The Media Neuroscience Lab is involved in areas
of research at the intersection of media, neuroscience,
evolutionary theory, and research methodology.


Current Projects


The Moral Narrative Analyzer (MoNA) extracts moral information from media messages using a hybrid approach between automated computational methods and hand coding.

Asteroid Impact

Asteroid Impact is an open-source naturalistic video game stimulus and designed for applications in behavioral, psychophysiological, and brain imaging research paradigms.


Several recent projects and manuscripts are aimed at improving method-theory synergy in communication neuroscience with a focus on open science, reproducible practices.

Recent Publications

Refereed Journal Publications


Fisher, J. T., Hopp, F. R., & Weber, R. (in press). A practical introduction to network neuroscience for communication researchers. Communication Methods and Measures. Link


Huskey, R., Turner, B., & Weber, R. (2020). Individual differences in brain responses: New opportunities for tailoring health communication campaigns. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14, 531. Link


Levine, T. R., & Weber, R. (2020). Unresolved heterogeneity in meta-analysis: Combined construct invalidity, confounding, and other challenges to understanding mean effect sizes. Human Communication Research, 46(2-3), 343-354. Link


Hopp, F. R., Fisher, J. T., & Weber, R. (2020). A graph-learning approach for detecting moral conflicts in movie scripts. Media and Communication, 8(3), 164-179. Link


Carpenter, J., Brady, W., Crockett, M., Weber, R., & Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (in press). Political polarization and moral outrage on social media. The University of Connecticut Law Review. Link


Hopp, F.R., Fisher, J.T., Cornell, D., Huskey, R., & Weber, R. (2020) The extended moral foundations dictionary (eMFD): Development and applications of a crowd-sourced approach to extracting moral intuitions from text. Behavior Research Methods. Link


Hopp, F. R., Fisher, J. T., & Weber, R. (2020). Dynamic transactions between news frames and sociopolitical events: An integrative, hidden markov model approach. Journal of Communication. Link


Weber, R., Behr, K. M., Fisher, J. T., Lonergan, C., & Quebral, C. (2020). Video game violence and interactivity: Effect or equivalence? Journal of Communication, 70(2), 219-244. Link.


Weber, R., & Hopp, F. R. (2020). Moral emotions and conflict motivate actions. Insights: Consumer Neuroscience in Business.


Dienlin, T., Johannes, N., Bowman, N., Masur, P. K., Engesser, S., … Weber, R., … DeVreese, C. (2020). An agenda for open science in communication. Journal of Communication. Link


Klasen, M., Mathiak, K. A., Zvyagintsev, M., Sarkheil, P., Weber, R., & Mathiak, K. (2020). Selective reward responses to violent success events during video games. Brain structure and function, 225(1), 57-69. Link


Fisher, J. T., Hopp, F. R., & Weber, R. (2019). Modality-Specific Effects of Perceptual Load in Multimedia Processing. Media and Communication, 7(4), 149-165. Link


Lonergan, C., & Weber, R. (2019). Reconceptualizing Physical Sex as a Continuum: Are There Sex Differences in Video Game Preference?. Mass Communication and Society, 23(3), 1-31. Link


Van Atteveldt, W., Margolin, D., Shen, C., Trilling, D., & Weber, R. (2019). A roadmap for computational communication research. Computational Communication Research, 1(1), 1-11. Link


Hopp, F. R., Schaffer, J. A., Fisher, J. T., Cornell, D., & Weber, R. (2019). iCoRe: The GDELT interface for the advancement of communication research. Computational Communication Research, 1(1), 13-44. Link


Klasen, M., Wolf, D., Eisner, P. D., Eggermann, T., Zerres, K., Zepf, F. D., Weber, R., Mathiak, K. (2019). Serotonergic contributions to human brain aggression networks. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13, 42. Link

Authored Books & Edited Books/Special Issues


Floyd, K., & Weber, R.* (Eds.). (2020). The Handbook of Communication Science and Biology. New York, NY: Routledge. (* Authors in alphabetical order) Link


Refereed and Invited Book & Handbook Chapters


Fisher, J. T., Lonergan, C., Hopp, F. R., & Weber, R. (2021). Media entertainment, flow experiences, and the synchronization of audiences. In P. Vorderer & C. Klimmt (Eds.), Oxford handbook of entertainment theory (pp. 343-362). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Link


Weber, R., & Fisher, J. T. (2020). Flow. In J. V. d. Bulck (Ed.), International encyclopedia of media psychology (pp. 680-685). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.


