Research Lab

Psychology and Communication Technology (PaCT) Lab


The Psychology and Communication Technology Lab (PaCT), is interested in the psychological factors surrounding peoples’ use of communication technology (CT). Many of our projects focus particularly on the use of social media sites such as Facebook. However, our interests extend more broadly to other platforms available via cell phones, tablets, and computers (i.e., snapchat, instagram, youtube, email, IM, etc.). Our research attempts to understand several aspects of CT, including: (1) What psychological factors predict CT usage. (2) How do people use various CT in their everyday lives? (3) How do social cognitive processes occur through CT? (4) What are the psychological and interpersonal outcomes of CT usage?


Self-disclosure processes on social media

  • This project explores reactions to others’ disclosures online. Specifically, we are interested in understanding the factors that not only predict how we will react to others’ disclosures (e.g., the nature of the content, relationship with the poster, and other social-cognitive variables), but also the impact others’ disclosures on our own well-being and interpersonal relationships.

Race, stigma, and discrimination on social media

  • This project explores the consequences of being exposed to politically or racially charged content on social media, in addition to the consequences of participating in discourse. In particular, we are examining the psychological reactions and consequences for those who are members of stigmatized groups (e.g. racial/ethnic minorities).

Cross-cultural comparisons of CT use

  • My research assistant, Kelvin Wong, and I are examining individuals’ interpretations of emoticons and emojis, with a focus on determining whether certain emoticons/emojis convey higher or lower levels of emotional expression. Further, we are examining whether there are cultural similarities and differences in these interpretations, along with testing how the use of emoticons/emojis influences impression formation for East Asian individuals as compared to Western individuals.

The influence of social media on alcohol expectancies

  • My research assistant, Samantha Crist, and I are currently working on a project in which we are exploring whether Instagram use influences alcohol expectancies. Specifically, we are testing whether being exposed to alcohol related posts on Instagram leads to significant changes in the expectations that people have surrounding their consumption of alcohol (e.g., the belief that if they drink they will be the life of the party).


Nicole Muscanell, Ph.D., Social Psychology, Lab Director
Dr. Muscanell is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Penn State York. In graduate school, her research focused on persuasion and social influence via computer-mediated communication (CMC), personality as a predictor of social network site (SNS) usage, and self-presentation and impression management on SNS. As a postdoc, she examined self-disclosure on social media, the use of social media within the context of academia, and the role of SNS profiles in organizational settings.

Samantha Crist, B.S., Psychology, Research Assistant
Sami received her bachelor of science in psychology from Penn State York. Currently, she is a Patient Registration Representative at Inova Loudoun Hospital (Inova Health System). Sami continues to collaborate on research with Dr. Muscanell which examines the social and cognitive influences on social media as they impact college student’s alcohol expectancies. Her research interests include substance abuse and addiction, in addition to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. She plans on going to graduate school to earn a Master’s degree.

Chi Kiu Kelvin Wong, Research Assistant
Kelvin is currently a junior at Penn State (University Park) and is majoring in Psychology. He completed his first two years of undergraduate study at Penn State York, and continues to work on research at both campuses. Kelvin’s research with Dr. Muscanell explores interpretations of emojis and impression formation. He is interested in the psychology of video games, in addition to other areas within both the social and clinical fields of Psychology. Kelvin is planning on going to graduate school to earn his Ph.D.

Are you interested in becoming a research assistant?
Dr. Muscanell is not currently accepting  new research assistants (Spring 2018). Please check back next semester.

Application: To apply, download and complete the application (file below). Return your application via email ( or in person (Grumbacher ISTC, Room 220).