The following represents a selection of recent announcements
from the lab, as well as press coverage.



The Moral Mind, UCSB Current

“Moral framing is more than simply telling right from wrong. Moral narratives shape people’s worldview, influence social dynamics and provide insight into society as a whole. Morality and moral narratives have long been the purview of religious leaders and philosophers, but more recently psychologists and communication scientists have turned their attention toward devising an empirical account of how people make moral judgments. Last year, UC Santa Barbara’s René Weber published a groundbreaking study that reexamines how we conduct research into moral intuitions and recommends a new way forward. Read more.


Mind-altering media, New Scientist

“Devin Moore was just 18 when he was taken to an Alabama police station for questioning about a stolen car. He was initially cooperative, but then lunged for his captor’s gun. He shot the man twice and ran out into the hallway where he shot a second policeman three times. He let off five shots at a third man before making his escape in a police car. All three men died from shots to the head. When Moore was finally captured, he is reported to have said, “Life is like a video game. You have to die sometime.” Two years on, he sits on death row.” Read more.


Games ‘prime brain for violence’, BBC

“A team from the University of Aachen, Germany, asked men to play a game which required them to kill terrorists in order to rescue hostages. They found brain mapping scans showed the same kind of activity as when people imagine being violent themselves, New Scientist reports.” Read more.


Your Brain on Video Games: Could they actually be good for you? Discover

“James Gee, a professor of learning sciences  at the University of Wisconsin, was profoundly humbled when he first played a video game for preschool-age kids called Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside. Gee’s son Sam, then 6, had been clamoring to play the game, which features a little boy who dresses up like his favorite action hero, Pajama Man, and sets off on adventures in a virtual world ruled by the dastardly villain Darkness. So Gee brought Pajama Sam home and tried it himself.” Read more.


A PhD in mortal combat: A pioneering USC group tries to get into the heads of players to learn if the pastime harms or can help, LA Times

“Ever since they were children, Steve Choi, Ethan Levy and Elaine Chan have been told by people who never met them that the great passion of their lives, the thing that captivated and moved them, was the enemy of intellect, emotionally damaging and quite possibly the end of civilization as we know it.” Read more.

Can Brain Science Help Promote Good Health?, The Dana Foundation

“Better health habits can save more lives than the flashiest treatment breakthrough. According the National Institutes of Health, 40% of premature deaths in the US can be attributed to preventable behaviors like smoking, poor diet, and inactivity.” Read more.


Lab Combines Communication, Technology and Neuroscience: The Media Neuroscience Lab puts hard science into traditional communication methodology, The Current

“Among the happiest guinea pigs at UC Santa Barbara are those who play video games and watch soap operas in the name of science. They are at the center of serious research being conducted at the campus’s Media Neuroscience Lab (MNL), where neuroscientific methods are applied to answer pressing questions in communication research. The cutting-edge lab is the brainchild of René Weber, an associate professor in UCSB’s Department of Communication.” Read more.


Individual and Message Level Characteristics of Effective Public Service Announcements,Communication Currents

“Health messages are effective because characteristics of the message are well-suited to particular individuals in the audience. Although stronger arguments in public service announcements generally increase audience members’ perceptions of message effectiveness, our evidence shows that specific sub-groups of the audience react differently to strong arguments in anti-marijuana messages. Notably, high drug risk audience members tend to counter-argue and react defensively to persuasion health messages.” Read more.


Article of the Year Award, Communication Methods and Measures

“Rene Weber and Lucy Popova, were awarded the 2012 Article of the Year award for their paper “Testing Equivalence in Communication Research: Theory and Application” Their article, which can be found here, earned them a $250 cash prize and acknowledgment at the business meeting of the Communication Theory and Methodology division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Washington DC, August 2013.” Read more: here and here.


Media Neuroscience Lab at UCSB, Santa Barbara Independent

“The idea for the lab began in 2009 at the International Communication Association conference when a group of scholars realized their mutual interest in brain science and social-psychological approaches to communication research. In addition to addition to Department members, the Media Neuroscience Lab includes affiliated researchers from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, as well as from other universities around the world. Specifically, Peter Vorderer, the incoming President of the International Communication Association, is the newest supporting member of the Media Neuroscience Lab.” Read more.


Searching for a cure to violence: Can science help understand what leads people to commit violent acts and find ways to stop them? BBC News

“When a crowd attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing several people including the US ambassador, it was initially seen by some as part of a rising tide of religiously-motivated violence. Others now suggest it was part of a planned attack by a militant jihadist group. While US investigators try to pinpoint exactly what happened, a small group of researchers will be watching closely. They are part of a growing scientific discipline that is trying to identify the neurological and biological mechanisms that lead people to commit such acts with the ultimate goal of finding ways to stop them happening at all.” Read more.


Brown, Governor of California et. al. vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, Supreme Court of the United States

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Breyer cites the lab’s work: “Cutting-edge neuroscience has shown that ‘virtual violence in video game playing results in those neural patterns that are considered characteristic for aggressive cognition and behavior.’ Weber, Ritterfeld, & Mathiak, Does Playing Violent Video Games Induce Aggression? Empirical Evidence of a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study, 8 Media Psychology 39, 51 (2006).” Read more.

Researcher discusses brain’s response to virtual violence, 93106

“Video game violence affects the human brain, and cognitive neuroscientist Rene Weber has the pictures to prove it.” Read more.


Interview: Can computer games make you violent? Powering Up

“When it comes to computer games, the numbers are astounding: the world’s top professional gamer has won over half a million dollars shooting virtual monsters on-screen; online games claim literally millions of subscribers; while worldwide spending on computer gaming will top £24 billion by 2011. From techno-toddlers to silver surfers, everyone’s playing games on their PCs, Wiis, Xboxes and phones. How are we responding to this onslaught of brain-training, entertaining, potentially addicting, time-consuming, myth-spawning games?” Read more.


Gamer generation – The world of computer games, Discovery Channel and Canadian Broadcasting Company

The Discovery Chanel hosted a two-part video series – Gamer Generation. This documentary provides a useful overview of the industry, media effects, and video games research. Of particular note, Dr. Weber’s study Does playing violent video games induce aggression? Empirical evidence of a functional magnetic resonance imaging study is featured. Read more.


2020-2021 McCune Dissertation Fellowship Award (Frederic Hopp) Thank You Video