Fisher, J. T., & Weber, R. (2020). Limited capacity model of motivated mediated message processing. In J. V. d. Bulck (Ed.), International encyclopedia of media psychology (pp. 865-878). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.


Tamborini, R., & Weber, R. (2020). Advancing the model of intuitive morality and exemplars. In K. Floyd & R. Weber (Eds.), The handbook of communication science and biology (pp. 456-469). New York, NY: Routledge.


Fisher, J. T., Huskey, R., Keene, J., & Weber, R. (2020). The life of a model: Commentary on “How the LC4MP became the DHCCST”. In K. Floyd & R. Weber (Eds.), The handbook of communication science and biology (pp. 409-415). New York, NY: Routledge.


Hopp, F. R., & Weber, R. (2020). The state of the art and the future of functional magnetic resonance imaging in communication research. In K. Floyd & R. Weber (Eds.), The handbook of communication science and biology (pp. 279-291). New York, NY: Routledge.


Weber, R., & Fisher, J. T. (2020). Advancing the synchronization theory of flow experiences. In K. Floyd & R. Weber (Eds.), The handbook of communication science and biology (pp. 157-176). New York, NY: Routledge.


Floyd, K., & Weber, R. (2020). Introduction. In K. Floyd & R. Weber (Eds.), The handbook of communication science and biology (pp. 3-9). New York, NY: Routledge.


Weber, R., Hopp, F. R., & Fisher, J. T. (2020). The moral narrative analyzer (MoNA): A platform for extracting moral emotions and conflict from messages at scale. In F. v. Zandvoort (Ed.), The Neuromarketing Yearbook 2020 (pp. 56-57). Utrecht, Netherlands: Neuromarketing Science and Business Association.


Fisher, J. T., & Weber, R. (2020). Innovative health interventions at the intersection of neuroimaging and multimedia design. In J. Kim & H. Song (Eds.), Technology and health: Promoting attitude and behavior change (pp. 333-351). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.


Bolls, P., Weber, R., Lang, A., & Potter, R. (2020). Media psychophysiology and neuroscience: Bringing brain science into media processes and effects research. In M. B. Oliver, A. Raney & J. Bryant (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (4th ed., pp. 195-210). New York, NY: Routledge.


Lonergan, C., Craighead, B., & Weber, R. (2019). Hardwired to play: An evolutionary, neurophysiological approach to video game research. In J. Breuer, D. Pietschmann, B. Liebold & B. P. Lange (Eds.), Evolutionary psychology and digital games: Digital hunter-gatherers (pp.49-60). New York, NY: Routledge.

Other Projects

Narratives and Morality

Social Norm Violations in TV Drama

Longitudinal studies utilizing disposition theory predict audience responses to soap operas. Audience enjoyment of the TV dramas increases when characters are perceived as morally deserving the outcomes that befall them.


TV Drama Exposure & Salience of Moral Intuitions

Extended exposure to daytime soap operas influences viewers’ dispositions toward characters, as well as their real-world moral judgements.


Neural Responses to Social Norm Violations in TV Drama

Individuals’ attentional and moral networks synchronize during TV drama scenes featuring immoral characters who suffer negative consequences.

Morality in Narratives, Synchronized Exposure, and Cooperation

The ability of humans to synchronize our thoughts and emotions with others through morally-salient narratives might be one important mechanism driving trust and cooperation in large groups.


Automated Analysis of Moral Content in Online Communication Sources

In collaboration with colleagues from the Institutue for Collaborative Technologies at the University of Southern California, the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies at the University of California Santa Barbara, and the Army Research Lab, we are developing a system to automatically classify the moral content of text gathered from the Internet by leveraging both communication theory and sophisticated data-mining methods.

Media, Attention, and Cognitive Control

Motivated attention to media

Recent work in the lab has reviewed and theoretically updated the Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing (LC4MP) in view of modern media neuroscience work [Link]


Neural underpinnings of flow experiences

In collaboration with Richard Huskey, lab alum and assistant professor at UC Davis, the lab investigates the neural precursors and correlates of flow experiences during video game play [Link]


Designing interventions at the intersection of neuroscience and media design

Recent work from the lab (forthcoming in New Technologies for Health-Related Cognitive and Behavioral Change) highlights how neuroimaging and multimedia design can be combined to create new and more effective health-related interventions.

