Meet Our Members

René Weber, Ph.D., M.D.

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René Weber is Professor in the Department of Communication and lead researcher at UCSB’s Media Neuroscience Lab. His recent research focuses on cognitive responses to mass communication and new technology media messages, including video games. He develops and applies both traditional social scientific and neuroscientific methodology (fMRI) to test media related theories. His research has been published in major communication and neuroscience journals and in three authored books. He is an Executive Council member of UCSB’s SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, project leader at UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnology (News Narrative Analyzer Project), and one of five neuromarketing experts accredited by the Advertising Research Foundation. René  served as past Chair of the International Communication Association’s Mass Communication Division and he is currently the Chair of the International Communication Association’s Communication Science and Biology Interest Group

J. Michael Mangus, Ph.D.

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Michael Mangus recently completed his PhD in the UCSB Department of Communication. His scholarly interests include group coordination, power structures, and collective action in mediated contexts; evolutionary and materialist approaches to communication theory; and the philosophy of social science. Michael holds a BS, magna cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Science and an MA from UCSB. In addition to conducting research, he oversees and maintains the Lab’s information infrastructure.

Chelsea Lonergan, M.A.

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Chelsea is a PhD student in the Department of Communication at UCSB. Her research interests include cognitive communication science and interactive media. Specifically, her research focuses on the relationship between cognitive sex differences, media usage, and media effects. She was awarded distinction in the major in Psychology for her research which examined how individual player differences such as spatial ability, and video game features including gender themes and spatial demands relate to female game preferences. Her research received third place at UCSB’s URCA annual colloquium in the Social Sciences category. Chelsea is an alumna of UCSB where she received a BA in both Communication and Psychology.

Frederic Hopp

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Frederic is a MA/PhD student in the Department of Communication at UCSB. Broadly speaking, his research explores media processes and effects from cognitive and neuroscientific perspectives. Specifically, his current research focuses on neural responses to morally-laden media content to predict real-world outcomes, such as media preferences or political judgment and decision making. Before attending UCSB, Frederic held several research assistant positions at the University of Mannheim, where he investigated the effects of cyberostracism in social media environments and the role of entertainment experiences for the processing of political talk shows. Frederic holds a BA in Media and Communication Studies with a minor in Political Science from the University of Mannheim.

Ori Amir, Ph.D.

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Ori Amir recently completed his PhD in Brain and Cognitive Science at the University of Southern California. His published work investigates visual object recognition and its development as well as the neural basis for perceptual pleasure (e.g., shape preferences, insight, humor). He has also studied the neural basis for humor creation, including a study where he made comedians improvise while undergoing fMRI scanning. Ori’s recent work focuses on computational approaches to studying humor. He is joining the Media Neuroscience Lab to explore the cognitive processing of moral narrative, its neural correlates, and the ways in which neural responses to moral content predict real-world outcomes.

Jacob T. Fisher. M.A.

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Jacob Fisher (M.A., Texas Tech University) is a PhD student in the Department of Communication at UCSB and a Trainee in the National Science Foundation IGERT in Network Science and Big Data. His research focuses on dynamic attentional networks, salience filtering, multitasking, and media processing in ADHD and Autistic Populations. Before joining the lab, Jacob worked as an Academic Counselor in the TECHniques Center at Texas Tech University, focusing on the creation and analysis of success strategies for students with learning and developmental disabilities in higher education. His work has been presented at various national conferences, including the National College Learning Center Association, the Association on Higher Education and Disability, and the Association for the Tutoring Profession.

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René Weber, Ph.D., M.D.

Principal Researcher
René's Bio

René Weber is Professor in the Department of Communication and lead researcher at UCSB’s Media Neuroscience Lab. His recent research focuses on cognitive responses to mass communication and new technology media messages, including video games. He develops and applies both traditional social scientific and neuroscientific methodology (fMRI) to test media related theories. His research has been published in major communication and neuroscience journals and in three authored books. He is an Executive Council member of UCSB’s SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, project leader at UCSB’s Institute for Collaborative Biotechnology (News Narrative Analyzer Project), and one of five neuromarketing experts accredited by the Advertising Research Foundation. René  served as past Chair of the International Communication Association’s Mass Communication Division and he is currently the Chair of the International Communication Association’s Communication Science and Biology Interest Group

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J. Michael Mangus, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher & Technology Coordinator
MIchael's Bio

Michael Mangus recently completed his PhD in the UCSB Department of Communication. His scholarly interests include group coordination, power structures, and collective action in mediated contexts; evolutionary and materialist approaches to communication theory; and the philosophy of social science. Michael holds a BS, magna cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Science and an MA from UCSB. In addition to conducting research, he oversees and maintains the Lab’s information infrastructure.

