Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mass Communication Effects ( Brief Notes )

These notes must for upcoming July 2016 NET

Mass Communication Research

· Scholars wanted to know: how media affect society, how media will affect our future

· Media influences, consequences still not understood

· Clear media do affect us, but how much & to what degree; effects closely studied by psychologists, sociologists & social psychologists

Charles Horton Cooley: Pioneer
· One of 1st social psychologists to look at media’s role; Human Nature & Social Order (1902) & Social Organization (1909) attempted to explain role of communication in society

· 2 opposing views: 1) media encourage individuality; 2) media limit distribution of new ideas, thus lead to assimilation

· Individuality encouraged: persons with unpopular political views can find like-minded individuals & find validation through media

· Limit new ideas: language in media could become the universal dialect of a people, replacing their own

· Cooley said 2 kinds of people result: one that embraces isolation; the other that is drawn to choice

· Felt modern media foster isolation & obliterates choice.

· Over time, media will eliminate what makes us unique as individuals, communities, races, and nations.

· May look, dress, behave differently; all still extremely similar

Cooley Summarized

· Some effects positive; info about alternative lifestyles, races, can lead to tolerance & acceptance
· Can be negative when:

o audiences develop superficial understanding & concern
o no detail about important issues
o overloaded with information

· Theories based on print media effects; inspired future researchers.

Movie Industry Concerns

· Researchers determined that film industry different from all others because films appealed to multiple senses; looked at actors such as Charlie Chaplin, one of the most popular; his films, The Kid (1921) & The Gold Rush (1925) showed just how popular; millions were going to the movie theaters a week

· Motion Picture Research Council questioned amount of influence on children; launched one of the largest studies funded by the Payne Fund

· 13 studies began in 1928, each answering a different question

o What was the content? (1500 films between 1920-1930; genre films)

o Who was exposed? (Edgar Dale studied 50 Ohio communities; found children, 5-8, attended more than adults, boys more than girls)

o How much info was retained? (Over 3 yrs, 3,000 tested at 6 wks, then 3 months; retention rates high among all groups; sleeper effect showed info can sit dormant in subconscious & emerge over time; movies did provide special format for learning

o Could retained ideas create an emotional response? (Most children displayed increased anger, sadness related to content)

o Do films cause children to act on increased emotions? (Children who attended often showed declining morals, delinquent behavior, lower intelligence, etc.)

o Does frequent film attendance lead to unsophisticated behavior or do unsophisticated children attend often? (Found no simple cause-and-effect relationship)

Payne Fund Studies’ Results

· Unable to find definitive answers to all of the questions

· Found that movies do have an effect on children

· Groundbreaking discovery: adults/children learn from media

· Discovered that what audiences learn affects how they live their lives; changed way academics viewed communication & media

Research Turns to Radio/Orson Welles

· Radio pivotal in homes; millions turned to CBS for its news; station known for being the only network to break into programming for newsworthy events

· On October 30, 1938, theater director Orson Welles adapted the HG Wells novel The War of the Worlds (with fictional news bulletins & “interruptions”)

War of the Worlds Broadcast

· Excellent special effects, acting & writing; seemed completely real to the 12 million listened; some listened without knowing it fiction; some estimate 6 million believed it factual; some evacuated, called police

· CBS radio under pressure; Federal Communication Commission (FCC) published guidelines against fiction & news

Suggestibility Research Resulting from War Broadcast

· Researcher Hadley Cantril & other broadcasters at Princeton University interviewed & observed to identify causes of panic

· 1st time communication researchers described types of people & conditions that lead to panic

· Suggestibility rather than less education a cause (Cantril thought less education) found that characteristics alone don’t explain listener’s reaction to panic, but people were more susceptible to panic if they had the following characteristics:

o A lack of self-confidence
o A sense of fatalism
o A tremendous amount of personal worry
o Strong religious beliefs

Lasswell’s Hypodermic Needle/Direct Effects

· Theorist Harold Lasswell theorized this; one of the 1st true theories to deal with mass media effects (1920s & 1930s)

· Suggested media “inject” public with thoughts & opinions media manipulators wanted; attributed powerful/direct effects of media

