What is media psychology?
Before answering this question, let's examine what "media" and "psychology" mean independent of each other.
The main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) regarded collectively [Oxford].
Mass communication is the operative phrase; it implies there's a message to be delivered to large groups of people.
Today, messages reach the masses through a robust medley of distribution channels, mediums, and platforms.
The scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context [Oxford].
It is the mind, our human brains, that is at the crux of the psychology.
More specifically, psychology is a science-based discipline that seeks to understand how our brains respond to emotional or other stimuli and how those responses impact our behaviors.
Now on to media psychology
By pairing the "media" and "psychology" contexts shared above, we can broadly assume that media psychology must have something to do with:
- how our brains react and respond to our consumption of mass media; and
- how such responses influence our behavior.
Yet as a niche field of psychological science, the study of media psychology touches other key factors, such as:
(1) MEDIATED TECHNOLOGIES
Because the distribution and consumption of (mass) media today is largely supported by a vast landscape of technical underpinnings, then technology MUST be play a vital role in any media psychology conversation; specifically mediated technologies, which refer to a form of technology or conduit between interpersonal communications. Examples of mediated technologies include email, text messaging, and social media.
As a field stemming from traditional psychology, media psychology has its own intersected sub-fields of study, including:
(how technology impacts our brains and behaviors)
(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)
This variance namely exists because media applications, its distribution, and its consumption is an everyday occurrence in our modern world.
This reality offers an excellent segue way into this next and final point.
(3) SOCIETY + CULTURE
Media psychology explores how individuals, groups, cultures, and society(ies) are influenced by the media they consume through mediated technologies.
With nearly 75% of the world's population accessing the Internet on a regular basis, and with rising usage of interactive devices and services, media psychologists play a vital role in examining how our immersive interplays with technology impact our cognition, our views of the self, our behaviors, and our overall well-being.
Scholarly and other helpful links
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
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