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Online Masters Courses – Media Psychology – Curriculum

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The Master of Arts in Media Psychology curriculum consists of the following requirements:

  • Term 1: MSC-564 is required; take additional course if full-time
  • Terms 1-3: MSC-551 and MSC-554 are required within the first three terms of study.
  • Subsequent terms:
    • Choose 6 electives from: MSC 552, 553, 555, 557, 558, 560, 562, 563, 566-569 
    • MSC 601 (Capstone)
You will complete 40 semester credits of coursework in order to graduate. 
Effective: 09/01/2015

To view course descriptions, click on the hyperlinked course number/title below. Printing the page will print all course descriptions.

Required Courses

MSC-551 Introduction to Media Psychology, 4 semester credits
Media Psychology has emerged as a significant field of study as individuals and society at large grapple with the proliferation of media and communication technologies. Media psychology applies psychological theory to understanding the way this new media landscape impacts the use, experience, and production of media technologies across all economic sectors. This understanding is relevant to applications and careers in telecommunications, education, entertainment, public policy, law, politics, advertising, healthcare, and education. This course is an overview of the emerging field of media psychology. We will discuss the implications for research and practice of how we define the field. We will analyze the impact of mediated communication on content and message perception, drawing on developmental psychology, sensory and cognitive psychology, systems theory, positive psychology, and motivation and learning theories. We will evaluate the psychological implications of traditional and emerging technologies as users and content-producers. Students will develop an understanding of how media affects individuals and cultures and how media can be used for socially constructive purposes. We will consider how media research is interpreted and presented to the public, how social media has redefined the way people, businesses, and groups connect, how media technologies can facilitate learning, and the societal implications of continuing technological change.
MSC-554 Foundations of Research, 4 semester credits
The goals of research include observing, understanding, generalizing, testing, predicting, and validating. This course examines how scientists experience, describe, understand, and explain the world. The focus will be on the different approaches to asking questions in media psychology research and the connection of research to practice. Students will learn about procedures for investigating specific research questions, become familiar with qualitative and quantitative approaches to research, and learn the ethical and legal standards related to research with human participants. Students will be introduced to the ease with which data can be analyzed using software such as SPSS. Although this is not a course in statistics, students will gain an understanding about the concepts underlying common statistical procedures. The link between research and analysis of data will be illustrated with examples from published studies in scientific literature. Ultimately, students completing this course will become skilled at critically reading and evaluating research.
MSC-564 Argumentation: The Art of Critical Writing, 4 semester credits
Bernays, Churchill, King, Lincoln, and Paine were some of the most effective and articulate communicators in our history. They understood the power of the pen as well as the importance of argumentation and persuasion. The art of critical writing is a foundational tool in navigating social issues and change. Students in this course investigate various writers and their respective arguments as they relate to the change promoted. During the first half of the course, students learn the foundational aspects of argumentation and critical writing by interacting with various historical documents. The second half of the class includes discussions of Bernays, Twain, and Zarefsky—as well as crafting arguments for a cause or action using the tools of rhetoric.
MSC-601 Media Psychology Capstone Project, 4 semester credits
The Capstone course is the culmination of the work in the MSC program. The purpose is for the student to demonstrate the synthesis of the knowledge gained from the program and present that achievement in a way that reflects their proficiency in applying concepts in a personally and social relevant way. Different professional and academic settings are increasingly using digital or electronic communications in both practical and pedagogical applications. This trend impacts administrative and learning functions as well as commercial and professional opportunities. Central to this process becomes how an individual presents him or herself digitally and how that presentation is received. Historically, individuals have created their identities in many ways through representations of self. The proliferation of media, information access, and the pressure to conserve resources imply that digital identities will play an increasingly important role in social and business applications. The increasingly porous boundaries between media platforms and tools require that our presentation of personal and professional selves must be increasingly integrated and authentic. The capstone examines the psychological components of digital identity across multiple media applications in the context of presenting the accumulation of knowledge from the MSC program. The results will be a digital portfolio representative of a student’s professional identity and pro-social goals. During the course of the capstone project, the student will assemble their works while examining identity relative to digital presence. These include agency, reflected self, presence, authenticity, narrative, constructed self, fantasy, social modeling, and collected experiences across time that serve witness to personal evolution by studying the theoretical works that articulate these considerations. Each student will develop a capstone project that illustrates the development of their thought and evaluation of self in their individual work
Pre-requisites: Students should register for Capstone in their last term.

