Francis Steen

Associate Professor

Contact Information

Office  2328 Rolfe Hall
Phone  310-825-3147
How do we learn from mass media? I research how people use the multimodal information in mass media to form complex and integrated models of reality, using language, images, gesture, and emotion.

A central area of my research is how the news engages in a process of reasoning about the causes of events, and about how to intervene and take control of the future; see my talk on The News as a Social Process for Improving Society. I develop these themes in the international research project Negotiating Values: Collective Identities and Resilience after 22/7, led by the Peace Research Institute in Oslo and funded by the Norwegian Research Council, where I examine the media response to the attacks in Oslo on July 22, 2011. My collaborators at UCLA include Johanna Drucker, GSR Morgan Currie, and my RA Abi Magalong.

How we form complex and integrated models of reality has important consequences for education, and I am part of research groups in Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, and Education that examine how children and students learn. In 2011-12, I was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Norwegian Academy of Sciences in Oslo, studying Time is Space: Unconscious Models and Conscious Acts with a group of cognitive linguists examining how a sense of "here" and "now" is created in the news (Nesset et al., forthcoming). I also work with Marco Iacoboni of the Brain Mapping Center and Noel Enyedy of the Department of Education on the Neuroscience of Role-Mediated Learning (DeLiema & Steen, forthcoming). As a Fellow of the Mind & Society Institute at Azim Premji University in Bangaluru, India, I work on developing educational interventions for middle-school children that relate to identity formation.

I work with Rajesh Kasturirangan, Mark Turner, and David DeLiema on developing a next-generation Cognitive Science that integrates the various dimensions of human experience, including language, images, gesture, and emotion; for a first installment, see Steen & Turner, forthcoming.

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Ph.D., English, University of California, Santa Barbara

M.A., English, University of Oslo, Norway

B.A., English and History of Ideas, University of Oslo, Norway


DeLiema, David J. and Francis F. Steen (forthcoming, 2013). “Thinking With the Body: Conceptual Integration Through Gesture in Multiviewpoint Model Construction”. Language and the Creative Mind. Edited by Michael Borkent, Barbara Dancygier, and Jennifer Hinnell. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

Steen, Francis F. and Mark Turner (forthcoming, 2013). “Multimodal Construction Grammar”. Language and the Creative Mind. Edited by Michael Borkent, Barbara Dancygier, and Jennifer Hinnell. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications. Supporting materials.

Steen, Francis F., Patricia M. Greenfield, Mari-Sian Davies, and Brendesha Tynes (2006). “What Went Wrong with The Sims Online: Cultural Learning and Barriers to Identification in a MMOG.” In Peter Vorderer and Bryant Jennings (eds.). Playing Video Games – Motives, Responses, and Consequences. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. 307-323.

Steen, Francis F. (2005). "The Paradox of Narrative Thinking." Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology 3. 1: 87-105.

Steen, Francis F.  and Stephanie Owens (2001). "Evolution’s Pedagogy: An Adaptationist Model of Pretense and Entertainment."  Journal of Cognition and Culture 1. 4: 289-321.

Steen, Francis F. (1998). "‘The Time of Unrememberable Being’: Wordsworth’s Autobiography of the Imagination." Auto/Biography Studies, special issue on autobiography and neuroscience, 13.1: 7-38.