War of the World - War of the Worlds Study Hadley Cantril...

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War of the Worlds Study Hadley Cantril, along with the assistance of Hazel Gaudet and Herta Herzog published a study in 1940 titled “The Invasion in Mars.” This study set out to understand the psychology behind the mass panic that the radio broadcast of H.G. Well’s “War of the Worlds” produced. In this research, Cantril, Gaudet and Herzog intervied 138 participants that were particularly affected by the broadcast. “War of the Worlds” was delivered on the radio as a piece of fiction read in the format of a news broadcast. While there were clues at the beginning and end of the story that the piece was strictly narrative, many viewers tuned in after or tuned out before they could hear these. The realism of details, in addition to changing social norms, unstable conditions following the stock market crash, involvement in WWII, and the thrill of disaster all contributed to the widespread panic that War of the Worlds produced. Herzog’s interviews with 138 viewers proved significant to the study. Herzog’s decision to choose the majority (100) of subject who were affected by the broadcast, and of the same demographic region (New Jersey) contributed to the model that the researchers produced about the media’s impact on the individual. The sampling group represented in this study aimed to show the impact of education and economic status on the level of panic. This study is significant because of the model of media influence that was derived out of the research done here. The “Hypodermic Needle,” or “Stimulus and Response” model represents the media as being a “powerful” entity, while the audience is perceived as “weak”. The media is the stimulus in this model, encompassing those with information. The latter is the response group, defined as a “common man.” It is assumed in this model that the common man, in contrast with future studies, is uneducated, poor, and receptive.
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One subject wrapped up the totality of different fears in an interview, responding in The Invasion from Mars (1940) , “Everything is so upset in the world, that anything might happen (157) .” The researchers proclaim “If they can see why some people reacted unintelligently in this instance, they may be able to build up their resistance to similar situations (viii).” Word Count: 368 Cantril, H, H. Gaudet and H. Herzog. The Invasion from Mars. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1940. vii-xii, 15-164. The Decatur Study and the Role of Personal Influence The Decatur Study, which was started by C. Wright Mills, was later inherited by Elihu Katz, a student of Paul Lazarsfeld. It was a study of women in Decatur, Illinois, in 1945. The study focused on the decision making behaviors of women in the areas of household shopping, fashion, current affairs, and going to the movies. Katz was particularly interested in the ways in which women’s decisions were influenced by other women with regards to daily life (Scannell, 84-85).
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  • Winter '08
  • Scannell
  • Mass Media, Paul Lazarsfeld, Two-step flow of communication, John Durham Peters, personal influence, American social thought

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