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Karen Shackleford, Ph.D. - Fielding Graduate University. Hickory, NC, US

Karen Shackleford, Ph.D.

Doctoral Faculty - Media Psychology | Fielding Graduate University


Media violence; Fandom and the construction of meaning from media; Media, race and gender.




Karen Shackleford, Ph.D. Publication Karen Shackleford, Ph.D. Publication Karen Shackleford, Ph.D. Publication Karen Shackleford, Ph.D. Publication



WHAT IS Dr. Karen Dill-Shackleford talks about HERLOCK




Karen Dill-Shackleford earned her PhD in social psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her dissertation on media violence has been cited 1,500 times. She testified twice before Congress about media use and everyday realities. Karen studies the way people seek and construct social meaning from media including fictional stories, especially in the context of fandom. She demonstrates how media can be used to enhance social justice, particularly related to issues involving race and gender. She also studies the benefits of using media to support a meditation practice to enhance psychological well being. Karen is the author of How Fantasy Becomes Reality, and the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology. She is co-author of Mad Men Unzipped: Fans on Sex, Love, and the Sixties on TV (University of Iowa Press, 2015); and Finding Truth in Fiction: The Benefits of Getting Lost in a Story (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Industry Expertise (3)


Training and Development


Areas of Expertise (13)

Social Psychology

Media Psychology



Social Representations in Media

Social Justice


Meaning Making



Media Effects


Social Media

Accomplishments (4)

Outstanding Woman of Catawba Valley Award (professional)

(2008) Awarded by the League of Women Voters of Catawba Valley, NC.

Outstanding Community Service Award (professional)

(2007) Awarded by Lenoir-Rhyne College.

Expert Testimony, US Congress (professional)

(2000) Called to give expert testimony at the Public Health Summit on Entertainment Violence (2007)) Called to give expert testimony before the House subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection; Hearing entitled, From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images. http://tinyurl.com/imustoindustry

University Yearbook Dedicatee (professional)

(2009) Dedicated by Fielding Graduate University

Education (3)

University of Missouri-Columbia: PhD, Social Psychology 1997

University of Missouri-Columbia: MA, Social Psychology 1994

University of Missouri-Columbia: BA, Psychology 1991

Affiliations (7)

  • ICA (Feminist Scholarship and Mass Communications) : Member 2013-present
  • APA, Division 46 (Media Psychology) : Member 2009-present
  • Psychologists for Social Responsibility : Member 2011-present
  • International Society for Research on Aggression : Member 2008-present
  • Southeastern Psychological Association : Member 1998-present
  • Association for Psychological Science : Member
  • Psi Chi Society : Member 1990-present (President - University of Missouri chapter 1991, Vice-President 1990)

Media Appearances (6)

The Social Psychology of Fandom: TV and Film Absorption as Psychological Fitness Exercise

(2015) American Psychological Association, Division 46  online

Salon Series Webinar Washington, D.C.

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Media changes course on Ebola

Columbia Journalism Review  online


Such drama only intensifies once politics becomes part of the equation, said Karen Dill-Shackleford, director of the media psychology program at Fielding Graduate University. Politicians and partisan commentators alike have used the virus to take shots at the Obama administration — or to deflect them. On Wednesday night, for example, Fox News host Sean Hannity asked Karl Rove, the political strategist, not only how Ebola would play in the midterm elections, but also how to best treat the virus...

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Model With Disabilities New Image for Tomboy Shop

Womens eNews  online


Social and media psychologist Karen Dill-Shackleford also said seeing Sheypuk regularly modeling for The Tomboy Shop is important because it shows everyone that people with disabilities are just another diversity in life. "It tells [people without disabilities] that people with disabilities have jobs, they are respected by people around them and they are considered beautiful," she said. Dill-Shackleford said if people are invisible in the media we miss out on the crucial opportunity to learn about them. "Learning more leads to less fear and greater understanding and that probably leads to less discrimination."...

