PSY 355 Course Icon

PSY 355-01 Psychology and Media in the Digital Age

Spring 2016 • Mon & Wed 2:30 - 3:45 pm



Instructor: Fr. Vincent W. Hevern, S.J., Ph.D.

Telephone: 315 445-4342 (Office)

Home Address: Jesuit Residence, Le Moyne College

E-mail:  hevern <at>

Personal Homepage:


Office: Reilly Hall 222

Office Hours

Required Texts

All materials for this course will be drawn from sources available either online or reserved at Le Moyne College’s Falcone Library. The attached preliminary schedule indicates the some of the readings for the course. Others may be suggested as the semester proceeds. Note that all students need to have ready access to the World Wide Web (WWW), be able to read documents in pdf format, receive/send email messages, and to play standard online video formats such as Adobe Flash and mpgs (such as found on YouTube).

The course webpage is located at this link and is always available via Fr. Hevern's personal homepage.

Catalog Course Description

Contemporary life increasingly challenges us to cope with many different and quickly emerging forms of communication and information media. Since the advent of the “Digital Revolution” of the late 20th century, the penetration of these new forms of media into daily life has spawned profound questions about the relationship of human beings and the technologies represented by communications, information, and entertainment media. We will explore various psychological theories (such as phenomenological/sensory-perceptual, narrative/cultural, & social network/systems approaches) that address how and why we engage with digital media and its products. This course will put these psychological insights into dialogue with traditions of media analysis, particularly the media ecology approach of figures such as McLuhan, Ong, and others. In doing so, we will consider a wide range of issues such as media-based violence, the media's impact on personal relationships and identity, problematic Internet use, online sexuality, and others. We will raise questions regarding the ethical and psycho-developmental implications of media consumption. Students will be invited to examine their own uses of media and how these may be affecting their current lives. Prerequisite: PSY 101 or permission of the instructor.

Course Overview

This course will involve a broad mixture of lectures by the instructor, student presentations, and small- and class-wide group discussions. As the attached class schedule shows, we will begin with an orientation to the general nature of both contemporary media and recent psychological approaches to the self.  Students will then consider how both the general public and they themselves use digital media, particularly in the online environment, across daily life. We will explore ways of understanding media within two distinctive traditions of analysis and research: from the viewpoints of (i) media ecology and (ii) various psychological approaches (such media effect studies, embodied cognition, narrative immersion, cultural exchange). The course then examines six major topics with a strong media ecology focus: the neuropsychology of contemporary media, online self-revelation and disinhibition, cyber-bullying, personal relationships online, the psychology of the Walt Disney Company, and sports entertainment psychology. We’ll end the course looking at four general topics with a focus on media effects: violence in television and video games, ethnicity and difference in media presentations, problematic internet use (“internet addiction”), and online sexuality.

Note: This semester PSY 355 is being taught in two 75-minute periods each week. Each of these class periods will normally be divided roughly into two halves with a short break of up to 5 minutes between each half. Students needing to use the restroom might keep in mind that such a break will be available.


Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, you should be able

1.    To understand the origins, scope and nature of contemporary forms of media

2.    To describe and reflect upon your own uses of contemporary media as these affect your daily life

3.    To analyze important forms of contemporary digital media and their effects on major aspects of personal and interpersonal functioning from several psychological perspectives

4.    To employ media ecological approaches in the analysis of emerging and differing forms of contemporary media

5.    To discuss the ethical and psycho-developmental implications of various forms of media


Digital User Survey and Reflection. In the first week of the course, each student will monitor his or her own use of digital media over a 3-day period. They will then complete a standardized survey on their use and prepare a reflection on what they observed. These data, both individually and collectively, will be used in class as the basis for discussions. The survey will be due by Monday, February 1, and the reflection by Monday, February 15.

24-Hour Digital Media Abstinence Project (DMAP): Report & Reflection. Students will choose any 24-hour period during the first 10 weeks of the course during which you will refrain from using any digital media whatsoever (with the exception of other required classwork, job-related demands, and any emergency issues involving your family or self). Using guidelines prepared by the instructor, you will compose a descriptive report on the experience and respond to a series of reflection questions about the experience. The report should be 4 to 8 pages in length. You will be expected to talk about your experience when we treat the topic toward the end of the semester. The report and reflection will be due on Wednesday, Arpil 20 (after the Easter Holiday break).