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Chelsea Lonergan, M.A.

Researcher
Chelsea's Bio

Chelsea is a PhD student in the Department of Communication at UCSB. Her research interests include cognitive communication science and interactive media. Specifically, her research focuses on the relationship between cognitive sex differences, media usage, and media effects. She was awarded distinction in the major in Psychology for her research which examined how individual player differences such as spatial ability, and video game features including gender themes and spatial demands relate to female game preferences. Her research received third place at UCSB’s URCA annual colloquium in the Social Sciences category. Chelsea is an alumna of UCSB where she received a BA in both Communication and Psychology.

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Frederic Hopp

Researcher
Frederic's Bio

Frederic is a MA/PhD student in the Department of Communication at UCSB. Broadly speaking, his research explores media processes and effects from cognitive and neuroscientific perspectives. Specifically, his current research focuses on neural responses to morally-laden media content to predict real-world outcomes, such as media preferences or political judgment and decision making. Before attending UCSB, Frederic held several research assistant positions at the University of Mannheim, where he investigated the effects of cyberostracism in social media environments and the role of entertainment experiences for the processing of political talk shows. Frederic holds a BA in Media and Communication Studies with a minor in Political Science from the University of Mannheim.

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Ori Amir, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher
Ori's Bio

Ori Amir recently completed his PhD in Brain and Cognitive Science at the University of Southern California. His published work investigates visual object recognition and its development as well as the neural basis for perceptual pleasure (e.g., shape preferences, insight, humor). He has also studied the neural basis for humor creation, including a study where he made comedians improvise while undergoing fMRI scanning. Ori’s recent work focuses on computational approaches to studying humor. He is joining the Media Neuroscience Lab to explore the cognitive processing of moral narrative, its neural correlates, and the ways in which neural responses to moral content predict real-world outcomes.

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Jacob T. Fisher, M.A.

Researcher
Jacob's Bio

Jacob Fisher (M.A., Texas Tech University) is a PhD student in the Department of Communication at UCSB and a Trainee in the National Science Foundation IGERT in Network Science and Big Data. His research focuses on dynamic attentional networks, salience filtering, multitasking, and media processing in ADHD and Autistic Populations. Before joining the lab, Jacob worked as an Academic Counselor in the TECHniques Center at Texas Tech University, focusing on the creation and analysis of success strategies for students with learning and developmental disabilities in higher education. His work has been presented at various national conferences, including the National College Learning Center Association, the Association on Higher Education and Disability, and the Association for the Tutoring Profession.

Affiliated Scholars

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Gary Bente, Ph.D.

Gary Bente, Ph.D.

Gary Bente is a Professor in the Department of Communication at Michigan State University. He is currently Editor in Chief of the Journal of Media Psychology and Co-Editor of the German Textbook on Media Psychology. His research interests cover two areas: (1) interpersonal communication including face-to-face as well as mediated interactions, and (2) emotional effects of mass media with a special emphasis on objective process measures. His current work focuses on the production and perception of nonverbal behavior across cultures and its influence on impression formation and trust. Recent work also addresses the neural mechanisms underlying nonverbal communication and person perception. His work has been published in major communication as well as cognitive science and neuroscience journals and in four authored and edited books.

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Allison Eden Ph.D.

Allison Eden, Ph.D.

Allison Eden is an Assistant Professor of Media Psychology in the Department of Communication Science at the VU University Amsterdam. Her research focuses on understanding the appeal, motivational pull, and effects of entertaining media. Allison’s work on the underlying role of morality in determining attention to and retention of messages in entertainment has special relevance for the Media Neuroscience Lab. In her recent research, she has focused on understanding the motivational determinants of online game use and enjoyment, particularly in games for corporate communication and behavior change. With her work and expertise Allison is involved in a number of media neuroscience projects including the the lab’s project  “Neural Responses to Social Norm Violations in TV Dramas.”

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Michael Gazzaniga Ph.D.

Michael Gazzaniga, Ph.D.