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Be Very Afraid: How the Media Failed In Covering Ebola

Harvard Political Review  online


In an interview with the HPR, Karen Dill-Shackleford, director of the media psychology program at Fielding Graduate University, argued that cable news outlets have been particularly bad about spreading misinformation about Ebola. “They know that these things are not true in the way that they present them, but they’re just trying to drum up interest, and unfortunately they just usually push the simple button which is fear.”...

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Engaging in #GamerGate: "There is that fear going into it, as a woman"

Iowa Public Radio  online


The #GamerGate controversy started with concern over ethics in video game journalism and quickly turned into a conversation on how women are treated and perceived in the world of video gaming – an industry that has been mostly dominated by men...

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More than virtual: real community, many ways of connecting

OUPblog  online


Mike was a doctoral student profoundly appreciated and esteemed by faculty, peers, staff, and all who came in contact with him. As is typical in our community, Mike was already a successful mid-career professional. He worked in the tech world and brought his expertise to us. He didn’t have a background in research psychology, but in the last year of his doctoral program, his work was published on nine occasions. Nine publications during the last year of graduate school is an incredible feat for anyone...

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Event Appearances (14)

When sexism trumps fandom: Hostile sexism and social dominance predict negative reactions to Doctor Who’s first female Doctor (with Greenwood, D.N., Clifton, A., Vinney, C., Sadeghi-Azar, L.)

(2018) Association for Psychological Science Annual Meeting  San Francisco, CA

Popular culture media fans as a population for the study of long-term narrative effects

(2018) International Communication Association Annual Meeting, Narrative Pre-Conference  Prague, Czech Republic

Inspiration and aspiration: Women in STEM careers reflect on role models, media portrays and influences on occupational goals (with Hopper-Losenicky, K.)

(2017) Society for Research in Child Development Special Topics meeting on media and children  Irvine, CA

Moms, teenaged girls, and selfies: Daughters’ selfie Practices, gratifications, beliefs and personality correlates

(2016) Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference  Seattle, WA

Media and social justice: The power of stories

(2016) Latino America Series  Catawba Valley Community College, Hickory, North Carolina

The social psychology of fandom: TV and film absorption as psychological fitness exercise

(2015) American Psychological Association -- Division 46, Salon Series Webinar  Washington, D.C.

Media Portrayals of Social Groups

(2015) Institutes of Medicine Board on Children, Youth and Families (Group presentation)  Washington, DC

Modality of Social Support and User Preferences and Success

(2015) American Psychological Association annual meeting  Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Drinking and sex: The addictions of Mad Men through the eyes of the fans

(2015) Popular Culture Association annual meeting  New Orleans, LA

Using social media for sobriety recovery

(2015) American Psychological Association annual meeting  Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Modality of social support: Sobriety recovery using online and face-to-face support

(2015) American Psychological Association  Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Meaningful media lessons: How adolescents learn and develop through interactions with media

(2015) Digital Media and Developing Minds Conference  Irvine, CA

Social psychological perspectives on prosocial media research and application (panel presentation)

(2013) The International Communications Association  London, UK

Using dramatic narrative to reduce myths about relationship abuse (with L.E. Shackleford, M.C. Green, E. Scharrer & C. Wetterer)

(2012) International Society for Research in Aggression Conference  Walferdange, Luxembourg

Research Focus (1)

The social construction of reality via our interactions with media in all its forms

Special emphasis on human/media interactions that underlie the social construction of reality, particularly regarding social groups (e.g., gender, race, sexual orientation and their intersections); and the construction of reality via narrative media effects and qualitative approaches to research; minimizing risk and increasing benefits of media use (e.g., stereotypes vs. counter-stereotypes; aggression vs. empowerment)

Research Grants (1)


Fielding Graduate University & The Kettering Foundation 

Selected as Senior Researcher on a grant between Fielding Graduate University and the Kettering Foundation on the topic of ameliorating race relations and understanding the public conversation about race, May, 2016.

