Media Psychology

The Stanford Department of Communication has long been a pioneer in studying the relationships between digital media, psychology and behavior. In the early nineties, Clifford Nass and his graduate students were among the first in the world to empirically examine constructs such as agency and anthropomorphism. Soon thereafter Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass published their landmark book, The Media Equation, which set the stage for a new research paradigm based on the notion that the brain has not evolved to differentiate mediated experiences from actual ones. Indeed, one of the fastest growing divisions of the International Communication Association, Communication and Technology, is substantially based on the work of Stanford scholars.

Currently, the area focuses on a number of ways in which digital media affect people. Jeremy Bailenson directs the Virtual Human Interaction Lab and studies the phenomenon of digital human representation, especially in the context of immersive virtual reality. Jeff Hancock uses computational linguistics to analyze interpersonal relations in social media. Gabriella Harari studies the ways the digital technologies we use everyday reveal our personality structures and shape our life outcomes. Byron Reeves utilizes physiological measures to understand media effects in multiplayer game technology, and develops applications for using those networked games to address critical issues such as global warming.

Students and faculty in the media psychology area collaborate frequently with other departments on campus. Current Communication faculty have active collaborations with scholars in computer science, education, psychology, engineering, linguistics, the business school, and MediaX. The department also draws a steady stream of visits from new media technology researchers.

Selected Graduates

  • Grace Ahn, Ph.D. 2011, Assistant Professor, University of Georgia
  • Jesse Fox, Ph.D. 2010, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University
  • Vanessa Vega, Ph.D. 2010, Research Associate, Rockman Et Al, UC Berkely, Dept. of Media Studies
  • Leila Takayama, Ph.D. 2008, Acting Associate Professor of Psychology at UC Santa Cruz
  • Nick Yee, Ph.D. 2007, Co-Founder and Analytics Lead, Quantic Foundry
  • Kwan Min Lee, Ph.D. 2002, Associate Professor, University of Southern California
  • Eun-Ju Lee, Ph.D. 2000, Professor, Seoul National University
  • Katherine Isbister, Ph.D. 1998, Professor, Department of Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz
  • Youngme Moon, Ph.D. 1996, Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School
  • S. Shyam Sundar, Ph.D. 1995, Distinguished Professor, Penn State University