Cognitive load, perceptual load, and attention to media

Cognitive and perceptual operations load the human processing system in different ways, leading to different outcomes. Recent work from the lab (forthcoming in Media & Communication) shows that perceptual complexity in messages influence attention in a modality-specific manner, whereas cognitive complexity influences attention in a modality-general manner.


Network neuroscience of attention and media

In a recent publication in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience [Link], we investigate the dynamics of attention networks in the brain during an interactive video game, showing that attention networks exhibit curvilinear patterns of robustness in the presence of increasing distraction.

Interactive Narratives & Violence

Neuroimaging & Video Game Violence

Teens and adolescents play video games frequently, and a significant portion of the games contain increasingly realistic portrayals of violence. A brain imaging (fMRI) study demonstrates that virtual violence in video game playing results in neural patterns that are considered characteristic for aggressive cognition and behavior.


Brain Correlates of Semi-Natural Behavior: fMRI During Violent Video Games

Virtual environments provide a useful tool for the study of neuronal processes involved in semi-naturalistic behavior as determined by content analysis. A brain imaging (fMRI) study observed 13 males as they played a violent first-person shooter game and identified potential neural correlates associated with violent behavior.


Video Games & Interactivity

Interactivity is a common, but under-specified concept in the video game literature. The lab’s research identifies six dimensions of interactivity including: feature-based interactivity, customization & co-creation, controller responsiveness, artificial intelligence, perceptual persuasiveness, and exploration.

Character Attachment in Interactive Environments

In interactive video games, there is no parasocial interaction with a fictitious character, no felt connection per se, but an actual, tangible connection between the gamer and a fully functional, completely controllable avatar. The lab’s character attachment scale provides a way to measure the connection between player and avatar.


The Internet and Aggression

The Internet is an environment of instant connections and opportunity. It is also an instrument of great social and personal penetration. In an edited chapter, we consider the relationship between motivation, disinhibitory, and opportunity aspects of Internet use that are associated with aggression.

Persuasion Neuroscience

Dynamics of Persuasion

Media theory has shifted from “effects” models to “processing” models. In this project, the process of persuasion is examined over time during message receipt.


Multilevel Analysis of PSA Effectiveness

In this project, we contrast predictions of anti-drug message effectiveness from three different theoretical perspectives (ELM, AMIE, and LC4MP). We use televised anti-marijuana messages, young-adult samples, and a multilevel approach to test competing hypotheses.

The Neural Systems of Counterarguing

Building on multilevel analyses of PSA effectiveness, in this project we focus on the counterarguing (or biased processing) phenomenon in persuasion research. With a new approach in brain imaging data analysis (intersubject correlation analysis) we identify the neural systems of biased processing and develop a sensitive marker for counterarguing detection.

Theories & Methods

A Synchronization Theory of Flow

The Synchronization Theory of Flow offers a neurological explanation for flow experiences. In this view, flow is a discrete, energetically optimized, and gratifying experience resulting from the synchronization of attentional and reward networks under conditions of a balance between challenge and skill.


The Neurophysiological Perspective in Mass Communication Research

The neurophysiological perspective argues for a paradigm shift to a new way of thinking about mass communication that goes beyond the nomothetic deductive models of the past and embraces current scientfic ontology and epistemology.

Flow Theory: Advances in Experimental Manipulation & Measurement

An experimental study manipulates level of challenge in a video game and makes a case for the use of secondary task response times as a continuous, unobtrusive measure of flow.

Null Hypothesis Significance Testing in Communication Research

We consider theoretical and methodological issues associated with null hypothesis significance testing (NHST) and offer a  practical guide for NHST.


Effect & Equivalence Testing – SPSS Custom Dialogs

Although equivalence testing is needed when a researcher’s goal is to support the null hypothesis (i.e., no substantial effect), equivalence tests are virtually unknown and unused in communication research. We provide the rationale for and theoretical background of effect- and equivalence testing. SPSS custom dialogs are provided to assist the research community in conducting tests of statistical effects and statistical equivalence. Find out more at Effect & Equivalence Testing under Service.


Neusrel – Nonlinear Structural Equation Modeling

The Media Neuroscience Lab is a scientific collaborator of Neusrel Causal Analytics. This collaboration seeks to advance nonlinear structural equation modeling methods by incorporating machine learning techniques (e.g., neural networks). This statistical approach is of particular interest to the lab as it expands the researcher’s toolbox when analyzing brain imaging data and other complex datasets. Find out more at Neusrel Causal Analytics.