Discover how you can improve modern media’s impact on our world with Emerson’s pioneering Bachelor of Science in Media Psychology.

In today’s plugged-in world, media’s influence shows up everywhere—in social media, gaming, telehealth and tele-therapy, distance and online education, entertainment consulting, virtual and augmented reality applications and therapies, and consumer products. But what are its implications?

Left brain collaborates with right brain in Media Psychology, which is both an art and a science—a specialized field of Psychology that explores how media affects our sensory and cognitive processes. When you pursue a degree in this fascinating field, you’ll explore cutting-edge ideas with real-world applications as you:

  • Analyze the psychological and social impacts of media and technology on individuals and groups
  • Learn to integrate media psychology into arts and communication fields
  • Use media and technology effectively, sensitively, and inclusively to engage locally and globally 

While the Media Psychology major will be part of the Department of Marketing Communication, its scope goes far beyond. You’ll have opportunities to collaborate and network with students in other schools, including the School of Communication, the School of the Arts, and the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Core Curriculum

Introduction to Psychology

A comprehensive introduction to psychology: the science of behavior and the mind. The goal of this course is to introduce students to the range of sub-disciplines, core ideas, and theoretical foundations that make up the field of psychology. Students study a variety of topics in which psychological processes are at work, including the human nervous system, sensation and perception, attention and consciousness, learning and memory, language and thinking, motivation and emotion, social perception and interaction, child and adult development, and mental illness and psychotherapy.

Media Psychology (First-Year Seminar)

This interdisciplinary team-taught first-year seminar will introduce students to the application of psychological science to analyze media design, production, and consumption, as well as the complex relationship between the individual and the media they create and consume. The course will apply principles of learning, motivation, persuasion, attention and cognition, and personal and social identity to analyze the use and psychological impact of emerging technologies. We will explore human motivation (e.g., What makes us click?), life in an attention economy, technological design, fundamentals of media literacy, and ways of seeing and being in virtual spaces.

Communication, Media, and Society

Introduces communication theory and the fundamental relationships that exist between communication systems and society. Emphasis is placed on the social, political, and economic context in which marketing communication emerged and evolved, and the role it plays in maintaining, expanding, and articulating our way of life.

Social Psychology

Introduces the discipline of social psychology. Examines how the behavior of individuals is influenced by their social environment. Topics include impression formation, persuasion, conformity, interpersonal attraction, helping behavior, aggression, and prejudice.

Methods of Inquiry in Media Psychology

This course introduces students to the fundamentals of scientific inquiry and research methods relevant to the field of Media Psychology. Students will explore a variety of established and emerging research designs, data collection techniques, and quantitative and qualitative forms of analysis. They will apply this knowledge to critically evaluate research claims from diverse sources and areas of media psychology practice, including education, design (game and other), public policy, marketing, media production and entertainment, technology development, and healthcare. The course will be research- and project-driven and will provide opportunities to engage with questions around the ethical and social implications of media and technology practices on individuals, groups, societies, and cultures.

Media Psychology Capstone

This capstone will give students the opportunity to apply media psychology theory and concepts to the design and delivery of a semester-long project in collaboration with a community or corporate partner.

Students will work in teams to develop a proposal aimed at addressing a research question or service gap/need, with applications in healthcare, education, media production, marketing, or public policy. Over the course of the semester, students will develop a proposal, design a research and production process and methodology, identify and collaborate with their community partner, and create a final product (e.g., a research report, media application, and/or intervention plan). The semester will end with a presentation of research outcomes to community and corporate partners and Media Psychology faculty. Students will be encouraged to seek questions and service needs from the field and to engage community members in the design, development, and evaluation of their final product.

Select one Research Methods Course:

Communication Research Methods

Teaches the use of social scientific methods of empirical research to investigate communication phenomena. Students learn how to become critical consumers of research and how to conduct empirical communication research. This course fuses basic research principles with theory and practice.

Ethnographic Methods & Cultural Analysis

Explores the tools and techniques of ethnography and their uses in defining and solving marketing research problems. Drawing from the traditions of participant observation in the fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology, and market research, the course applies ethnographic methods to the analysis of subcultures and behavioral minorities as well as transnational marketing communication. The focus throughout is on how to fathom the cultural differences that inform and impact consumer decision-making and marketing communication campaigns.

Quantitative & Qualitative Research Methods

Introduces the scientific method and the processes of primary quantitative and qualitative research in marketing communications. Marketing problems are identified, research objectives formulated, research design determined, questionnaires developed, sampling methods designed, data analyzed and interpreted. The various uses of research in targeting, positioning, product decision-making, messaging, and media utilization are demonstrated.

