Everyone has biases, and the inclusion of media does not change that. In fact, just as media is biased towards certain people (e.g., handheld gaming consoles are biased towards young people) (Ohler, 2010), we are biased towards certain media. Conducting a media bias inventory allows us to understand our biases and determine the best way to either overcome them or embrace them. In this post, I will address my media biases by discussing my reaction to them, what I think I should improve, and how I can use this specific knowledge as a media psychologist.
My media biases did not surprise me. I tend to be very aware of what I am doing whether it’s right or needs to be improved. Personality affects our media biases, as it does so many other things. In my case, my drive toward perfection, drives my need to have an intimate knowledge of, and proficiency in, as many media as can get my hands on. It drives me to learn about it, both in their intended uses and their “meta” uses. In other words, I strive to understand how people typically use it, whether those uses were intentional or not during it’s creation/development. It was not surprising, then, that my bias was very much social, exploratory, philosophical, and escapism driven. I use media to connect to my friends, to understand them (and others) and their preferences/opinions as a means of broadening my perspective, and a way to escape my physical micro-environment and connect to my sociomental environment.
I tend to be incredibly cynical in all aspects of my life, but where media is concerned, I am pointedly so. I approach my media use with reckless caution- my new term… you’re welcome to use it as you see fit. Though I love diving head first into new media and exploring its capabilities, I tend to be cynical about the information/people I meet while using them. Claims are, in my opinion, things to be verified by my experience and the experience of the collective (Borg, anyone?).
I am proud my ability/tendency to be cynical and critical of that which is presented as fact via various media because I feel it allows me to learn more and work outside my biases. That being said, this cynicism is also the thing I must work to improve. I don’t mean that I should learn to be MORE cynical. I mean that I still tend to trust certain sources. Manjoo (2008) notes that we look to sources that already back up our opinions. While I agree that we have that tendency, I do not think it insurmountable. I tend to favor word-of-mouth reviews, information from sources I have agreed with in the past, and media that make logical sense to me. If I’m going to truly overcome biases (not that it is possible, but that striving to keeps them in check), I must seek out differing opinions and allow myself to remain flexible and better informed.
As a media psychologist, being able to pursue truth in spite of personal biases, and being able to determine and articulate the biases of others is paramount. We cannot understand how and why people use and are affected by media if we cannot look past our own biases. The very essence of our jobs is to remain open-minded and receptive to all forms that the intersection between individuals and media can take. We cannot teach others what media literacy means, without being media literate.
Understanding my biases is the first step to consistently perceiving the biases of others, and a step towards becoming a successful media psychologist. Though I am passionate about an extensive variety of media, and I remember when media meant only TV, radio, 8-bit game consoles, and circularly dialed analog telephones, I am cautious about what is presented on these media unless I am familiar with the source. Understanding these biases allows me to work past them, focusing on broader horizons, keeping in mind that doing so better prepares me for helping others do the same.
Understanding Comics (McCloud, 1994) presents comic readers with a comparatively comprehensive look at comics (e.g., how they’re formatted, what cognitive processes they depend on, reality vs. abstract, etc.). A variety of these principles can be generalized and applied to other forms of media (McCloud, 1994). Understanding these principles lays a foundation for understand the field of media psychology.
The Story– McCloud (1994) points out the more iconic the face, drawn in the comic, the more we as the audience are able to see ourselves in the story. Robert McKee (1997) explains that stories are powerful because they carry universal truths. We connect with stories (and media) that help us to make sense of the world (Jenkins, Li, Drasuskopf, & Green, 2009). We enjoy stories more if they carry a personal meaning to us; something of significance that helps us identify with the situation or the characters (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004). Additionally, media, such as social media, virtual communities, and role-playing games, allow users to uncover, verify, and even try on identities (Bessière, Seay, & Kiesler, 2007; Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria, 2008). The story and universality of comics are true for any medium carrying a story, facilitating immersion, whether for enjoyment, emotional response, or seeking to convey a message.
The Message– Comics, as well as mediums such as books, films, games, and television, allow concepts and feelings to be understood in personal ways even though they are iconic and representative delivery methods (McCloud, 1994). We experience things using senses that are not required for consumption of the message. For example, in a video game, you may be looking at a computer screen and physically touching a mouse and/or keyboard, but the content may remind you of smells and sounds that are not presented in the book. Our minds fill in blanks based on experiences we’ve had. These blanks are in the blank space in comics, in the scenes we don’t see in movies, and in the events that are eluded to but never described in books, just to name a few. Memories, actions, thoughts, and physical responses are often conditioned to be triggered by a variety of stimuli (e.g., media) (Anderson, 2000).
The Conclusion– There are many ways in which the theories behind comics may be generalized into theories about other media and mediums. Here, we briefly explored message content, the universality of stories, and identity. However, concepts such as transmedia storytelling, branding, the influence of graphic design, persuasion and marketing, and global media are all presented to us by Scott McCloud (1994), but are concepts which are transferable to a great deal of the media used today and in the past. These concepts are all components of media psychology. When we understand these concepts and how they affect us, we can use positive media psychology to facilitate educational, social, and global advancements.[ted id=432]
Anderson, J. R. (2000). Learning and memory : an integrated approach. New York: Wiley.
Bessière, K., Seay, A. F., & Kiesler, S. (2007). The Ideal Elf: Identity Exploration in World of Warcraft. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 530–535. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9994
Green, M., Brock, T., & Kaufman, G. (2004). Understanding media enjoyment: The role of transportation into narrative worlds. Communication Theory, 14(4), 311-327.
Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one):
Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: the invisible art. New York: William Morrow.
McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: Regan Books.
Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qwdQLSt2I&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Critical thinking and argumentation are vital to advancing scientific fields such as psychology.
Critical thinking informs how we think and the conclusions we come to as the result of that thinking. It mandates that we overcome personal biases and the biases of others, thoroughly research all possible vantage points of the topic in question, and apply reason to the information we are exposed to (Browne & Keeley, 2007). The field of psychology facilitates critical thinking by setting standards for not only the methods used in observations and experiments, but in how the results are reported, allowing those reading the report to analyze the method and results of the research for themselves (Cozby, 2009). Some say that critical thinking allows us to develop cognitive practices that lend themselves to a better understanding of the materials presented to us (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2013; The Creative Thinking Co., 2013). Others suggest that critical thinking is a skepticism we must apply to all information encountered (Shermer, 2009) and that in order to understand the validity of the material we must know more about the biases it encompasses (Driscoll & Brizee, 2013). In the case of psychology, both seem to be true. Psychologists are encouraged to review research performed by peers for the purposes of understanding the information better, determining whether it was done in a way which results in valid and reliable information, and which avoids bias in both obtaining evidence and reporting the results (Cozby, 2009).
When creating an argument, we start with our current thought on the matter, then search for evidence which both supports and negates our position, with the realization that someone knows something more and/or different than we do. Arguments use the elements of critical thinking (i.e., humility, research, and logic) (Weston, 2009). Arguments allow us to fully understand a topic before taking a stand, and to communicate information to others in concise ways when we do. Arguments expose fallacies, give us insight into possible further research opportunities (this is especially necessary in soft sciences where we are constantly making strides to further research in order to bridge gaps), and transcend communication barriers beyond just the format of the presentation (Weston, 2013). Arguments allow us to augment our own way of thinking and they allow us to share our critical thinking with others working toward the same end. An example might be media psychology students researching possible side effects of violent video games. By applying critical thinking to their research after having sorted through a variety of sources and presenting their arguments to each other, they could both discuss their analyses of existing data and uncover a variety of possible new avenues for research.
Both critical thinking and argumentation are essential tools for psychologists. Psychologists must know how to research, analyze, apply, and communicate information obtained (Cozby, 2009). Those presenting the information (e.g., publisher, editor, author, etc.) may or may not have done as much research as the person receiving the information may prefer, or they may have changed the information (either purposefully or accidentally) during their reporting of it. The media used affects the delivery and reception of information as well (e.g., many if not most photos are photoshopped (“The PhotoShop Effect,” 2006)). By allowing peers to analyze our arguments, we open ourselves up for exposure to new information, viewpoints that we may not have considered (despite our best efforts) and suggestions for refining our methods in our practice of argumentation and critical thinking (Wertheimer, 2000)
Critical thinking is an applied method for determining our thoughts on a matter. It requires us to conduct thoughtful research while applying logic to our findings and maintaining a willingness to change our thought processes where they are unsupported. It is about finding the truth. Argumentation is a skill which allows us to present that thought, and the evidence that supports it, to others in a concise, persuasive manner. In order to further any scientific field (e.g., psychology), students, researchers, and professionals must carefully consider how the information obtained fits in with preexisting information, how it may alter what is already known, and what future steps can be taken to continue progress. The more information is critically considered and effectively argued, the easier communication is and the closer we come to reaching the closest thing we have to truth.
Browne, M. N., & Keeley, S. M. (2007). Asking the right questions: a guide to critical thinking (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Cozby, P. C. (2009). Methods in behavioral research. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Driscoll, D., & Brizee, A. (2013). Purdue OWL: Evaluating Sources of Information. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/553/3/
Foundation for Critical Thinking. (2013). The critical thinking community. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org//
Shermer, M. (2009). Michael Shermer. Baloney Detection Kit. Retrieved from http://www.michaelshermer.com/2009/06/baloney-detection-kit/
The Critical Thinking Co. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.com/
The Photoshop Effect. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP31r70_QNM&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Wertheimer, M. (2000). A brief history of psychology (4th ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College Publishers.
If we objectively define ‘scholarly’ as “concerned with academic learning and research” (Dictionary.com, 2012), we find ourselves with a vague definition. We may be tempted to immediately think of left-brained academics. However, discrepancies in what must be considered academic may change that definition. If, for example, we define academics as pertaining to sciences or literacy, we end with a very different result than if we define academics as pertaining to any subject which facilitates the further development of a particular skill. Sir Ken Robinson (2006) notes that a major short coming of academics now is that we define academics much like the former, but would be served better to treat it as the latter.
However, in writing, the target audience is the one that matters. As such, if you are writing to a group of social scientists, the expectation is that the prescribed protocol will be followed (Polkinghorne, 2007), and so on. In this way then, scholarly writing should be defined more along the lines of writing which facilitates the communication of critical thinking and rhetoric within a given field, using the prescribed masteries of that field. This allows for all subjects regardless of the paradigm currently subscribed to in academia.
Dictionary.com (2012). ‘Scholarly’. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/scholarly?s=t
Polkinghorne, D. E. (2007). Qualitative inquiry: validity issues in narrative writing. Qualitative Inquiry, 13(4), 472.
Robinson, K. (2006, February). Ken robinson says schools kill creativity.. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html