About Pam Rutledge

Pamela Rutledge, PhD, is a scholar-practitioner, integrating her expertise in media psychology with 20+ years as a media producer. A member of the faculty at ե֭ since 2008, Dr. Rutledge teaches in the areas of brand psychology, audience engagement and narrative meaning. Dr. Rutledge consults with entertainment companies, such as 20th Century Fox Films and Warner Bros., on data strategies and audience narratives. Dr. Rutledge has published both academic and popular work, including a text on positive psychology and psychological appeal for fans of the Twilight Saga and resilience in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She has also written book chapters on meaning-making and fandom, transmedia narrative engagement, and positive media psychology. She authors “Positively Media” for Psychology Today and is also a frequent expert source on media use and popular culture for media outlets such as The NY Times, The BBC World and ABC News. She holds a PhD and an MBA.

The Super Bowl Ad Game: What Makes a Brand Fumble?


Emotions and mental models drive viewer engagement and brand recall. KEY POINTS Audience heuristics, mental models, and expectations determine a commercial's success. Celebrity collaborations can boost brand trust, but they risk the vampire effect without attention to balance. Popularity isn't the same as message effectiveness or behavioral intention. Visual content that conflicts with the brand message undermines the intended impact. Nielson reported that Super Bowl LVIII had 120.3 million viewers, putting it second on the list of most-viewed American television events behind the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. Emotions ran high with the excitement over a halftime show by Usher [...]

The Super Bowl Ad Game: What Makes a Brand Fumble?2024-02-21T06:34:11-08:00

How Holiday Sharenting Can Put Your Kids at Risk


Online personas crafted by parents can hinder a child's identity development. KEY POINTS Sharenting, even with the best intentions, can violate a child's privacy and disclose personal information. Social media providers have the right to use all content you post to target ads and train algorithms. Sharenting creates a public image that may conflict with a teen's self-image and hinder identity development. The holiday season is in full swing. Parties and family gatherings mean lots of Instagram photo ops. It's easy to get swept up in the fun, but here's a reminder: put down the eggnog and take a breath [...]

How Holiday Sharenting Can Put Your Kids at Risk2023ե֭-12-21T10:40:51-08:00

Why Holiday Movies Can Combat Loneliness and Stress


Holiday movies boost our positive emotions and sense of social connection. KEY POINTS Holiday films can elevate spirits and provide an escape from stress. Nostalgia from rewatching favorites kindles warmth and feelings of social support. Family watch parties strengthen bonds, link generations, and create traditions. Holiday movies are here, reminding us that it’s time for the Christmas holidays. Americans rank watching holiday movies as one of their favorite traditions, above tree decorating and cookie baking. I like to check out the lists of "most popular" Christmas movies each year as an ersatz "needs" barometer. Much less scientific than the Belonging [...]

Why Holiday Movies Can Combat Loneliness and Stress2023ե֭-12-06T09:13:52-08:00

Leveling Up: Developmental Psych for Setting Video Game Controls


Here's how to set developmentally appropriate video game controls for tweens and teens that support the dynamic nature of a child's growth. KEY POINTS Effective digital parenting adapts to children's maturing needs over time. Tweens benefit from structures that balance gameplay with diverse developmental activities. Young teens need a combination of independence and supportive parental guidance. Teach older teens to self-regulate through discussions and collaborative boundary-setting If you have considered setting parental controls for your kids' video games and gaming systems, the dizzying complexity of today's gaming platforms can be overwhelming, making you hesitant to allow much video gameplay. Yet, [...]

Leveling Up: Developmental Psych for Setting Video Game Controls2023ե֭-11-13T15:04:12-08:00

How and Why to Use Parental Controls in Video Games


Parental controls are like training wheels for keeping young players safe. KEY POINTS In spite of parental concerns, gaming can foster resilience, social skills, and cognitive development. Many consoles and gaming ecosystems offer parents multiple levels of control. Parental controls should be like training wheels, providing structure as players mature. Discussing and adapting parental restrictions as kids mature can build trust and teach values. The top questions I get from parents are about screen time, most of them driven by fear. Screen time is today’s bogeyman, the monster under the bed. We blame it for everything from depression and anger to poor body image. Restricting screen time [...]