Articles (20)

JOURNAL: Psychology of Popular Media Culture

(2020) Psychology of Popular Media Culture

Ed. Dill-Shackleford, K. E.

American Psychological Association (APA) Psychology of Popular Media Culture ® is a scholarly journal dedicated to publishing empirical research and papers on how popular culture and general media influence individual, group, and system behavior. The journal publishes rigorous research studies, as well as data-driven theoretical papers on constructs, consequences, program evaluations, and trends related to popular culture and various media sources. Although the journal welcomes and encourages submissions from a wide variety of disciplines, topics should be linked to psychological theory and research. Fielding Media Psychology faculty member Karen Dill-Shackleford is Incoming Editor of the American Psychological Association's Psychology of Popular Media Culture for January 2020.

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BOOK: Finding Truth in Fiction: The Benefits of Getting Lost in a Story

New York, Oxford University Press

(2019) Dill-Shackleford, K. E., & Vinney, C.

In press

BOOK: How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Information and Entertainment Media in Everyday Life (Revised and Expanded)

New York: Oxford University Press

(2016) Dill-Shackleford, K. E.

From smartphones to social media, from streaming videos to fitness bands, our devices bring us information and entertainment all day long, forming an intimate part of our lives. Their ubiquity represents a major shift in human experience, and although we often hold our devices dear, we do not always fully appreciate how their nearly constant presence can influence our lives for better and for worse.

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BOOK: Mad Men Unzipped: Fans on sex, love, and the sixties on TV

University of Iowa Press

(2015) Dill-Shackleford, K. E., Vinney, C., Hogg, J. L., & Hopper-Losenicky, K.

Iowa City This is the story of the Mad Men fan phenomenon: how the show and its fans distinguished themselves in a market where it’s hard to make an impression, not unlike the driven ad execs at the center of the show. In this book, four media psychologists who also just happen to be dedicated Mad Men fans explore how the show’s viewers make meaning from fictional drama. The authors also interviewed several contemporary advertising industry professionals, getting their inside view of the business in its modern guise and what they make of the show’s vision of their past. The result is cutting-edge psychological research...

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BOOK: The Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology

Oxford University Press

(2013) Dill, K. E. (Ed.)

New York, NY It is indisputable that media is by far the most common means by which human beings spend our free time in the modern world. However, the ubiquity of media in our lives brings with it advantages and disadvantages along with uncertainty: will increased dependence on media impair our social functioning, enhance it, or both?

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Watching Black Panther with Racially-Diverse Youth: Relationships between Film Viewing, Ethnicity, Identification, Empowerment and Wellbeing

Review of Communication

Gonzalez-Velazquez, C. A., Shackleford, K. E., Keller, L. N., Vinney, C., & Drake, L. M. (2020). Watching Black Panther with Racially-Diverse Youth: Relationships between Film Viewing, Ethnicity, Identification, Empowerment and Wellbeing. Review of Communication, 20(3), 250-259., DOI: 10.1080/15358593.2020.1778067 In Griffin, R.A., and Rossing, J.P. (Eds.). Black Panther in Widescreen: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on a Pioneering, Paradoxical Film [Special issue].

Development and validation of a measure of popular media fan identity and its relationship to well-being

Psychology of Popular Media Culture

Vinney, C., Dill-Shackleford, K., Plante, C. N., & Bartsch, A. (2019). Development and validation of a measure of popular media fan identity and its relationship to well-being. Psychology of Popular Media Culture., 8(3), 296-307. doi:http://dx.doi.org.fgul.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/ppm0000188

Social media use and happiness in adults with autism spectrum disorder

Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking

Ward, D. M., Dill-Shackleford, K. E., & Mazurek, M. O. (2018). Social media use and happiness in adults with autism spectrum disorder. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 21(3), doi: 10/1098/cyber.2017.0331

Using social media for sobriety recovery? Preferences, Beliefs, Behaviors, and Surprises From Users

Psychology of Popular Media Culture

(2017) Grant, D. S., & Dill-Shackleford, K. E.

Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 6(1), 2–20. http://doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000126

Online Misogyny Targeting Feminist Activism: Anita Sarkeesian and Gamergate

Wiley Handbook of Violence and Aggression

(2017) Burgess, M. C. R., Byars, F., Sadeghi-Azar, L., & Dill-Shackleford, K. E.

Peter Sturmey (Ed.), Hoboken, NJ

Stories about Black Men in the Media and Their Consequences

Perspectives on Health Equity and Social Determinants of Health: National Academy of Medicine

(2017) Dill-Shackleford K. E., Ramasubramanian S., & Drake L. M.

Washington, D.C.

Connecting the dots between fantasy and reality: The social psychology of our engagement with fictional narrative and its functional value

Social and Personality Psychology Compass

(2016) Dill‐Shackleford, K. E., Vinney, C., and Hopper‐Losenicky, K.

Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 10, 634-646, doi: 10.1111/spc3.12274

Race, gender and sexual orientation in gaming research

International Handbook of Consumer Psychology

(2016) Stotler, M. A., & Dill-Shackleford, K. E.

C. Jansson-Boyd & M. Zowisza (Eds.) Taylor & Francis Ltd

Fan fiction as a vehicle for meaning making: Eudaimonic appreciation, hedonic enjoyment, and other perspectives on fan engagement with television

Psychology of Popular Media Culture

(2016) Vinney, C., & Dill-Shackleford, K.

Psychology of Popular Media Culture, doi:http://dx.doi.org.fgul.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/ppm0000106

Memo on Racial and Ethnic Tensions

The Marie Fielder Center for Democracy, Leadership, and Education

(2016) Dill-Shackleford, K. E., Eddington, S., Henderson, L., Mizock, L., & Taylor, O.


Consensus on Media Violence Effects : Comments on Bushman , Gollwitzer , and Cruz

Psychology of Popular Media Culture

(2015) Anderson, C. A., Andrighetto, L., Begue, L., Boxer, P., Brockmeyer, J. F., Burgess, M. C. R., …Dill-Shackleford, K. E.,… Warburton, W.

Mad Men fans speak via social media: What fan voices reveal about the social construction of reality via dramatic fiction

The Journal of Fandom Studies

(2015) Fans of complex television dramas often watch because of eudaimonic motivations–the desire to make meaning from media, to explore their own emotions and to learn about the human experience through the exploration of novel experiences that ...

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Setting the Stage for Social Change: Using Live Theater to Dispel Myths About Intimate Partner Violence

Journal of Health Communication

(2015) Research has demonstrated the ability of fictional narratives to educate about social and health issues. Although some entertainment-education efforts have used live theater as a mechanism for social change, very few use social science methods to ...

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Self-compassion and body dissatisfaction in women: A randomized controlled trial of a brief meditation intervention


(2014) Body dissatisfaction is a major source of suffering among women of all ages. One potential factor that could mitigate body dissatisfaction is self-compassion, a construct that is garnering increasing research attention due to its strong association with psychological ...

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Influence of Black Masculinity Game Exemplars on Social Judgments

Simulation & Gaming: An International Journal

(2012) In this investigation, the authors ask how media exemplars of Black masculinity influence the views of and intentions toward other Black men. An experiment compared the effects of exposure to Black video game characters fitting the exemplar thug or street criminal (e.g., Carl Johnson from GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS) versus exemplars of professional Black men (e.g., political leaders), on evaluations of an unknown and unrelated Black or White political candidate and on pro-Black attitudes. Results revealed significant interactions of exemplar type and candidate race on favorability and capability candidate ratings and on pro-Black attitudes. These data demonstrate the power of mass media exemplars of Black masculinity to prime meaningfully different outcomes in viewers. As the face of gaming evolves with advances in technology, so too should the characterization of race in games.

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