The Media Psychology doctorate was the first of its kind in a School of Psychology, offering a nonclinical PhD degree with a pathway master’s earned along the way . The program focuses on understanding the relationships between media and behavior and offers optional concentrations in:
- Positive Psychology and Media
- Psychology and Audience Engagement
- Social Media Research
In addition, students may structure their elective choices to fulfill concentrations offered by School of Leadership Studies (SLS) doctoral programs or the IECD doctoral program. For the full list of SLS concentration offerings, see Doctoral Concentrations .
Students customize their graduate program under the supervision of a faculty advisor.
The objective of the program is to prepare students to (1) understand the development, use and effect of media from psychological perspectives, (2) advance society’s understanding of media and its effects through psychological research, and (3) apply their knowledge and skills in settings such as education, entertainment, the media industry, health, business and marketing, and public policy.
Graduates of the Media psychology doctoral program, gain an expertise of psychology to apply to media and technology. They can explore the ways in which cognition, emotion, and instinct can influence human responses to different media stimuli and alter technological impact. Graduates can use these skills to anticipate consumption and use patterns, look for leverageable solutions to global problems, promote technology design that promotes economic, social, and environmental progress.
Media psychologists are finding new roles across multiple domains. Fortune 100 companies, for example, increasingly recognize the need for applying media psychology to organizational communications, structure, products and strategy. Our graduates have innovated new roles working with companies like Mozilla, Fox Films, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom and Disney among others, as well as crafting new business and consulting opportunities and developing successful advocacy campaigns. Special projects within the program give students the opportunity to have real-life experience during the course of their education. Recent projects include partnering with the Department of Defense deconstructing the narrative, cognitive and neuroscience triggers of terrorism in the social space and developing brand-aligned corporate social responsibility programs for companies like Grub Hub.
Effective date: 09/01/2022
Core (10 courses, 40 credits)
Research Skills Seminars (4 credits)
Electives (choose 20 credits)
Choose elective credits from courses below. General electives from courses with subject code ELC or HOD may also apply.
Total Semester Credits: 82
Students in the Media Psychology PhD program can concentrate their studies in one of the program options listed below, or, if matriculated into the Fall 2016 catalog or later, can choose to take their program electives in other concentrations offered through the School of Leadership Studies. In this way, students can individualize their doctoral program and expand their professional expertise. Each concentration typically includes a minimum of three tailored courses and access to a community of scholar-practitioners who are passionate about this specialized field of study.
Positive Psychology and Media Concentration
This concentration has a global perspective to explore ways in which global broadcast and narrowcast media make an impact in society, and how these media are harnessed to actively promote the advancement of social concerns. Students examine the major tenets of positive psychology and how they are can be applied to media and beyond. Students assess the use and misuse of traditional media (radio and television), the classical entertainment media (film, theatre, art and music) and the “new” media (internet, social networks, blogs, virtual worlds, and cell phone technologies) in reaching their desired audiences and convincing them of anything.
A dissertation focused on positive psychology and media is required.
Psychology & Audience Engagement Concentration
This concentration combines the cognitive and narrative psychologies of branding and storytelling with the power of social psychology to engage customers, promote ideas and influence behaviors across media technology platforms. Creating and applying transmedia storytelling to messaging is a complex proposition that demands the integration of multiple elements: the media environment, narrative structure and meaning, audience psychology, media and technology attributes, audience targeting, and process management and evaluation. Storytelling in the new media environment demands a new approach to building stories and storyworlds that create an immersive experience. The ability to apply theory to practice is becoming the standard because it increases profitability, sustainability and engagement. Social impact comes from a robust, integrative and vibrant campaign that extends reach in an increasingly fractured environment.
People have high expectations thanks to the ubiquity of technology, real time data, 24/7 connectivity and social media. Audience profiling allows us to identify and understand the audience, to be sensitive to their individual differences and cultural context. This allows us to be able to create satisfying and engaging user messages, services, and products. It is equally important in order to develop strategies that use resources wisely. Every individual has a story. We use the persona development process to identify the audience’s story. This course teaches psychology by deconstructing human behavior into meaning, identity, perception and motivation. Using qualitative research, semiotic and narrative analysis, and frame analysis, concentration students develop a persona that can inform communication and content development and supports a wide range of applications, including user experience, education, social advocacy, political influence, marketing strategy, fundraising, design, campaigning and recruitment.
A dissertation focused on a topic relevant to psychology and audience engagement.
Social Media Research Concentration
The Social Media Research Concentration prepares students to be effective psychological researchers in evolving digital media contexts. Courses show students how to apply foundational research skills to social media and explores the emerging contours of digital social life. Students learn a psychological approach to understanding social media in conjunction with the technical expertise to successfully carry out their own social media research. Social media research methods are valued skills in business, non-profit, and academic roles; and the concentration prepares students for a wide variety of cutting-edge careers.
Concentration objectives include:
- To build upon quantitative and qualitative research methods skills in preparation for social media research
- To understand concepts like data collection, sampling, validity, and limitations as these apply to social media research
- To understand the logic of platform design and the role of algorithms in enabling and constraining discourse and relationships on social media that may impact research questions
- To understand the role of theory in social media research
- Develop awareness of social justice components to social media research: surveillance; overrepresentation of certain voices and marginalization of other voices on social media
- Develop training and proficiency in the use of social media research platforms
The concentration will have an applied component requirement where students will design and carry out a social media research project that will allow them to demonstrate expertise, allowing them to substantiate on their CVs their deep knowledge of social media research.
A dissertation focused on a topic relevant to social media research.