Take Home Test. There will be a single "take-home" test in this course which will be given out on March 2 and due back after the Spring Break on Wed, March 16. This exam will challenge you to summarize and integrate the materials found in the first half of the course. There will be no final exam in this course.

Quizzes. I will give a number of 10-point quizzes during the semester to be sure that you are keeping up with the readings and have examined the notes for classes. I will normally alert you beforehand that there will be a quiz.


Group Presentation: Oral Presentation & Summary (handout, PPT, or similar). Working in groups of roughly 5 students per group, students will prepare a report for class on one of six topics to be covered in the syllabus. In preparing the group presentation, students will link the focus of their presentations as far as possible to include the psychological and/or media ecology perspectives discussed earlier in the course. The group will be expected to present their report in any manner they choose (e.g., using PowerPoint [PPT], videos, or the like) and provide a summary handout of their findings for the rest of the class. They will also be expected to help lead small group discussions about issues raised by their topic. The presentations will begin after the Spring Break. Students will be asked to indicate their choice of group topic by the end of the 2nd week of the course, that is, by Wednesday, February 3. The same grade will be given to all members of each group.

Final Written Reflections on Group Presentation. Each student will choose to provide 5-8 pages of reflections on the personal impact and ethical dimensions of any of the group presentations that they either delivered themselves or heard from their classmates. This report will be due by 5pm on Thursday, May 12 (during Final Exam week).

Class & Discussion Participation. Students will be graded for their engagement in the ongoing work of the course. Expectations associated with good participation include:

•     regular attendance in class (which alone is only equal to a participation grade of C+);

•     giving attention to me and/or other students when we are making a presentation;

•     coming to class prepared (having read the assignment for the day);

•     asking questions to me and/or other students regarding the material examined in that class;

•     making comments, raising objections, or giving observations about topics in the course, particularly those which tie in the classroom material to "real world" problems, link current with past topics, or otherwise try to integrate the content of the course;

•     providing examples to support or challenge the issues talked about in class;

•     actively contributing to small discussion groups by offering comments, questions, etc.;

•     dealing with other students and/or the instructor in a respectful fashion.

A Note on Issues of Sexuality and Violence. At some points in this course, we will discuss matters involving sexuality, violence and other potentially offensive matters which are encountered online or through various digital media. I do not expect that we will (or need to) be viewing any sexually-explicit or grossly-violent images in doing so. We will, however, hear verbal descriptions of and be discussing matters of sexuality and violence (including possibly pornography and the exploitation of children). Treating such issues in this course may be personally upsetting to some individuals and/or evoke strong moral objections. Students in this course will be asked to affirm in writing their understanding of and agreement to deal with these issues in this academic context.

Evaluation and Grading

Course Grade. Your final course grade will consist of the sum of each component listed below with a total of 500 possible points which can be earned across all components:

Calculating Final Grade. Your final grade will be calculated on the basis of the following conversion criteria out of the total of 500 points offered in the course:

A =      450-500 points (90%+) C+ =    365-389 points (73-77%)
A- =     440-449 points (88-89%) C =      350-364 points (70-72%)
B+ =    415-439 points (83-87%) C- =     340-349 points (68-69%)
B =      400-414 points (80-82%) D =      315-339 points (63-67%)
B- =      390-399 points (78-79%) F =       below 315 points (< 63%)

Because the actual work of a course sometimes changes or deviates from an original plan, I reserve the right to change, add, or drop, within reasonable bounds, any weight or grading component listed above. Such a change, addition, or elimination will apply to all members of a class section, not just to an individual.

Extra Credit. The only two circumstances in which I offer “extra credit” in this class are the following:

(1) In order to encourage attendance in class, I will give extra points (out of 500) to

    •    Students who have no absences on record = 9 points

    •    Students who have 1 absence on record = 5 points

(2) From time to time I may offer a limited number of “extra credit” points for participation in research projects sponsored by the Psychology Department. No more than two opportunities per student will be eligible for extra credit purposes. I will announce when and if such projects are eligible for these points as they occur in the semester.

Early Exams. I never give a test before or in anticipation of its scheduled date. Be sure your travel plans are made accordingly.

Class Attendance. You are expected to attend all classes in this course. However, because you may have other obligations arising on a particular day, you are allowed up to a total of 3 absences ("cuts") for this course. I will use attendance records as a partial guide to your participation grade. Note that in all matters of “class attendance” I make no distinction between “excused” and “unexcused” absences. All absences up to 3 for whatever reason are absences (except for student athletes, see below). Only after 5 absences must you give me a compelling justification for missing class (e.g., significant illness, death in family, etc.). For each absence in excess of 5 (without a compelling justification), I reserve the right to subtract 10 points from your final grade calculation. 