Survey Research Methods

Studies the research process from problem definition to survey design, sampling, data analysis, and interpretation of results. Students develop skills in reading and interpreting social scientific research and conducting forms of research pertinent to public and political communication needs.

Select one Media-based course:

Introduction to Interactive Media

Introduces audio physics, sound principles, and the theory and practice of audio recording and mixing. Emphasis is on concept development for sound production, signal routing and the mixer console, analog and digital audio recording, and editing techniques. Additional Course Costs: $50 to $75

Introduction to Narrative Drama

Introduces students to the personnel and techniques involved in the broad category of narrative fiction production. Emphasis is placed on organization and the translation of the script into a visual narrative. Students have the opportunity to hone their production skills on a variety of creative projects. The course also prepare students for advanced-level course work and BFAs in narrative fiction. Additional Course Costs: $100

Creative Concepts & Storytelling

Focuses on "the message" in marketing communications, as both the distinctive idea conveyed in a campaign and the many forms in which it is expressed. Advertising copywriting for broadcast and print is practiced, as is writing for blogs and long-form digital formats. Developing and growing stories, and provoking user-generated content to engage consumers across media platforms, is considered as well.

Digital Storytelling

Explores the nature of creativity, creative thinking, and visual storytelling through digital and social media platforms. It introduces students to single-camera photo/video production using a mobile device. Students learn how to operate equipment – mainly smartphones (iPhone/Android) and other devices such as iPads and tablets – as the tool for filming, editing, and online distribution. Emphasis is placed on fast-paced digital storytelling using nontraditional stages of preproduction, production, and postproduction. Students create a narrative visual portfolio with digital content that reflect course instruction.

Documentary Photography

Provides the foundation for a considered photographic investigation of an issue – cultural, political, ideological, or personal. Assignments require students to discover narrative possibilities while creating strong individual images. The course's technical components are supplemented by considerations of the history of documentary photography. Additional Course Costs: $450

Studies in Digital Media & Culture

Examines the dramatic shift in meaning and processes of contemporary communication by investigating the social, artistic, economic, and political implications of using digital ways of working. Topics include the Internet and the web, cyberspace and censorship, games, digital film and video, multimedia and interactivity, virtual reality, person-machine interfaces, and globalization considerations.

Advanced Topics in Media Psychology

This upper-level course takes a deeper look at the psychosocial impacts and ethics of media technology design and use. The course analyzes the evolution of communication platforms and their progressive and changing impacts on how we think, communicate, gather, and grow (or not) as human beings. Topics include a brief history of everyday devices; transitions in perception and cognition; styles and strategies of online discourse; norms and narratives of a private and public world; and raised by the internet – questions of psychological development in a media-saturated age.

Major Elective Courses

Media Psychology students can customize their learning experience by choosing from existing courses across disciplines in the School of Communication, the School of the Arts, and the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Courses from the School of the Arts

Course title Number of credits
Media Criticism and Theory 4 credits
Media, Arts, and Culture 4 credits
Topics in Media Arts: Personal Storytelling 4 credits
Communication Ethics and Cultural Diversity 4 credits
Cinema and Social Change 4 credits

Courses from the School of Communication

Course title Number of credits
Mental Health, Media, and Public Policy 4 credits
Crisis Communication 4 credits
Mediation, Facilitation, and Dialogue 4 credits
Disability in the Media 4 credits
Message, Media, and Channels 4 credits
Social Media: Connectivity, Interactivity, Buzz 4 credits
Media Planning and the Customer Journey 4 credits
Ethics for Journalists & Law and Journalists 4 credits
Reporting Issues of Diversity 4 credits
Interactive News 4 credits

Courses from the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies

Course title Number of credits
Souls for Sale 4 credits
War on Drugs 4 credits
Power and Public Spheres 4 credits
It’s Not Paranoia If They’re Really After You 4 credits
In the News: The Real, the Fake, and the Spectacle 4 credits
Civic Media in Action 4 credits
Abnormal Psychology 4 credits
Developmental Psychology 4 credits
Cognitive Psychology 4 credits
More than a Feeling: Explorations in Human Emotion 4 credits
Personal Growth and Adjustment 4 credits
Psychology of Prejudice 4 credits
Psychology of Relationships 4 credits
Narratives of Disorder 4 credits
Brain and Behavior 4 credits
Personal Growth and Identity 4 credits
Visual and Spatial Perception  4 credits