How and Why to Use Parental Controls in Video Games2023ե֭-11-09T09:42:18-08:00

7 Strategies to Help Kids Cope With War Images in the Media


Kids need digital literacy skills when faced with distressing media content. KEY POINTS TikTok is kids’ go-to for news about current events, putting them at risk for misinformation and distress. Videos activate emotion, create social presence and influence beliefs and attitudes. Digital literacy strategies can give kids the necessary skills to manage distressing content. Social media is the main source of news for over half of Americans, particularly for Gen Z. On TikTok, one-third of users are between ages 10 and 19. These young people are getting information from a platform where professional journalists are overrun by opinionated TikTokers and bots. [...]

7 Strategies to Help Kids Cope With War Images in the Media2023ե֭-10-30T08:48:36-07:00

How to Find Media Balance During Violent Conflicts


Media management can help you stay current without sacrificing well-being. KEY POINTS Violent images trigger fight or flight, decrease cognitive scrutiny, and increase persuasive impact. TikTok is a go-to source for world events putting users at risk for emotional distress and misinformation. Using media management strategies can protect your mental health. It’s hard to escape the horrors of war when violent and gruesome images flood the media. Conflicting reports make staying current difficult, increasing our sense of “need to know”—leading quickly to doomscrolling behaviors such as those we saw during COVID-19. The tendency to look and keep looking is normal. It's [...]

How to Find Media Balance During Violent Conflicts2023ե֭-10-27T13:00:10-07:00

Ghosting: How to Deal with Digital Disconnects in Dating


Just because ghosting is on the rise doesn't make it hurt less. KEY POINTS Ghosting's rise coincides with the popularity of online dating and mobile apps. Ghosting leaves people feeling abandoned, questioning their desirability, and grappling with uncertainty. Self-awareness and coping strategies can decrease careless ghosting and build resilience. There are two kinds of ghosting. Both involve disappearing after making contact, but only one comes with treats. Ghosting at Halloween means you ring the doorbell, leave a bag of treats, and then run away before anyone can see you. Ghosting online or on dating apps is simply disappearing without an explanation. No treats. [...]

Ghosting: How to Deal with Digital Disconnects in Dating2023ե֭-10-25T08:17:21-07:00

Beyoncé’s #MuteChallenge as a Mindfulness Moment


By silencing the noise, Beyoncé created a viral trend that enhanced experience. KEY POINTS The #mutechallenge, a viral moment from Beyonce’s new tour, offers a rare opportunity to practice mindfulness. The act of being silent can help draw attention to the present moment and what is going on inside the body. Teachers have taken to using the #mutechallenge in classrooms to help children focus and improve learning. The #mutechallenge is a viral trend that emerged from Beyonce’s Renaissance World Tour. Beyoncé starting a viral trend isn’t surprising—she is one of the most influential music artists. However, I was intrigued when [...]

Beyoncé’s #MuteChallenge as a Mindfulness Moment2023ե֭-10-10T12:26:38-07:00

Why Do We Care Who Taylor Swift Dates?


Parasocial relationships can increase meaning and enjoyment. KEY POINTS Taylor Swift’s level of success can attract our curiosity, even if we’re not a fan. Swifties, and other fans, feel deep emotional parasocial connections due to media’s "illusion of intimacy.” Swift-Kelce dating rumors multiply emotional stakes for fans invested in Taylor's romances. Most parasocial relationships are perfectly healthy, adding to meaning, sense of community, and enjoyment. Taylor Swift attended several recent Chiefs games, amidst rumors that she’s dating NFL star and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. If you didn’t know this, you probably haven’t been paying attention, either to the news or to social [...]

Why Do We Care Who Taylor Swift Dates?2023ե֭-10-02T08:59:37-07:00
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