Observance of Religious Holidays. As provided in New York State Education Law Section 224-a, any student who is unable to register for class, attend class, or participate in any examination, study or classwork requirements on a particular day because of his or her religious beliefs is eligible for an equivalent opportunity to register for classes or make up any missed examination, study, or classwork requirements, without penalties or additional fees. Students who require such an opportunity must contact the registrar (for registration) or their instructor (for examination, study, or classwork requirements) at least two weeks in advance. A full copy of the College's policy on the observance of religious holidays can fe found at either dean's office.

Student Athletes and Absences. Students representing Le Moyne College as members of interscholastic sports teams will not be penalized for missing classes. You should give me a listing of your team's schedule from your coach at the beginning of the semester so that I know when you are scheduled to be away.

Other Guidelines

Academic Honesty. Students are expected to observe at all times the highest ethical standards as members of the academic community.  Any form of dishonesty makes a student liable to severe sanctions, including expulsion from the College. If I have any questions about academic dishonesty or plagiarism (see further below), I reserve the right to submit your paper to various online testing agencies or engines such as or to employ software testing procedures (such as the Cloze technique) to determine if your paper as a whole or in part is originally written by you. Students should recall that any deliberate plagiarism in an academic course results in a mandatory Failure (F) grade for the course on the first instance and dismissal from the College on a second instance. Instructors are required to submit the name of any student who cheats or commits plagiarism to the Academic Dean.


Cheating and Plagiarism. Cheating and lying are unacceptable at Le Moyne as stated clearly in the Student Handbook. The "Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct" (especially General Principle C [Integrity] and Ethical Standard 8.11 [Plagiarism]; remind you of the importance of honesty in psychology. Plagiarism or cheating in any form is simply wrong. Please reread the section on "Academic Standards" in the Student Handbook to review what is meant by these terms. Recall that plagiarism involves the submission of any thoughts or formulations of other people without their being cited or given credit for those thoughts/formulations. For this reason, in any written materials submitted to me:


•       You must put quote marks (" ") around any direct quotation of another person's writings and you must cite the source and page number.

•       You must cite the source for any thoughts or even, for ways of expression which you have changed "into your own words".


Special Needs. If you have a disability and need accommodations, please meet with me withing the first two weeks of the semester to review your accommodation sheet. You should meet with someone from the Office of Disability Support Services each semester to review your documentation. The Office is located in the Library (1st floor; 445-4118;


Class Recording Policy. Students must obtain prior written permission from the instructor before making any audio/video recordings of a class. Unless this permission explicitly states otherwise, such recordings may not be shared with, or distributed to others, and must be deleted erased at the end of the semester. The penalties for unauthorized recording, sharing, distribution or retention may range up to expulsion from the college. Any student with a disability who requires class recordings as an accommodation must be approved by the disability support services staff and must notify faculty by presenting his or her instructor notification form to be signed.


Using Computers in the Classroom. This point may be ironic given the nature of this course. But, unless you have a plan signed by the Academic Support Center affirming your need to take notes on a computer as a disability accommodation, you may not use a personal computer in this classroom for note taking. The temptation to spend your time looking at the Internet rather than listening to and participating in class is too high. Further, students who are seated behind someone using a computer can be tremendously distracted.  And, because there is no way that I can monitor your computer use during class time since the screens are inaccessible to me, personal computers will not be permitted. If you have a tablet computer like an iPad which lies flat on the desk, you may take notes on these since I can monitor their use. I should mention that there is an emerging body of research to confirm the undesirable academic effects of computer use for note-taking purposes.


Letters of Recommendation. If you choose to ask me for a letter of recommendation, please give me at least three weeks' notice before the letter is due. I have a form I ask all students to fill out before I will write a letter. See me in the office for the form. You should also sign up to see me for an interview after turning in the form before I write anything in order to brief me about your graduate school plans, goals, etc. In these ways, I can fashion a letter which is both personal and focused.

Behavioral Expectations


Note that you are expected to behave politely and in a manner which fosters the overall academic atmosphere and quality of the class. Some students don't seem to have a good sense of what kinds of behaviors are inappropriate in a college classroom. So, let me list the sorts of behaviors you should avoid: