Sharon’s take on Media Psychology

By Mar.22, 2012


Before answering the question concerning what media psychology is, I think I need to explain where I am coming from. The main research focus of my early academic career was social cognition, and in particular the improvement of intergroup relations. I had the luck of working in collaboration with Professor Anne Maass and her colleagues in Padova (Professor Mara Cadinu being a close collaborator) and to explore with them language-based biases such as the inducion-deduction asymmetry (see, e.g. Maass, Colombo, Colombo and Sherman, 2001) and linguistic intergroup bias (see Maass, Salvi, Arcuri and Semin, 1989).

In the early 2000s Social Psychology saw a growing interest in the role played by emotions in the relationship between groups (see Mackie and Smith, 2002), and my PhD project (under the supervision of Professor Rupert Brown) pursued this line of research looking at how to promote pro-social behaviour as a consequence of the experience of specific intergroup emotions. My interest in mass-media communication and persuasion processes stems from the line of research established during my studies in Padova and my PhD, as I became more and more aware of the role played by media in informing people’s attributions, appraisal of and, consequently, emotional reactions to events involving members of different groups.

I started realising that for me it was important to understand how people learn about the world they live in and how this knowledge is created, absorbed and acted upon. This lead me to a long standing collaboration with Professor James Curran on a series of projects looking at media and informed citizenship across countries, a great and enriching opportunity, thanks to which I managed to work in a thriving multidisciplinary and international environment, bringing a bit of psychology in the communication scene.

The main questions I am interested in addressing are: how do people learn about the world? What makes an individual feel a more effective and empowered member of society? Can media help developing a sense of citizenship? How? Do media pay a role in transmitting stereotypes and prejudice? How?  Can media help promoting social harmony? How?

For me, a Media Psychologist is essentially a team player, someone who collaborates with people from other disciplines to answer to these (and many other) questions, and proves particularly helpful in addressing the ‘How’ questions, thus looking at the underlying processes of the observed phenomena. A Media Psychologist has the advantage of being trained in using both qualitative and quantitative methods, and thus being able to select the method based on the question, rather than selecting questions based on the methods.

Media Psychology would therefore be an applied subject looking at the processes involved in the interaction of individuals with media.

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