Most psychologists and people in kindred fields like communications studies, journalism or sociology, largely address the negative effects on young people inflicted by such mass media as television, film, or popular music lyrics, effects such as promoting violence or premature or ill-considered sex. Concerns about gender conditioning, sexism, racism, ageism, etc., are also in evidence, numerically but pale in comparison with concerns and studies about sex and violence.
DEFINITION OF MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY
Media psychology uses the theories, concepts and methods of psychology to study the impact of the mass media on individuals, groups, and cultures. But this definition is too broad to be very useful, and it ignores the very dynamic and reciprocal nature of media and people or consumers.
More specifically, media psychology is concerned with the inter and intra-personal psychological dimensions underlying the impact and use of any medium of communication, irrespective of the nature of the subject matter being communicated. The key delimiting definitional element in this view is that such interpersonal communication is accomplished by way of something other than face-to-face, oral-aural communication. In other words, media psychology is concerned with the social and psychological parameters of communications between people that are mediated by some technology or conduit other than simply air.
Disciplines are as much defined by what they exclude as what they embrace; by what they are not as much as what they are. To wit, media psychology is not concerned with the dynamics of speech as a form of communications per se. Nor is it concerned with the science and technology behind devices for mediated communications per se. Media psychology is not concerned, for example, with speech pathology except insofar as such pathology is better understood, obscured, or affected by some mediated influence. Hence, it is of possible interest to media psychology that the use of print as a communications vehicle can hide or obscure a speech impediment such that people who correspond via the Internet and who have any sort of speech impediment, can eliminate it from the ongoing communication equation. It is of definite interest to media psychology if someone consciously uses text messaging, email and/or Internet chat rooms precisely because these media obscure their speech impediment thereby effectively and favorably altering their self perception and self presentations.
Many practitioners in the field of media psychology apply and ply their various skills, training and expertise in a variety of arenas. Not only do they teach courses in the field but also do research on media issues, appear in print and electronic media as interviewees and columnists. They also advise various media organizations including movie studios, independent filmmakers, television networks, screenwriters, producers and directors, on the myriad aspects of human behavior and how such information might be most accurately portrayed in the media. Useful advice to media organizations, however, requires more than knowledge of psychology; it requires knowledge of how media function as well as an understanding of the media's need to strike a balance between accuracy values and entertainment purposes. In sum, media psychology is principally interested in all forms of mediated communications and their related effects on both senders and receivers. To fully appreciate the discipline, we must look more extensively at its embrace, its purview.
CONCLUSION OF MEDIA PSYCHOLOGY
Media psychology is concerned with a wide swath of human behavior, especially so in an increasingly media-dominated society. Its purview captures the worlds of entertainment, advertising and their short, long-term impact on values, attitudes and behavior. It explores the media as they exert influence on social, educational and strategic communications, on Information Technology and telecommunications, on politics and sports, on ideology and on religion, on war and peace and on diplomacy and terrorism, and on physical and psychological wellbeing.
Media Psychology analyzes how media cover great or tragic moments that come to define a culture, such as the first walk on the moon or the last moments of a fallen president. These same media not only help define a culture, images, values and accomplishments to the eyes and imaginations of those in many other world communities. These images and implicit values oftentimes parade promises, visions and life styles that strike the fancy of some and arouse fear and outrage in others. To understand the ramifications of cultural commerce in this emotionally charged symbolism is a highly placed item on the intellectual menu of media psychology.
Arguably, the field of media psychology may be the study of a religion. The forces of media create the celebrity gods we both adore and hate. They create the means by which we come to understand ourselves and evaluate others. They provide the intellectual, spiritual and hedonic manna that fills our senses and alternately crystallize or cloud our thoughts. They inspire the dreams of our ambitions and the demons of our nightmares.
The media business and creative elements, whether they fully appreciate it or not, constitute a priest class that has the power to move us and to shake us. They create the songs to be sung, the instruments on which they are composed and performed, and designate who are to be the performer demigods of the moment.
To study media psychology is, in the final scene, to study how humans represent themselves to themselves through lenses, through harmonics and through spectra and how humans send these self-images across time and space in a fierce proclamation of existence.
The media is devoutly a reflection of its creators, in all their mediated reflection, incarnation, aspiration and rumination. To study this remarkable panoply is to study the creators and their creations. It is to come to understand their arenas of work and arenas of play, their things of work and their things of play.
Media technology, embodied in celestial eyes or terrestrial cameras, provide witness to our private thoughts and public forays. In time, magical media machines will offer virtual paradises for those seeking the safe remove from a too-demanding world or provide the thrill of the dangerous, the forbidden or the unattainable for those for whom such sojourns are either materially unavailable or personally inconceivable. What about the handiwork of transcendent mortals could offer such dangerous wonders? In the beginning there was the word. In the beginning there was the image. And in the beginning there was the voice. Media psychology is about this trilogy. It is about all that is human and all that is of interest to humans. Humans interest humans, humans in word, in sound, in image.
Media psychology found its inspirational roots more than 90 years ago within the discipline of social psychology and in the early work of social psychologist Hugo Münsterberg concerning the psychology and the psychological impact of film. Published in 1916 under the title, The Photoplay: A Psychological Study, it was the first empirical study of an audience reacting to a film. Münsterberg also provided such a keen analysis of a screenplay's (then called a photoplay) grammar of visual construction and nascent cinematic conventions and their psychological impact on the audience, that his incisive words still echo today in numerous film school lecture halls and classroom seminars.
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