MRI’s Light Media Psychology in Your head!

Magnetic Resonance Imaging tells the story of what the lights reveal?

Posted Dec 18, 2014

Luskin's Learning Psychology Series - No. 15

More than 15 years have passed since the 1998 milestone APA Media Psychology Division (46) Task Force Study that I co-chaired with Lilli Friedland defining media psychology and new technologies. It became one of the studies that explained the diversification of media psychology and can be downloaded from the APA Division 46 website. Through the years, many dramatic changes in technology have emerged. Though Media Psychology has evolved for more than a quarter century and influences us everywhere , media psychology is still little understood. Lack of understanding is one of the underlying reasons for the name change of APA Division 46 from Media Psychology to the …Society for Media Psychology and Technology.

In today’s world, Media psychology is fundamental in social media. Telepsychology, teletherapy, online, blended and distance education, entertainment, traditional media, virtual and augmented reality, brand development, marketing, advertising, and product placement permeate all media. Film analysis, media assisted rehabilitation, all manner of telecommunications, public health, public service, public policy including political campaigns, medical education and practice, and all forms of media publishing exemplify the wide application of media psychology. These are only some examples from the many that could be included in a description. APA also recognized that media psychology cuts across all specialties and divisions. The Society for Media Psychology and Technology is the crossroads division of the American Psychological Association.

Let there be light

Theories in Psychology are Fundamental

Theories in psychology are fundamental influences on media and behavior. Psychology flows from the synthesis of philosophy and physiology. Media psychology flows from the application of theories in psychology to all media and technology. Specifically included are the use of pictures, graphics and sound in all forms of new communications technology. Media psychology is the interface between media and the human response. We learn psychology one theory at a time and the professional practice combines and applies theories to situations. Media Psychology represents the convergence of media, technology, communication, art, and science.

New Opportunities Abound

The “socio-psychomedia effect” now saturates society. New career opportunities and positions are continually emerging. Burgeoning media industries have an increasing need for such professionals as solutions architects, highly developed practitioners and scholars who understand both theories in psychology and state-of-the-art communications technology. The new professionals include teachers, writers, producers, programmers, engineers, designers, directors, artists, cinematographers, public relations and advertising specialists, researchers and others who, more and more, study and apply media psychology in their work. Media psychology is increasingly important in polling, predicting, and as a force for good or evil. Think about the good and bad ways to “Wag the dog.” Think about the media centric traumatic events taking place across our world today, including ISIS and the media, Bill Cosby, “Hands Up Don’t Shoot,” demonstrations emotionally being broadcast and so much more. Media psychology and behavior management are critical subjects of today.

     Educational institutions are in imminent need of new faculty and staff who understand higher concepts in media arts and sciences. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology now lights up brain response images so that we can better see, analyze and understand behavior. The study of media effects is fundamental to understanding emerging trends. The future of society and social change is human centered and screen deep. Media has saturated our lives and is now central in influencing our behavior.

The 1998 Task Force Report

This early research revealed 12 major areas in which media psychology is fundamental:

1. Consulting with media personnel.

2. Researching ways to improve all forms of media.

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

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

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

6. Developing media standards.

7. Working in commercial fields.

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

9. Developing media materials for physically and developmentally challenged populations.

10. Developing media materials for all underserved populations.

11. Working with deviant or criminal populations.

12. There are now many more areas of professional opportunity.

There are now many new areas in which we recognize that media psychology is fundamental. Examples are war simulations, drone management, medical simulations, crowd management and manipulation, and many more. We need more research, more media psychology courses in colleges and universities and more degree programs that include media psychology courses. Media psychology is a field whose time is now.

Your mind or mine?


“Pscybermedia” is a neologism, i.e., a new term combining psychology, artificial intelligence (cybernetics) and media (pictures, graphics, and sound). Media psychology requires an understanding of the brain’s physical and emotional aspects. Examples of applied media psychology theories include the psychology of emotions, control, expression, attention, presence, persuasion, sexuality, and gender. Media psychology encompasses the study of believability and the suspension of disbelief, situational cognition, assessment, learning, mapping, feedback, reinforcement, persistence, mastery, success, and failure. Media psychology research involves the study of media effects, particularly sensory and cognitive processes. Media psychology is a fertile area needing extensive research. The large and exciting realm of effects research (how various news and entertainment media influence audience behavior, audience demographics and audience numbers) is important in today’s media saturated world.

The Specialty of Media Psychology is Evolving and Expanding

Much of the emphasis in psychology through the years has been on treatment through clinical psychology as the key area. As broader aspects of psychology gain attention, a new vision of the scholar/practitioner is emerging and understanding of the scope of media psychology has increased. Building programs that offer new opportunities in psychology applied in health services, public service and public policy, publishing, education, entertainment, and commerce open a world of opportunity for those with a sound foundational understanding of media psychology. All fields of endeavor are affected.

The Scholar/Practitioner is Important

Thucydides, author of The History of the Peloponnesian War (431 BCE), is reputed to have said, “A nation that draws too broad a difference between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking being done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools.”

The Future of Media Psychology is Bright as a Sub-Specialty in Psychology

My themes as president of the Society for Media Psychology and Technology for 2014 called for new courses and programs to be offered by colleges and universities. I urge those who are interested in being involved in the evolution of media psychology to join The Society of Media Psychology and Technology, Division 46 of the American Psychology Association as regular, associate or student members. All media psychology programs should focus on individual theories in psychology applied to media. As a faculty member or administrator in a college or university, you should call for courses and programs in you curriculum. My research suggests that Media psychology is a valuable field for every psychologist, software developer, teacher, producer, writer, advertiser, marketer, politician, public policy advocate, and business person to have at least some understanding. You can prove this with an MRI.


Dr. Bernard Luskin, President Emeritus, Society for Media Psychology and Technology, Division 46, American Psychological Association and President,

Thanks to Toni Luskin, PhD, (Media Psychology) for her help with this article.


Adapted from, THE AMPLIFIER MAGAZINE, the Magazine of the Society for Media Psychology and Technology, Division 46 of the American Psychological Association, Fall, 2014.

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.

(Copies of the report can be downloaded under Articles on the Division 46 website)

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