Elective Courses

MSC-552 Global Psychology: Social Marketing in a Borderless World, 4 semester credits
We use a global perspective in this course to explore ways in which global broadcast and narrowcast media make an impact in society, and how these media are harnessed to actively promote the advancement of social concerns. We assess the use and misuse of traditional media (radio and television), the classical entertainment media (film, theatre, art and music) and the “new” media (internet, social networks, blogs, virtual worlds, and cell phone technologies) in reaching their desired audiences and convincing them of anything. We explore the techniques of social marketing --adapted from advertising -- for influencing attitudes and behavior. Students investigate media reach and the new forms of digital divides, and then explore media for social activism, including psychological concepts of empathy, altruism, persuasion and influence, all central to the theory and practice of social marketing. Readings emphasize the analysis of social campaign case studies, preparing students for a final project that combines media and psychology to advance a local or global social cause meaningful to them personally. Other class assignments emphasize active asynchronous discussion, short written work practicing a variety of media styles, and a team project to gain experience in the dispersed teamwork typical of global media campaigns.
MSC-553 Story Psychology: Changing Minds through Narrative, 4 semester credits
This course addresses the importance of storytelling in Western civilization, culminating in narrative formats used in text, television, film, digital media, and social media. Study the psychology behind how stories originate, evolve, and impact individuals and our media culture. Explore a broad range of narratives and narrative styles and their relationships with personal and social development. Instruction emphasizes conventions of mythology and storytelling as well as literary and cultural issues, the role of media and modes of transmission, and the relationships between narratives and social change. The class will apply established narrative theory in novel ways to better understand modern media, and will include the creation of an original independent digital narrative.
MSC-555 Positive Psychology and the Social Entrepreneur, 4 semester credits
What character traits, emotions, and personal virtues contribute to human fulfillment and happiness? How can media serve to promote the development of these qualities at the individual, group, and organizational level? Throughout this course, students will explore the scientific discipline known as positive psychology as it relates to media consumption and development. Positive psychology is an emerging field of psychology that transcends the clinical disease model and serves to examine the source and nature of human strengths. Students will gain an understanding of the symbiotic and interdependent relationship between pro-social media and human traits such as optimism, resilience, creativity and compassion.
MSC-557 Media and Political Psychology: Propaganda & Persuasion, 4 semester credits
For decades, media has been relied upon to call attention to policy conflicts and to identify likely alternatives available to those seeking a resolution. In short-to define the public agenda. Interactive multimedia, blogs, social networks, virtual worlds, and other innovations are changing public discourse and those who shape it. Yet a major question remains unanswered: how do voters and consumers actually process information? What is the connection between political technique, political conviction and appeal to the heart and to the mind? This course focuses on political and advocacy psychology, and what happens when reason and emotion collide. What determines how people vote? How does one side in the political debate claim the political narrative? Why do people choose to support one cause over another? In any media, those who create advocacy and political messages seek to shape a narrative, to tell a convincing story that makes events come alive. Upon completion of this course, students will understand the application of Agenda Setting Theory to traditional print and television, and to newer Internet based media. We will explore and assess the link between media, message, and the political mind.
MSC-558 Cognitive Psychology and the Display of Information, 4 semester credits
For almost two generations, content creators have repeated Marshall McLuhan's "law" as if it were a mantra. "The Medium is the Message (or Massage)" became the guiding principle of film and television producers, music distributors and all manner of content creators. One after another they pronounced themselves platform agnostics. They were not only hoping that convergence was real, they were betting on it. The idea was simple: whatever was created could readily move from one medium to another, generating revenue along the way. Initially things looked good. Film moved to DVD to cable to television and to the small screen on the airplane seat back. The content creator was in control. Content was king. Things looked good - until they didn't. Convergence assumes that the cross-device user experience is the same, or at least similar. While it doesn't take a psychologist to explain that viewing Lawrence of Arabia on a PDA is different than in its original cinemascope format, this difference is where the cognitive action lies. Increasingly, content creators need to consider both their target delivery device and the principles of cognitive psychology driving the user experience. This course explains the impact of cognitive psychology on devices, visual display, and content design.