Michael Gazzaniga is a Professor of Psychology and the Director of the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara. Michael’s work investigating how the brain enables the mind is both foundational and inspirational to the Media Neuroscience Lab. Over the course of several decades, a major focus of Michael’s research has been an extensive study of patients that have undergone split-brain surgery and revealed lateralization of functions across the cerebral hemispheres. In addition to his numerous positions and honors, Michael is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Michael serves as the Media Neuroscience Lab’s trusted advisor and thought leader.

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Scott Grafton Ph.D.

Scott Grafton, Ph.D.

Scott Grafton is a Professor of Psychology, Director of the Brain Imaging Center, and Co-Director of the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies at the University of California Santa Barbara. Broadly, Scott’s work focuses on how people organize movement into goal-oriented action. The emphasis is on elucidating the cognitive architecture that underlies action representation. This is developed with studies of sequence and skill acquisition, motor simulation, sensorimotor transformation, on-line control and action observation experiments. Scott lends his expertise in these areas to help understand the relationship between media, morality, and cognitive-behavioral outcomes.

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Richard Huskey, Ph.D.

Richard Huskey, Ph.D.

Richard is an assistant professor in the School of Communication at The Ohio State University and former member and manager of the Media Neuroscience Lab. His research lies at the intersection of media psychology and cognitive neuroscience with a particular focus on how media content influence human cognition and behavior. Philosophically, this work understands the mind (and the communication phenomena it enables) as a physical property of the brain. From this multi-level view, neuroscientific research complements existing measures by providing an additional level of explanation for communication behavior (e.g., sociocultural, individual, biological, chemical, physical). It is from this perspective that Richard’s research investigates three core topics: attitude and behavior change, media enjoyment, and the influence of moral narratives.

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Dan Linz, Ph.D.

Dan Linz, Ph.D.

Dan Linz is Professor in the Department of Communication at University of California Santa Barbara. His research involves empirically testing the social psychological assumptions made by the law and legal actors in the area of the First Amendment and freedom of speech, communication in the courtroom, and the application of scientific principles to legal decision making generally: an area he defines as “Forensic Communication.” Dan’s research spans the topics of media violence, pornography, other sex-oriented entertainment, pretrial publicity, news and race, censorship and on-line privacy. Consistent with the Lab’s mission, Dan’s research agenda seeks to empirically test evolutionary/biological explanations for phenomena at the intersection of law, media, and communication.

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Dana Mastro, Ph.D.

Dana Mastro, Ph.D.

Dana Mastro is Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California Santa Barbara. Her research investigates the media’s role in interracial/interethnic dynamics in society. Specifically, her work examines the influence of exposure to racial/ethnic representations in the media on perceptions of self and other as well as on intergroup relations. This program of research includes four primary areas of inquiry (read more). In testing these relationships, Dana’s research utilizes quantitative cognitive and biological measures (e.g., implicit association test, electrocardiography, skin conductance level) as well as experiments, content analyses, and surveys. Just as her work incorporates multiple methodologies, Dana’s research considers a broad range of social scientific literature (e.g., social identity, stereotyping and discrimination, media effects).

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Klaus Mathiak, Ph.D. M.D.

Klaus Mathiak, Ph.D., M.D.

Klaus Mathiak is Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics at RWTH University in Aachen, Germany. As psychiatrist and cognitive neuroscientist he is interested in studying neural processes underlying complex social perception and behavior via state-of-the-art brain imaging technology (fMRI, MEG). Klaus and Rene pioneered the field of media neuroscience with their studies in the area of brain imaging of virtual violence. Klaus is an expert in developing brain imaging paradigms in multi-modal, low-controlled, and mediated environments.

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Scott Reid, Ph.D.

Scott Reid, Ph.D.

Scott Reid is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California Santa Barbara. In accord with the lab´s core theoretical foundation and mission, Scott´s research program investigates evolutionary explanations for human communicationand considers questions at the intersection of communication, social identity, and intergrouprelations. For example, Scott´s evolutionary work has provided evidence for the hypothesis that people track accents and religious groups to avoid novel pathogens. In other work, Scott has investigated proximal mechanisms involved in social judgments of media influence and judgments of the hostility contained in mediated messages.

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John Sherry, Ph.D.

John Sherry, Ph.D.

John Sherry is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and the Cognitive Science Program at Michigan State University. He takes a cognitive science approach to questions of communication dynamics in two domains. First, he is interested in the use of media for education; in particular how to use flow to embed educational content. Additionally, he is researching the cognitive substrates of game engagement and learning; including, individual differences in cognitive skills, attentional mechanisms, and working memory capacity. Second, he has recently begun research on how to study interpersonal communication dynamically, as a system of interactions. As such, he is interested in investigating communication synchronization phenomena.

