Department of Psychology Graduate Study

Department of Psychology Graduate Study

The Department of Psychology


Media Psychology and the Media Psychology Lab

Director - Dr. Stuart Fischoff; Research Coordinator - Jarod Young

The nation's first Media Psychology Lab opened in January, 1996 at Cal State University, Los Angeles, under the direction of Dr. Stuart Fischoff. Dr. Fischoff is the Senior Editor of the Journal of Media Psychology and founding President of Division 46 (Media) of APA in 1986. He instituted the nation's first course in Media Psychology at CSLA in 1990.

Currently there are three research projects either in development or underway with the students of media psychology at Cal State. One, a follow-up of previous research conducted in 1992, concerns the influence of film production creative elements such as storyline/plot, actors, cinematography, direction, writing, etc. on an individual's considering a film one of their all-time favorites. The survey research will also look into whether or not there are factors (roughly equivalent to Jung's notion of archetypes) that influence a film's popularity as favorite or memorable one and the extent to which viewer autobiographic resonances also contribute to a film's designation as an all-time favorite. Comparisons across age, gender and ethnicity will be made insofar as previous research by Dr. Fischoff has shown these demographics to yield significant differences.

A second research project concerns an experimental investigation of how ethnic/racial/cultural stereotypes are formed, maintained and changed through various mass media. Through the use of specially produced TV and print news stories, the study will compare the ease of positive or negative stereotype formation in both media, the ease or difficulty of changing a positive or negative group stereotype formed in one medium through input from a different medium and, whether or not electronic or visual media like TV or film dominate all other media in terms of determining impact. This research has particular relevance in contemporary society in that much of the education in schools and universities seeks to provide more complex explanations of the frequent destructive value or fallaciousness of group stereotypes via print media because research has consistently shown that exploring complex ideas via film or video is less than optimal. It may be that emotion-driven stereotypes require emotion-appealing visual input for effective change and that print discourse is relatively ineffectual in this regard.

Presently completing research on what various racial/ethnic groups find offensive to their own racial/ethnic group in Hollywood films. Data from a nation-wide sample of respondents reveals that different demographic groups focus on different categories of film portrayals offenses. For example, Blacks are most offended by criminal stereotypes, Asians are most offended by martial arts stereotypes while Hispanics are most sensitive to low aptitude portrayals. Results will be presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association Convention in Boston in 1999.

Students participating in this research are both male and female graduate and undergraduate students at Cal State Los Angeles and represent a wide diversity of racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Their creative input into the research questions, experimental design and data collection, as well as the diversity of students, faculty and staff at Cal State which will constitute the dominant research pool of subjects and respondents, provides an important methodological assurance: It will guarantee that the media research results will strongly represent the diversity of opinion, attitudes, values and behaviors of our increasingly multi-cultural society rather than continue the tradition of having most of such research reflect primarily a dominant racial or ethnic group.


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