President’s Column: The Role of Media Psychology and Technology in Enhancing Five Core Behaviors for Promoting Good

Jerri Lynn Hogg

Jerri Lynn Hogg

Jerri Lynn Hogg, PhD

Media and technology fuel our daily lives from the ping of the incoming email to the buzz of our wearable wristband alerting us to get up and move around for a moment. Many media and new technologies allow us to be better versions of ourselves and to create a better society.

Being Agentic, Staying Socially Connected, Staying Motivated, Emotional Regulation, and Staying Engaged are five core human behaviors that can be enhanced by media and technology to promote common good.

1. Being Agentic

You can now learn how to make the perfect Margarita, design and program an app, and change the oil in your car by watching YouTube videos. Take it one step farther, Augmented Reality (AR) can help guide surgeons by placing important information as images over a body as they operate, change student interactions in the classroom with chemistry elements represented in 4D, and provide solutions to environmental problems using mobile overlays to locate water sources. The augmented information provided by multimedia AR helps not only in carrying out complex tasks, but also in generating a sense of personal control or agency. In turn, this consequent stronger sense of personal agency can contribute to a higher sense of wellbeing, creating a significant potential for engaging in work that benefits the society at large.

2. Staying Social Connected

As social animals, a primary human need is for human connection. Through friendships we can share common thoughts and feelings, goals and passions, and in close friendships we can express feelings of trust, empathy, and the willingness to help each other. In the aftermath of devastation in Nepal we learn how to help, how to make meaning of the event, and for some, how to connect with loved ones living in Nepal. Social media facilitate making connections. In a few hours the American Red Cross was able to put relief efforts in place and distribute donation links via social media. Apple linked customers to the American Red Cross through iTunes. Facebook has a community space called Facebook Safety Check where you can quickly find and connect with friends in the disaster area map. Users are asked to mark friends off if they are OK.   Google has a similar device called Person Finder; it operates as a missing person database.

Social media has facilitated social connections by generating a space for checking in on family and friends (are they alright?) and a place to process and grieve disaster events. For more information on how support communities develop over social media after a natural disaster see Peck (2012).

3. Staying Motivated

The latest technology in wearable devices assists us in staying motivated. We now have a means to track our exercise (caloric burn), sleep patterns, and food intake. Recording successes sustains motivation to engage in positive behaviors. We also know that regular exercise increases mental wellbeing, reduces stress, and assists in minimizing pain. Find out more about the newest wearable technology and the positive psychological benefits at my presidential address at the 2015 APA convention in Toronto, Canada.

4. Regulating Emotion

Ed Diener and Shigehiro Oishi asked over 10,000 participants from 48 countries about their most desired life outcomes. Happiness rated number one and more important than being rich or getting into heaven. “Happify” is just one of several mobile applications with games and activities designed to help you be healthier and happier.   Some track your mood and others, like Happify, are scientifically based to change thought patterns. If we are primed to be happy before we start a task, we do better at the task.

5. Staying Engaged

Engagement is achieved by being immersed in activity. Engagement links closely with motivation and social connection. We are motivated to engage when we see others participating in the same activity. Building meaningful relationships and mutual behaviors can help sustain focused attention, which is not easy to achieve in our multitasking, distracted culture preoccupied with digital searches. The visual imagery of social networks such as Pintrest and Instagram and other social networks helps generate social capital (such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+) that in turn contributes to developing more meaningful relationships for deeper engagement.


Diener, E., & Oishi, S. (2005). The nonobvious social psychology of happiness. Psychological Inquiry, 16, 162-167.

Peck, D. S. (2012). Constructing meaning amidst tragedies within social media groups. ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing.

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