· Audience’s direct access to media was new & unfamiliar; now messages in homes & workplaces, unfiltered by human interaction

· 1930s Nazi Germany’s intelligent use of radio, film & print media an example; Lasswell felt there was no question that media influenced World Wars I & II; political propaganda on all sides

· Though convincing, this theory later discredited as being too simplistic; more sophisticated, complex theories resulted

· Lasswell went on to ask one of the most important questions of research: “who says what in which channel to whom & with what effect”; led future research

Lazarsfeld & Political Power Research

· 1940s, Paul Lazarsfeld & colleagues looked at mass media & changing views in politics

· 1st thought media sway a voter’s decision; later decided little effects on voting

· Political party affiliation more important; paid attention to media messages that support their affiliation

Selective Perception Theory

· Individuals respond & perceive messages selectively, based on their own personal needs (pay close attention to some things, ignore others)

· Media messages don’t affect groups the same; instead, the effects personalized & people remember what they choose to

· Recall in place to satisfy individual needs of the audience (recall what they want)

Uses & Gratification Theory

· Using selective perception, Lazarsfeld & researcher Elihu Katz developed uses & grats theory.

· Individuals respond, perceive & use media messages differently, depending on their own interests & needs

· People remember media messages on what they select to retain (selective recall)

· Places emphasis on personal gratification each individual gets from media to explain how why we select messages we consume & how they affect us

Two-Step Flow Research

· Lazarsfeld & Katz (political science research) suggest that media messages 1st influence economic & political power elites or opinion leaders who put their own “spin” on messages (1st step), then later pass them on through interpersonal contact or by using media messages (2nd step)

· Popular in the 1950s & 1960s, lost power once media channels expanded allowing more access.

The Technological School

· Early theories focused on direct effects of media on people; other theories emphasize indirect media influence

· Impact comes from media (the technology itself) rather than their messages

· Technological School (Toronto School) contends that the real impact lies in the changes that the technology has brought to societies

· Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” suggest that media have the power to shape & influence the message itself & determine how the audience interprets the message (broadcast emphasize image); McLuhan & mentor Innis felt media are extensions of human mind & body; electronic media extension of human nervous system; this extension circles globe, establishing interpersonal involvements, the “global village”

· Joshua Meyrowitz’s 1985 No Sense of Place examines the influence of electronic media on our cultural environments, and how our roles & behavioral patterns in society are formed.

· Manuel Castells’ 3-volume The Information Age examines the social, cultural, political & economic impact of the information society on our daily lives; 2nd volume focuses on how new media & technologies are changing how we organize our lives & define ourselves (MySpace, iPod, etc.)

Third-Person Effects Research

· End of the 20th century, researchers looked at effects from new angle; important not just how public is affected by media; how does the public think it is affected?

· New hypothesis seems to be confirmed in study after study.

· 1980s theory that suggests people tend to believe media messages affect & influence others more than themselves.

· As audience members, we resist the idea that we can be directly affected by messages; everyone else is susceptible though; this led to a more recent model, the indirect-effects model

Indirect Effects Research

· People tend to perceive the effect of messages of others, then react to their perception.

· Example: You hear me discuss Judge Judy, and you begin to assume that even if you are not a fan, the show is influential.
· If you hear it so much, you become tempted to jump on the bandwagon so you won’t be left out.

Social Learning/Modeling Theories

· Social learning: involves learning behavior that is controlled by environmental influences rather than internal influences.

· Modeling: typical result of social learning; observation of others’ actions to determine how you should behave.

· Concerned with ways in which observation of behavior in mass media can encourage similar behavior in audience members; problems that could result include:

o People make many decisions simply because of the behavior of others.
o Replicating aggression of cartoon characters, or wearing a jacket without going outside because others are doing so are all examples of modeling.

· Albert Bandura found that children learn aggression, sharing, cooperation, social interactions & disappointment from individuals in their environment.


· Bandura’s research led many to believe that if children could learn so much from people, they also likely learned from television, especially violence.

