The study of Media psychology emerged as an academic and professional discipline due to a social and commercial demand for the application of psychological theory and research into the impact of media and emerging media technologies both academic and non-academic settings. Psychology is fundamental to understanding the impact on individuals and groups of the integration of media technologies in our society. This field encompasses the full range of human experience of media—including affect, cognition, and behavior—in activities, events, theories, and practices. Media include all forms of mediated communication, such as pictures, sound, graphics, content and emerging technologies.
The emerging field represented a significant opportunity to use media in new and creative ways by understanding how psychology and media work together. Psychological theories can be applied to emerging social media, e-Learning, and digital technologies in pioneering ways. Media psychology draws from multiples disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, neuroscience, political science, rhetorics, computer science, communications, and international relations.
The APA’s first book devoted to the then-emerging field of media psychology was Perspectives on Psychology and the Media, edited by Sam Kirschner and Diana Kirschner. The APA Media Psychology Division 46 of the American Psychological Association now defines its purpose as focusing on the roles psychologists play in various aspects of the media, including traditional and new technologies. Media psychology applies the theories of psychology to mediated communication and experience. It promotes research into the impact of media on human behavior and understanding media use, production, and distribution; to enrich the teaching, training, and practice of media psychology; to encourage the use of psychological theory and expertise to the development of media across a wide array of applications from business and entertainment to education and healthcare. Media psychology also promotes a better understanding of psychology and psychological research disseminated through media channels. Media psychology is not a clinical degree; however media psychology is relevant to clinicians who employ technology to expand the availability of therapeutic resources.
The 1998 APA Media Psychology Division 46 Task Force Report prepared by Bernard Luskin and Lilli Friedland on Psychology and New Technologies broadened the definition of media psychology, set the stage for media psychology to become a more widely researched area and led to the establishment of new university programs in media psychology. For example, Fielding Graduate University, offers a PhD and MA in Media Psychology, the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology offers an intensive online MA degree in Media Psychology, and the Touro University Worldwide MA degree program in Media and Communications Psychology. It is now being widely recognized that all media affecting human behavior does so through communication and media and communications psychology have become blended areas of research leading to increasingly valuable insights.
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Bob Gerstley was among the first to write about algorithms designed to identify people with high Social Networking Potential. Gerstley employed SNP algorithms in quantitative marketing research. In 2004, the concept of the alpha user was coined to indicate that it had now become possible to identify the focal members of any viral campaign, the “hubs” who were most influential. Alpha users could be targeted for advertising purposes most accurately in mobile phone networks, as mobile phones are so personal.