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PSY 355 Psychology & Media in the Digital Age

This page was last modified on February 21, 2018

Studying Media's Effects in Psychology and Social Science (Giles, 2003)

Early Approaches: 1930s-1960s

War of the Worlds NYT
  • Radio
  • Robert Merton & Paul Lazarfeld: Mass media as a kind of narcotic; creating public apathy
  • Frankfurt School (German sociology):
  • UK: TV & movies (cinema) filled with cheap & emotional productions; entertainment filling empty lives

Consuming Media (particularly Television) in the 2010s



US Adult Media Use 2011-2018

Total Daily US Adult Media Use 2011-2018
Traditional TV Viewing by Age 2011-2017

The "Effects" Tradition: 1960s+

Bobo Doll Experiment
  • Media as having negative effects, e.g., violent media & violent behavior
  • Uses experimental methods

Cultivation Research: 1970s+

Fort Apache, The Bronx
  • Media is a crucial element in a complex system of environmental & cultural forces.
  • George Gerber (U. Penn, d. 2005): How does a media-saturated society influence how the members of that society develop?
    • Effect on viewing the world
    • Themes such as "fear" pervading the media: Fort Apache, The Bronx (1980)
    • Often the victims of TV violence are minority and vulnerable people including the elderly, children, etc. 
  • "Mainstreaming" effect, i.e., values & cultures presented in media become commonplace all over the globe
  • Media acts to reinforce people's real life experiences = Resonance


Maslow's hierarchyUses & Gratification Research: late 1970s+

  • Focusing upon the psychological motives of individual media consumers
  • Related to Maslow's hierarchy of motives
    • Papachrissi & Rubin (2000): the motives to go online include
      • Interpersonal utility (looking for online social interaction)
      • Passing time
      • Seeking information
      • Convenience
      • Entertainment
  • Media dependency theory: In a media-saturated world, users come to depend on media for information &, indeed, on specific media outlets. How?

The "Active" Audience

  • Focus on larger audience groups (rather than the behavior or psychology of individuals)
the Jersey Shore

The Voice
  • What is the role of "reality television"?
    • The Jersey Shore
    • The Amazing Race
    • Keeping Up With the Kardashians
    • The Voice
    • Survivor
  • What kinds of outlooks and "codes" do audiences bring to "read" the media they consume? In each of the responses noted below, the audience is doing something or responding in more than a completely passive way

  Rocky Horror

Wants to be Disney Princess
  • Fandoms & Lifestyle
    • Media figures can be incorporated into the daily lives of their audiences
    • Individuals may build their identities on media characters and situations



This page was first posted on 2/17/14