MSC-560 The Psychology of Social Media Strategy, 4 semester credits
This course examines how the Internet and social technologies have reshaped society by transforming information distribution and human connection. The traditional one-to-many communications model is now a many-to-many social web. We live in a networked and participatory culture, where the lines are blurring among technologies and the traditionally distinct roles of producers, distributors, and consumers. We access and distribute information and interact with others unconstrained by time, culture, and geography. We will study how the new media landscape is adjusting our assumptions about how we relate to others, how we engage and participate socially, politically, and commercially. This course examines social media and emerging technologies and applications by integrating psychological theory with practice. We will draw primarily from social psychology in the areas of social cognition, attitudes and persuasion, social construction of meaning, collaboration and group interaction, and the social implications of self-efficacy and agency. Students will gain an understanding of the psychological shifts that are driving trends such as social entrepreneurship, transmedia narratives, and collaborative culture. We will also discuss the properties of networks and systems that are fundamental to social media applications. Drawing on readings and case studies, we will establish a theoretical foundation for effectively using social media applications in business, education, politics, social relationships, and to effect positive social change. We will discuss how different tools, technologies, and platforms support or hinder human goals and what the technology du jour implies about social and individual behavior and expectations.
MSC-562 Innovation, Learning and Online Education, 4 semester credits
This course focuses on an integrated study of human development with implications for educational psychology. It aims at familiarizing students with major theories of human development with particular emphasis on learning using innovative and digital environment. The interrelationship among motivation, learning, and educational factors that influence human development will be examined. Anytime, anywhere – this characterizes the technology-based culture today. Harnessing the positive energy of new technologies and digital environments to create effective pedagogies can assist in developing an educational atmosphere that is supportive to creativity, interaction, and learning. Students will have a chance to explore using new technologies and digital educational environment for social change. By the class conclusion the students will be able to create an online learning environment.
MSC-563 Augmented Reality and Immersive Technology, 4 semester credits
Every new medium introduces new forms of narrative. Immersive media (IM), augmented reality (AR), mobile advocacy, and more, create tremendous media disruption - and tremendous opportunity. Internet 1.0 (1994 - 2000) was all about the great disruption of a hyperlinked world, which was quickly watered down to “online shopping”. Internet 2.0 (2004 - 2009) was the decade it took to figure out what to do with a networked, rich web app, social media world. The advent (2009…) of IM, and particularly AR, is where broadband enabled mobile technology makes the Internet inescapable offering pitfall and promise. As we rapidly move toward a future where wireless is embedded in everything around us, these media innovations, combined with the modern tablets and smart phones, empower the user with extraordinary capabilities. In theory, almost anyone can know almost anything almost anywhere. This increased transparency leads to reduced privacy, timely access to information leads to constant access to entertainment and we can trust product marketers to use and abuse the medium. Can these developments be used to increase the cognitive understanding of social concerns? Can location based information (GIS) and spatial psychology be used to increase our cognitive understanding of physical place? What is the social impact of real time data delivery? This course recasts Marshal McLuhan’s famous axiom where the device becomes the message. Modern devices combined with a layer of real time information accessed through immersive media and augmented reality, addresses the demand for media strategists rather than technologists. This seminar, draws on the foundations of psychology that lead to effective data visualization, application design, increased human understanding and most importantly mobile advocacy. This revolution will not be televised.
MSC-566 Brand Psychology and Social Storytelling, 4 semester credits
