btw, this author, Dr. Rutledge, is one of my esteemed media psychology educators both during my master’s and doctorate-in-progress with Fielding Graduate University)
- Media psychology via Wikipedia
- Media Psychology: A Personal Essay in Definition and Purview (PDF) by Stuart Fischoff, Ph.D.
- Media Psychology (book) & Psychology of the Media (book) by David Giles
- The Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology (book) edited by Karen E. Dill
While other scholarly resources about media psychology are available, this is an immediate round-up of helpful sources if you’re seeking to learn what media psychology is and how we, as members of a media-saturated and technology-driven society, can benefit from this important field of study.
Need a media psychologist? Need to work with someone with a passion for the media psychology realm of study and who can leverage 25 years of marketing, advertising, design, and interactive technology expertise to assist your organization with important behavioral research or media technology-related projects? I can provide you with scholarly guidance and multidisciplinary support your brand needs.
Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, MA, MFA
Media Psychologist & Strategist