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Ron Tamborini, Ph.D.

Ron Tamborini, Ph.D.

Ron Tamborini is Professor and Director of Doctoral Programs in the Department of Communciation at Michigan State University. His recent work explores the exposure to educational and entertaining content in traditional and new media. His entertainment research spans the psychology of comedy, suspenseful and violent drama, horror, tragedy, erotica, and sports. His new media research focuses on the experience of virtual and augmented reality. Ron’s work on narratives and morality is of particular relevance to the Media Neuroscience Lab. Using his model of intuitive morality and exemplars (MIME), Ron’s research program examines simple and complex processes thought to shape the reciprocal influences that connect media narratives and morality.

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Peter Vorderer, Ph.D.

Peter Vorderer, Ph.D.

Peter Vorderer is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Mannheim. Previous affiliations include the University of Music, Theater and the Media in Hannover, the Annenberg School for Communication at USC and the Free University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on users’ interest in entertainment and in new media, as well as on consequences of using them. Currently, he is particularly interested in people’s habit to be (almost) permanently online and connected with others. His research has been published in major communication journals and in 11 authored and edited books. He is also President-elect select of the International Communication Association.

Collaborators

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Bradly Alicea, Ph.D.

Bradly Alicea, Ph.D.

Bradly Alicea is currently a researcher in the Cellular Reprogramming Laboratory at Michigan State University. His interests include the use of virtual world interactivity in Neuroscience research, the development of novel cognitive, evolutionary, and dynamical models, and quantitative metrics using physiological and molecular assays. Bradly is also the administrator of the research-oriented blog Synthetic Daisies. In his work with the Media Neuroscience Lab, Bradly investigates Flow experiences and the relationship between Flow and attentional networks.

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Katharina-Maria Behr, Ph.D.

Katharina-Maria Behr, Ph.D.

Katharina is a Sales Force Effectiveness Manager at AstraZeneca in Germany. She has previously worked as a management consultant for German and international telecommunications providers and IT companies. Broadly, Katharina is interested in the use and effects of video games. More specifically, her current research interests align with the lab’s research in the area of interactivity and narratives in video games. As related the the lab’s methodological focus, Katharina’s collaborations with lab members include the application of equivalence tests in media research.

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Emily Falk, Ph.D.

Communication Neuroscience Lab
Emily Falk, Ph.D.

Emily Falk is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and director of the Communication Neuroscience Lab. Emily’s research integrates methods from cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and communication studies to understand media effects at the individual, group and population levels. Emily is also interested in the spread of messages through social networks, and how social norms, values, and culture spread. A primary focus of her work is health behavior change and the construction of effective health campaigns. Read more about Emily’s methodological approach as well as her educational and funding history. The Media Neuroscience Lab collaborates with Emily and the Communication Neuroscience Lab in the area of Persuasion Neuroscience.

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Matthew Grizzard, Ph.D.

Matthew Grizzard, Ph.D.

Matthew is an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo-SUNY’s Department of Communication. His research examines the cognitive, emotional, and psychobiological effects of media entertainment; specifically, how media entertainment exploits evolutionarily-derived psychological processes. As related to the Media Neuroscience Lab, Matthew explores the relationship between repeated exposure to moral transgressions and desensitization. He also looks at the relationship between cooperative play and the production of oxytocin.

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Ben Turner, Ph.D.

Ben Turner, Ph.D.

Ben is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at UCSB, where he works with Dr. Michael Miller and studies various forms of human learning and memory. His primary research interest lies in developing and applying various fMRI analysis methods, as well as exploring novel applications of fMRI as a research tool in new fields. As a Media Neuroscience Lab collaborator, Ben works on understanding the neural systems of counter arguing. Importantly, this work includes development of new statistical procedures for analyzing brain imaging datasets that are collected in multi-modal, low controlled experimental settings.

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Justin R. Keene, Ph.D.

Justin R. Keene, Ph.D.

Justin Robert Keene (PhD, 2014, Indiana University) is an Assistant Professor of Electronic Media and director of the Cognition & Emotion Lab in the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University. His research focuses on the cognitive processing of and emotional reactions to mediated messages from a dynamic, human-centered perspective.