Informatics Seminar Series
Fall Quarter 2022

Friday, December 2, 2022

“Science and Storytelling: How to Make Impact with Research”

Yalda T. Uhls
Founder and Executive Director, Center for Scholars and Storytellers

Streaming services have catalyzed an explosion of youth-facing content, which has massively shifted the sociocultural landscape. US youth (8-18), especially those from lower SES, spend more hours consuming media than with caregivers or in school. Media consumed during adolescence, a developmental stage of social-affective engagement and goal flexibility, may be an especially powerful socializing agent.

Researchers conduct hundreds of empirical studies containing insights into how stories could be designed for youth to minimize harms and maximize benefits. Many Hollywood creators care about prosocial learning, but without a turnkey method to integrate research findings into content, the potential impact of storytelling can go to waste. Translation work delivered in a systematic and sustained manner is critical because empirical research could be productively leveraged to shape the design, narratives, and marketing of media aimed at youth markets.

The Center for Scholars & Storytellers (CSS), based at UCLA in the psychology department, builds connections between these traditionally siloed groups. This talk will share insights into how CSS works with the entertainment and tech industry (including Disney, Mattel and YouTube) and offer case studies of impact.

Yalda T. Uhls is an internationally recognized, award-winning research scientist, educator and author, studying how media affect young people. Her peer reviewed research has been featured in many news outlets including NPR and the NY Times. In her former career, she was a senior movie executive at MGM and Sony. Uhls is the founding director of The Center for Scholars & Storytellers, a research organization based at UCLA, which bridges the gap between social science research and media creation to support authentic and inclusive stories for youth.

Uhls is also an adjunct professor at UCLA where she does research on how media affect the social behavior of tweens and teens and teaches a class on Digital Media and Human Development and is the author of the parenting book Media Moms & Digital Dads: A Fact not Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age.

Dr. Uhls knowledge of how media content is created and the science of how media affect children inform her unique perspective.

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