This course combines the psychology of branding and storytelling with the power of social participation and distribution to engage customers and promote brands across media technology platforms. Creating and applying storytelling to messaging today means orchestrating across multiple platforms and designing for social participation and brand-story coherence. It demands the integration of multiple elements: understanding the media environment, narrative structure, consumer behavior, brand psychology, technology attributes, audience targeting, and process management and evaluation. Storytelling is not new, but the new media environment creates a new approach to building stories and storyworlds for brands and organizations that creates an immersive experience. Social storytelling is not repurposing a message for multiple media channels. It is an additive, 360-degree approach to branding driven by story and user participation. Transmedia storytelling is the structural approach behind successful entertainment franchises, like Game of Thrones and Mad Men, and brand campaigns, such as Intel's Inside Films and TOMS Shoes, that built story around social participation. This has become the standard in branding and marketing because it increases profitability, longevity and customer engagement, making a more robust, integrative and vibrant marketing campaign that extends reach in an increasingly fractured marketplace.
MSC-567 The Psychology of Neuromarketing, 4 semester credits
This course examines an emerging field investigating the direct effect of advertising, media and consumer products or services on the brains of consumers. Traditional self-reports and observation-based research methods have often failed to provide a credible interpretation of the cognitive, affective and instinctive processes that influence consumer responses to multiple forms of stimuli. The widespread availability of neuroimaging technologies has allowed neuromarketing researchers to unveil new insights on how messaging or decision-making works in the brain. This fresh knowledge has radically transformed our scientific understanding of the modern consumer. This course provides an understanding of new psychological constructs as well as new modalities that are used to assess, understand and predict the effect of advertisements, media, corporate messages, public service announcements and many more stimuli on the brain. Student will also learn which aspects of the nervous system they need to understand to grasp the possibilities and limits of neuromarketing methods. This course is designed to make students not only better educated on neuromarketing but to help them hire neuromarketing vendors or even lead a neuromarketing project. Anyone working in media, advertising, branding, PR or communication will gain from knowing about this revolutionary approach to the psychology of consumer behavior.
Pre-requisites: MSC-569
MSC-568 Audience Engagement, 4 semester credits
We live in a world where attention is the scare resource. Audiences, users and consumers have high expectations thanks to real time data, 24/7 connectivity and social technologies. It is essential to identify and understand the audience to be able to create satisfying and engaging user messages, services, and products as well as to use resources wisely. This course examines the psychology of the user through persona development to find and engage your audience. The goal of the course is to identify and construct targeted audience profiles by developing personas. Personas will be created based on psychological theory, looking at the role of personality, motivation, needs, and perception in audience engagement. Students will then test their personas using a qualitative research approach with online data. Persona development drives effective communication and content development, organizational coherence and supports a wide range of applications, including user experience, marketing strategy, fundraising, design and recruitment.
Pre-requisites: MSC-566
MSC-569 Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience, 4 semester credits
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the fast growing field of consumer neurosciences. The course is designed to allow professionals of varied backgrounds to learn and apply persuasion theories based on ground-breaking brain discoveries. Traditional consumer research (surveys and focus groups) have often failed to provide a credible interpretation of the cognitive, affective and instinctive processes that influence consumer responses to multiple forms of advertising and media stimuli. The course first discusses the pros and cons of popular theoretical frameworks that have been used for decades to explain and predict the effect of advertising. Then, students will learn how new research modalities like eye tracking, EEG, GSR (skin conductance) and fMRI are used to produce neuroinsights that can help solve critical marketing, social advocacy, advertising communication, and public campaigns. More importantly, students will learn ways to improve the persuasive effect of any campaign they may create or support in the course of their professional career.
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