· Research on media violence & children controversial & falls under two types.

o 1st type: media violence lessens the likelihood that children will want to commit violence.
o 2nd type: media violence increases the drive for children to participate in violent behavior.

History of Media Violence Concern

· Issue of concern since 1950s; do media have great influence or limited effects?

· In 1960s, 2 government commissions explored topic; found some influence (some causal relationship between watching & acting violently).

· In the last 15 years, more criticism due to videogames & hip-hop music (Ice T’s “Cop Killer”; Columbine)

· More recent studies show just how much violence young people are subjected to (average child under 14 exposed to 11,000 TV murders).

Cartharsis Theory

· Dates back to Aristotle who felt that viewing tragic plays, people get to release emotions such as grief, rage & fear.

· Claims media can ease children’s urges to participate in violent behavior.

· Viewing violence in media helps aggressive people address their anger vicariously & lessens aggressive behavior.

Cultivation Theory

· Grew out of work by George Gerbner & colleagues (Annenberg)

· Late 1960s, tried to correlate amount of violence in primetime television to perceptions television viewers hold about “real-life” violence

· Thus, causal link to watching television & how we perceive reality; television “cultivates” or shapes the way we see the world.
Mean World Syndrome

· So much television violence leads people to think that the world is far more dangerous than it really is.

· Basically, TV shapes the way we see the world; the more TV watched, the more distorted perception of the world.

· David Walsh: violent video games can lead to violent behavior; other risk factors, but games heighten impulses of troubled teens.

Violence and Music

· Recent studies done focusing on violent images in music videos on cable music channels.

· Studies found that 16.4% of videos contained acts of violence; low, but 76% of violence was assisted by use of weapons.

· Study found that hard rock (72% of videos) and hip-hop/rap (48% of videos) were most violent genres.

· Three main problems identified with this violence:

o Increased levels of aggression: young males seeing violence as natural way to resolve conflicts.

o “Mean world” syndrome: steady diet of violent media over lengthy time makes viewers think it’s a “mean & violent” place; might lead to feelings of anxiety, alienation and depression.

o Desensitization: violent messages might lead to a loss of sympathy for victims, less proactive involvement in preventing & stopping violence, and a general perception of violence as the norm.

Women, Sex, Hip-Hop, Video Games & TV

· Depiction of women in videos of concern; some suggest that lyrics & videos degrade women; subservient to men (misogynist)

· Popular videogames objectify & stimulate violence & aggressive behavior toward women

· Popular television shows also problematic; 83% of most popular TV shows among teenagers in 2001-2002 had sexual content.

Sex & Pornography

· Worldwide business, but difficult to determine what is offensive, obscene & pornographic & what is not; even difficult for the Supreme Court to define (“know it when you see it”)

· Research begun in earnest in 1970 with the Presidential Commission on Obscenity & Pornography.

· Image & treatment of women & relationship between the sexes has been studied.

Telecommunications Act of 1996

· Most sweeping reforms in the field of telecommunications in 62 years (1934); mandated digital television; allowed cable services by telephone companies; discontinued media ownership regulations.

· One entire section dedicated to the issue of pornography on the Internet; courts have struck most rules down as unconstitutional & conflicting with the protections warranted by the First Amendment.

Ethics & Antisocial Behavior

· Media messages might be eroding traditional ethical values, thus stimulating antisocial behavior

· Images so pervasive that they might be creating a sense of alienation & frustration in the youth

· Pervasive use might lead to a society that places excessive importance on materialism, appearances & consumption of material goods.

Education and Socialization

· People who spend a great deal of time watching television have lower IQs.

· Studies suggest children who spend a limited amount of time watching television do better academically.

· Educational programming can help children strengthen abilities.

· Questions go unanswered in terms of the effects; certain that they tend to reflect & perpetuate gender & stereotypes.

Political Beliefs & Attitudes

· Many of us rely on media for political information; researchers interested in finding out if these images have an impact on people’s views, beliefs, attitudes & behavior.

· Anti-smoking public service campaigns have provided a wealth of information to gauge the effectiveness of mass media.

· Now looking at the relationship between political messages & voting behavior (“Rock the Vote”)

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