Media out of Your Mind: The Psychology of Media Production

Article excerpt

Motion pictures such as "Star Wars," "Independence Day," "Birth of a Nation" or "Wag the Dog;" CD-ROMs such as Compton's Encyclopedia, Myst or Dragons Lair; radio programs such as "War of the Worlds;" product containers such as Campbell's Soup and Coca Cola. These are only several examples where marquee psychology is central in driving the success of a product,

This article explores the underlying psychology upon which programs and services are developed. It describes the nature and scope of the psychology of producing media. The future quality of education software -- whether on campus, on the Internet or on television -- will be driven by a new look and feel as we enter the new century.

Producing media software is a communications craft. The successful producer must combine the knack of thinking visually, drawing upon a myriad of techniques taken from communications arts including film, photography, writing, painting and more, so that he/she can manipulate media elements and use them in the systems engineering task of production.

People use a variety of terms to describe various aspects of producing media. These terms include human factors, ergonomics, cognitive engineering, user psychology, sensory psychology or media psychology, to provide some examples. Each of these terms has its own inferences and nuance of meaning.

When examining the psychology of producing media, one immediately discovers many complexities and dimensions. Examples of sub-specialties are: (1) the psychology of persuasion; (2) the psychology of editing; (3) the psychologies of sound, color, attention, cognition; control, games and learning styles.

It is not possible to examine all of the facets of the psychology of producing media in one brief article. I can, however, provide examples and analysis to help show the nature, scope and technique of production psychology.

The Psychology of Editing

All editors are essentially created equal in terms of technical resources. The technology of editing is quite advanced. The X-factor in non-linear editing is the "human factor." With music, for example, music theory and the practice of music principles provide the foundation. The human factor, otherwise called talent, brings a wonderful, almost charmed, distinctiveness to the application.

Non-linear editing represents a high art form. This is especially true when trying to do storytelling. We all perceive and experience events. When we go from place to place, such as driving to the market, we experience certain perception edits. While driving, we notice scenery and cars as they pass. The car's engine and radio provide context, continuity and language. Music may influence mood. When we open the door, we step out into a whole new environment. When we enter a building by passing through doors, or climb a stairway or look up at a light, we change points of view.

Whether editing a linear story or interactive scenario, combinations of edits show and tell the story with a perspective. One needs a vision to communicate or an idea to share. There are always multiple editing cuts employed in the context of recognition and perception. Perceptions may be created with varying degrees of sensitivity. Without "accurate empathy," which requires "seeing through the eyes of the beholder," the best equipment will not help. The psychology of editing represents one of the many emerging, sophisticated specialties in our changing media world. Editing in a way that stimulates emotion, creates understanding and rivets attention requires the highest level of editing skill.

The Psychology of Emotions

As a second example, let us examine the psychology of emotions. Sensory psychology or synesthetics represents the study of the experiences resulting from a uniting of the senses. Adding one sense to another facilitates an experience of higher intensity. This concept is central to stimulation strategy in media. …