Media Effects Research Lab


About the Facility

The Media Effects Research Laboratory (MERL) housed in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications is a facility dedicated to conducting empirical research on the psychological effects of communication technologies and media psychology.

MERL is devoted to empirical research on the social and psychological effects of media messages and technologies. Several experimental studies involving hundreds of subjects have been conducted in the lab since its opening in 1997. Experiments have been executed by faculty as well as graduate students taking classes in medai effects, psychological aspects of communication technologies, and introduction to communication research methods.

In addition to providing a physical space for conducting controlled experiments, the Media Effects Research Laboratory acts as a resource facility for researchers conducting experiments and surveys in all aspects of media effects. The lab also serves as an impetus for effects researchers to collaborate and share results and ideas. The lab helps prepare and pretest stimuli, and its personnel offer assistance in designing experiments and questionnaires.


  • Two computer rooms with 10 PCs each;
  • one room for eye tracking;
  • one room for VR/game research;; and
  • one observation room.

Computer Wing

The computer wing, spread across two rooms, is home to about 20 computers, with 10 personal computers equipped with Media Lab and Direct RT reaction time software each. The lab has its own Steam account for gaming researchers as well as GameMaker downloaded to create game stimuli. Experimenters use this space to gather cognitive and behavioral measures in reaction to interacting with websites or other media online. Researchers can also examine unconscious or implicit attitudes through the use of reaction time tests.

TV, Games and VR Wing

TV, Games and VR wing has an Experimental room with audio/visual equipment, which is visible via one-way/two-way mirror from an adjoining Observation Room, to allow for unobtrusive observation of participants. The Experimental Room also features a 70" flat-panel LCD television, DVD player, and various video game consoles (Nintendo Wii, XBOX 360, Playstation, Nintendo Gamecube, PSP, and Nintendo DS) and dozens of popular video games as well as virtual reality equipment (Oculus).

Psychophysiology/Biometric Research Wing

This wing features a room, also visible from an adjoining Observation Room via one-way/two-way mirror, is dedicated to studying very granular ocular movement in response to media stimuli, and is equipped with two computer stations as well as large-screen TV. It has specialized eye-tracking hardware (Tobii Pro X2-60) and software (iMotions) that allows for advanced biometric data collection for eye tracking, facial expression as well as GSR, EMG, and EEG.


105 Willard Building (Bellisario Media Center), University Park, PA 16802