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History of Div. 46 – The Society for Media Psychology and Technology

The official emergence of media psychology as a field is attributed to the formation of the Media Psychology Div. 46 in the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1986 (Fischoff, 2005).  The establishment of an official division in the APA was an important milestone in legitimizing media psychology as a field and in clarifying and unifying its goals and purpose. Many early Div. 46 members were clinicians (Giles, 2003) and initial priorities focused on using media to distribute psychological information, such as hosting programs and providing expert opinions, and the accurate representation of mental illness and psychological treatment in entertainment media. A seminal report by Luskin and Friedland (1998) established new thresholds for identifying the expanding occupations and roles in media psychology to meet the needs of an increasingly digital world. Since then, not only has the division's stated definition broadened but the members' interests and research have expanded along with the evolving media landscape and technological developments, such as social and mobile technologies (Rutledge, 2012).

There are some misconceptions about “media psychology” due to it's clinical and mass media roots.  However, looking at the history of activity among division members and through division initiatives indicates how broad and technology-oriented the division has been for many years. Our members have been presenting symposia and papers on the forefront of media psychology, digital media and new technologies over the past several decades.  They have published an impressive number of articles, books and offered workshops focused on the intersection of human experience and media technologies across industries and applications, from healthcare and education to media ethics and entertainment.

As early as 1993, an article in the Div. 46 newsletter, The Amplifier, discussed interactive media technologies. The Amplifier continues to showcase the range and depth of member activities and special topics in the field of Media Psychology and Technology.

In 1996, the division established a committee called "Media and New Technologies."  This longstanding committee was renamed "Telehealth and New Technologies" to reflect the role of technology in all aspects of healthcare and quality of life.  Recently, the committee has established three targeted subcommittees; understanding and promoting best practices in media literacy; the impact of new and emerging technologies, and the practical and ethical issues surrounding telehealth.

Division materials and programming at the APA National Convention highlight the wide range of interests.  In 1999, the division's membership brochure highlighted “Psychologists at the Forefront in Media and New Technologies,” and in 2001 the division's APA Convention program featured presentations entitled, “Computer Distorting Technology; Interactive Media-Based Tools for the Chronically Ill,”  “Clinical Outcome Data on Virtual Reality Therapy in Psychology,” and “E-Therapy: Emergence of a New Field and Industry.”

In 2010, Div. 46 programming including a panel segment for global women's issues called “The Impact of Social Media on Self-Representation and Self-Image.”  In 2011 our Convention program featured symposia on such technology topics as “Innovative Technologies for Psychological Intervention, Consultation and Training,” “Media and Social Change,” and “Psychological Services via Technology in Australia and the United States.”  This trend to embrace emerging technologies along with legacy media continues.

In 2012, members presented on the positive impact of video games, the emergence of transmedia storytelling in marketing and education, and a professional's guide to using traditional and social media.  

The 2013 Convention program theme was “Media Psychology and Technology:  Avatars, Telehealth, Twitter, oh My!” and introduced some innovative use of media alongside programming, such as the use of Augmented Reality video synopses.  Panels included experts in the field of media literacy, emerging technologies and augmented reality and the use of mobile apps, telehealth and virtual reality to help military personnel and veterans.  For a full listing of our most recent convention programming, see the News and Events page.

In 2012, almost forty years after its inception, the division board voted to officially changed the name from the Media Psychology Division to the Society for Media Psychology and Technology in order to celebrate the diversity of member interests and to honor the wide range of contributions to the field of media psychology.

  • Fischoff, Stuart. (2005). Media Psychology: A Personal Essay in Definition and Purview. Journal of Media Psychology, 10(1).
  • Giles, David C. (2003). Media Psychology. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Luskin, B. J., & Friedland, Lilli. (1998). Task Force Report: Media Psychology and New Technologies. Washington D.C.: Media Psychology Division 46 of the American Psychological Association.
  • Rutledge, Pamela Brown. (2012). Arguing for a Distinct Field of Media Psychology. In K. Dill (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology (pp. 43-58). New York: Oxford University Press.
Date created: 2014