Home | People |

Jorge Pena


  • Ph.D., Communication, Cornell University, 2007
  • M. S., Communication, Cornell University, 2004
  • B. A., Social & Organizational Psychology, Universidad de Santiago de Chile, 2002


Jorge Peña specializes in computer-mediated communication, new media, communication in video games and virtual environments, and content analysis of online communication. He is a member of the editorial board of Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication and was Chair and Vice-Chair of the Game Studies Division at the National Communication Association.

Research Focus

Professor Peña investigates cognition, affect, and behavior in video games and virtual environments. He also studies priming effects in virtual contexts, along with impression formation and group communication in online settings. Professor Peña employs quantitative research methods such as experiments, content analysis, and automated linguistic analysis.

Selected Publications

Peña, J., Craig, M., & Baumhardt, H. (2022). The effects of avatar customization and virtual human mind perception: A test using Milgram’s paradigm. New Media & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448221127258

Pan, W., & Peña, J. (2021). A replication and expansion of the exposure effects of online model photos and social comparison goals on planned weight-loss behaviors. New Media & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F14614448211055367

Navarro, J. Peña, J. Cebolla, A., & Baños, R. (2020). Can avatar appearance influence physical activity? User-avatar similarity and Proteus effects on cardiac frequency and step counts. Health Communicationhttps://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2020.1834194  

Peña, J., & Hernandez, J. F. (2019). Game perspective-taking effects on willingness to help immigrants: A replication study with a Spanish sample. New Media & Society, 22, (6), 944-958DOI: 10.1177/1461444819874472

Pan, W., & Peña, J. (2019). Looking down on others to feel good about the self: The exposure effects of online model pictures on men’s self-esteem. Health Communication, 35, 731-738https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2019.1584780


Jorge Peña teaches courses in computer-mediated communication. He also teaches courses on the uses and social effects of video games and virtual environments.


  • Awarded a $25,000 seed grant as 50% co-PI for a UC Davis Center for Advancing Pain Relief (CAPR) seed grant with Dr. Ian Koebner (spring 2021).
  • Awarded a $63,000 Innovative learning technology initiative grant for the development of an UC systemwide online course examining the effects of video games and VR/AR on human cognition and behavior (fall 2018).