Debra Lieberman is a lecturer in the Department of Communication and a researcher in the Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research (ISBER) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research focuses on the psychology and design of human-computer interaction and on processes of learning with interactive media, especially in the areas of health communication, interactive games for learning, and children’s media.

Debra serves as principal investigator on media research and development grants funded by public agencies, private foundations, and corporations. She is director of Health Games Research, a national program that provides scientific leadership and resources to advance the research, design, and effectiveness of digital games and game technologies that promote health.

She also consults for educational organizations, healthcare providers, and media and technology companies to research, develop, and evaluate interactive content that blends entertainment and learning – on computers, web sites, video games, interactive toys, and interactive television. Her clients have included Apple Computer, Disney, Extempo Systems, Galaxy Classroom, HopeLab, Kaiser Permanente, Knowledge Adventure, The Learning Company, Microsoft, Paramount Interactive, PBS, Pixar, Riverdeep, Salus Media, SRI International, WebTV, WestEd, Zowie Entertainment, and others.

Currently at UC Santa Barbara her research investigates features of interactive media that can motivate and support learning and behavior change, such as message targeting and tailoring, user control, perceived interactivity, and personalized images. She is also conducting research on the potential impacts of dance contest video games on players’ weight management, physical fitness, and motivation to exercise.

Before joining UC Santa Barbara, Debra was vice president of research at Click Health, where she developed theory-based instructional strategies for a series of Nintendo video games designed to improve children’s and adolescents’ prevention and self-care behaviors for asthma, diabetes, smoking prevention, and other health topics. Research studies and clinical trials have found that the games are effective and they reduce players’ urgent care and emergency medical visits by as much as 77 percent. Prior to working at Click Health, Debra held research and development management positions in health media and educational media companies including InterPractice Systems, Caresoft, and Computer Curriculum Corporation. Earlier, she was a faculty member in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University, Bloomington.


Health Communication, Media and Children, Persuasion, Research and Design of Digital Games for Learning and Health, Processes of Learning and Behavior Change with Interactive Media