Welcome to Amy S. Lu's website

Amy S. Lu


Associate Professor
College of Arts, Media & Design
Bouvé College of Health Sciences
Northeastern University

360 Huntington Ave
212A Lake Hall
Boston, MA 02115
O: 617.373.7839
F: 617.373.8533
E: a dot lu AT northeastern dot edu

l t a r t t

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Game Design program of the College of Arts, Media and Design and the Department of Health Sciences of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University.

I direct the Health Technology Lab and advise students in the Department of Communication Studies, the Game Design program, and the Department of Health Sciences.

My research is focused on understanding the psychological, physiological, and behavioral mechanisms and effects of media technologies for health promotion with the goal to design and evaluate innovative digital interventions that are theory-guided and evidence-based. Most of my work is interdisciplinary. I actively collaborate with scholars in communications, psychology, computer science, design, education, medicine, and public health.

My research program investigates three sub-topics:

I am interested in the persuasive effects of media narratives, or stories that may affect health behavior. One of the oldest and still most pervasive forms of communication, narratives is an especially powerful tool to communicate about health and change behavior. Narratives have the unique immersive quality that enables suspension of disbelief, vivid personal experiences, and helps create affection for the characters. As a narrative research scientist, I am among the first to study the psychological and behavioral impacts of narratives on physical activity behaviors and cognitive function among children and young adults using active video games and virtual reality. I plan to extend this research to encompass a broader range of the developmental spectrum and additional media technologies. [Publication Keywords - Narrative / RCT / Media Effects / Physical Activity / Exercise Physiology / ...]

My fascination in this area originated in my childhood interest in anime, or Japanese animation, which has many international visual and cultural elements. Having published highly recognized theoretical work on internationalization in anime, I've continued to explore this cultural hybridity phenomenon from a cognitive psychology perspective. I was the first to discover and empirically demonstrate the Own Race Projection (ORP) — the perception that ambiguous characters are perceived as belonging to the viewer's own racial and ethnic group. This line of research is closely aligned with narratives because character perception is a key determinant of the immersive quality of a story and user experience. Mediated characters are essential to the creation of the most efficacious games and other interactive media. [Publication Keywords - Avatar/Character / Perception / Animation / Anime / Persuasion / ...]

Digital media can offer targeted recipients much more than just a new communication channel and are especially important when trying to reach different populations. I have been working in the area of games for health by evaluating and designing video games, AR/VR/XR, smart-phone applications, and other interactive programs for various types of prevention and intervention research. Besides working on individual intervention projects, I have been working on multiple systematic and meta-analytic projects on games,  simulations, apps, and AR/VR/XR for health. I believe that in order to create more effective digital interventions, academia-based health technology researchers should engage in productive conversations and collaborations with game and technology studios as well as relevant industry groups. [Publication Keywords - Games for Health / Active Games / Virtual Reality / Systematic Review / Meta-Analysis / ...]

+ As a communication and behavior scientist, I'm looking for collaborators who'd like to explore technology-based health promotion via video games, electronic devices, and interactive applications among various populations. Drop me a line if you're interested!

+ We have multiple work-study positions in Spring 2024. Please check out the R121685 Research Assistant position on Workday!

News & Fun UPDATES
2024/4/6: Our group has received the Top Conference Paper Award at the 2024 KCHC!

2024/2/11 & 18: It was wonderful to see the thoughtful response to our JoC article by AnneMarie K. McClain and the detailed coverage of our VR study by Psypost - Thank you both!

2023/10/25: Our study on the  ambiguous racial presentation of animation characters is out on  Journal of Communication!

2023/5/16: Our meta-analysis on physical activity is out on JMIR!

2023/5/3: Our comprehensive AVG content analysis is out on Digital Health!

2023/4/24: Our serial vs. episodic animation + physical activity study is out on Communication Research!

2023/1/31: Our narrative for VR study is out on Virtual Reality!

2023/1/18: Our meta-analysis on balance is out on Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and reported here!

2022/12/16: Our RCT $$$ paper is out on Contemporary Clinical Trials!

2022/9/1: My Interdisciplinary Sabbatical started @ CBH & Psychology!

2021/9/22: Great to be on Children and Screen's Ask the Experts panel on Healthy Habits: Fostering Physical Health in A Digital World!

2021/7/12: Our cartoon character body shape design study is out on Frontiers in Psychology!

2021/5/16: Our VR for exercise paper is on Journal of Sport and Health Science!

2021/2/26: Excited to be on Northeastern CfD Games for Health panel!

2021/2/15: Our EPOC AVG paper is on BMC Pediatrics !

2021/2/2: Our post-AVG inhibitory control paper is out on Games for Health Journal!

+Older news, equally fun+

2020/7/17: Our RCT protocol paper is online!

2020/3/31: We are the first to report narrative's mediation effect on physical activities!
2019/11/21: Our JMIR-Serious Games interview paper is out!

2019/8/9: Our Pediatric Exercise Science paper is out!

2018/9/11: Our Journal of Clinical Medicine paper is out!

2018/7/20: Our latest Scientific Reports-Nature narrative/active game/cognition paper is out and reported here!

2018/1/2: Our games4health content analysis is online!

2017/3/31: Wrote about Julia, a Muppet with autism, on Sesame Street.

2017/1/31: Talked about my AVG project on Top of Mind.

2016/10/15: New paper on narrative + AVG is out in JMIR:)

2016/4/1: Just received my first R01 grant :D

2016/3/17: Had a blast with my first GDC talk!

2015/8/1: Finally done with summer conferences, whew!

2014/10/6: First Beantown talk

2014/8/1: Boston!

2013/6/19: Webgame Con '13

2013/3/20: In SF for SBM + GDC & spring break

2012/11/26: Nailed my lab name: Health Technology Lab!

2012/7/1: Just received my first R21 grant :)