Some Directions in Media Research

Craig A. Anderson, PhD
Iowa State University
caa@iastate.edu

I thank the Division 46 members and leaders for selecting me as a Distinguished Lifetime Contributions to Media Psychology & Technology recipient. It is gratifying to have my (and my dozens of co-authors) work on media effects validated by such an important group of peers.

I’ve been a fan of electronic media since childhood and became of fan of video games when that technology first emerged. I killed my first Klingon in about 1979, playing a Star Trek game on Stanford’s mainframe computer. A cursory look at my media-related publications might suggest that I and my co-authors hate video games or violent media. An in-depth look would reveal three perhaps unexpected facts about me and my research teams: (a) we were among the first to show the positive effects of prosocial games, in experimental, cross-sectional, and longitudinal studies; (b) we have repeatedly called for more research on how to use electronic technologies and their powerful socialization effects for positive/prosocial uses; (c) we’ve never called for outright censorship on any types of games.

We’ve repeatedly stated that scientific expertise is only one aspect of creating good public policies. We mostly have suggested that it would be useful to increase the general public’s knowledge about the scientific facts of mass media effects and to improve tools that parents (and others) could use to make scientifically informed decisions about children’s media diets.

Perhaps more useful to Division 46 members, especially to newer scholars, would be suggestions on where I think the field is, and can or should be moving. Here are a few thoughts.

1. Rapid climate change is the most critical crisis faced by all of humanity in recent history. Although there is some research on the many failures of mass media (especially social media) in terms of climate science denialism, much more needs to be done. One important task for media psychology scholars is to do more research into how mass media science can be used to help solve the problem. For example, more experimental studies are needed on how to design and modify video games and social media platforms to improve the general public’s understanding of this crisis and to change behavior in ways that reduce the global warming itself, and that change behavior and policies in ways that ameliorate the ensuing human disasters (e.g., ecomigration, starvation, war). I’ve been writing on this for over two decades, with little progress. Recently, however, the psychological aspects of both global warming and its consequences on humanity seem to be gaining some traction in the climate change community. But even in our forthcoming monograph (Miles‐Novelo & Anderson, In Press), we had to fight to keep any aspects of how media can, do, and could play important roles in the climate change crisis. I strongly encourage greater involvement by this Division’s members in conducting research to address climate change. Doing so will help you make a significant positive impact on society and build and/or enhance your scientific careers.

2. Related to #1, there are many opportunities for media scholars to address the fact vs. misinformation problems that have exploded in the last decade. In the U.S., of course, COVID19 provides a good example of the harm done by misinformation. Some fact/misinformation studies are already being published by a few media scholars, but much more is needed. Collaborations with existing social media, video games, and other electronic media industries might be particularly useful. Likewise, working with game development experts (often in education, communication, and computer engineering departments) will likely prove valuable.

3. A third area that is growing but needs more input from media scholars concerns electronic media effects—both positive and negative—on the brain. There have been numerous self-report and behavioral measures studies examining effects on various cognitive and emotional skills and tendencies, but relatively few that use EEG, fMRI, eye-tracking, stress hormones, and similar brain-related activity measures. Some of these measurement technologies are becoming less expensive, easier to use, and more available to researchers, and they provide unique ways to study media effects. I’ve been particularly intrigued by some of the media-use effects on basic attention processes and skills, and related emotion-regulation processes.

I hope that these comments and selected references prove useful to all of my media scholar peers in Division 46 and beyond.

References

Anderson, C. A. (2014). Violent, nonviolent, and prosocial gaming effects on teens’ civic engagement. Oxford Handbooks Online. New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935291.013.002

Anderson, C. A., Bushman, B. J., Donnerstein, E., Hummer, T. A., & Warburton, W. (2015). SPSSI research summary on media violence. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 15, 4-19.

Anderson, C. A., & Gentile, D.A. (2008). Media violence, aggression, and public policy. In E. Borgida & S. Fiske (Eds.), Beyond Common Sense: Psychological Science in the Courtroom (pp. 281-300). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Anderson, C. A., Gentile, D.A., & Buckley, K.E. (2007). Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy. New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195309836.001.0001

Bailey, K., West, R., & Anderson, C. A. (2011). The influence of video games on social, cognitive, and affective information processing. Chapter in J. Decety & J. Cacioppo (Eds.) Handbook of Social Neuroscience. (pp. 1001-1011). New York: Oxford University Press.

Gentile, D.A., & Anderson, C. A. (2006). Violent video games: The Effects on youth and public policy implications. Chapter in N. Dowd, D. G. Singer, & R. F. Wilson (Eds.), Handbook of Children, Culture, and Violence (pp. 225-246). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Gentile, D. A., Anderson, C. A., & Sakamoto, A. (2009). The effects of prosocial video games on prosocial behaviors: International evidence from correlational, experimental, and longitudinal studies. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 752-763.

Gentile, D.A., Saleem, M., & Anderson, C. A. (2007). Public policy and the effects of media violence on children. Social Issues and Policy Review, 1, 15-61.

Gentile, D. A., Swing, E. L., … & Thomas, K. M. (2016). Differential neural recruitment during violent video game play in violent and nonviolent game players. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 5, 39-51.

Hummer, T. A., Kronenberger, W. G., Wang, Y., & Mathews, V. P. (2019). Decreased prefrontal activity during a cognitive inhibition task following violent video game play: A multi-week randomized trial. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 8(1), 63-75.

Miles-Novelo, A., & Anderson, C. A. (2019). Climate change and psychology: Effects of rapid global warming on violence and aggression. Current Climate Change Reports, 5, 36-46.  

Miles‐Novelo, A. and Anderson, C. A. (in press). Climate Change and Human Behavior: Impacts of a Rapidly Changing Climate on Human Aggression and Violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Prot, S., Gentile, D. G., … & Lam, B. C. P. (2014). Long-term relations between prosocial media use, empathy and prosocial behavior. Psychological Science, 25, 358 –368.

West, R., Swing, E. L., Anderson, C. A., & Prot, S. (2020). The contrasting effects of an action video game on visuo-spatial processing and proactive cognitive control. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, 5160; doi:10.3390/ijerph17145160 (Co-editors’

Note:Craig Anderson was a recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Lifetime Contributions to Media Psychology and Technology Award from  the APA Society for Media Psychology and Technology.)

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