Unformatted text preview: Chapter Nineteen
SOCIAL EFFECTS OF MASS COMMUNICATION NOTE!
Our office hours for dead week and exam week are now posted on Blackboard. Question distribution for the 7th exam
45 questions total 10 multiplechoice questions from Chapter 19, Social Effects of Mass Communication 35 questions from lectures on social effects of mass communication (25 multiple choice, 10 truefalse) The seventh exam is not cumulative. The scientific study of media effects began in the 1920s when certain education researchers, concerned about the influence of watching motion pictures on juvenile delinquency, received private funding for research peaked in the 1960s and '70s during the age of terrestrial TV, a time when public funding for social research on violence in the media also began to increase trailed off after the cableTV revolution in the 1980s and `90s, a time when public funding for social research on mass communication also began to decrease Effects of media messages on audience members are usefully classified into three major realms. behavioral (actions; hardest to change via massmedia messages) emotional (attitudes; enduring feelings) cognitive (awareness; easiest to change via massmedia messages) Enduring questions about media effects on behavior (actions) Do depictions of violence in the mass media contribute to human aggression? Are messages designed to persuade us (e.g., advertising) successful in doing so? Does the mere presence of electronic media in our lives affect us in certain ways (e.g., our physical and mental health)? Enduring questions about media effects on emotion (feelings) Many adults enjoy movies and television shows that are designed to frighten audiences, but do such depictions lead to undesirable lingering consequences (e.g., anxiety, fright) for some audience members? How should parents comfort young children who are frightened by something seen in a movie or on TV? Enduring questions about media effects on cognitions (knowledge, awareness) Does watching TV cultivate viewpoints about reality that are different from those formed by actual experiences? Do message gatekeepers working in mass media industries influence the public agenda regarding which people, events, and ideas are newsworthy? Questions about violent content on TV and in movies have been predominant.
More research has been conducted on media violence than on any of the other questions. Where things stand
The U.S. Surgeon General's office recently issued a report on youth violence. With regard to the influence of television, the report noted the relatively small longterm effects of exposure to media violence compared with other influences. About 60 years of research suggested that exposure to media violence accounts for, at most, nine percent of aggression in humans (the range is 2% to 9%). This amount is small, yet meaningful. For perspective, viewing Sesame Street accounts for about 10 percent of a child's measurable readiness for school. The meaning of "accounts for" in this context is rooted in mathematical correlation.
People vary in numerous ways that we can measure quantitatively. For example: age in years height in inches The correlation coefficient is a statistic that captures the (linear) relationship between two (or more) quantitatively measurable variables. In massmedia research, such variables often represent responses to items on surveys administered to representative samples within populations of interest. Correlation coefficients range in magnitude between 1.0 and +1.0. Let's consider just two variables. Positive correlations indicate relationships in which both variables move in the same direction. Example: A person's earned income (x) is positively correlated with the number of years of formal education completed by that person (y). Negative (minus, inverse) correlations indicate relationships in which the variables move in different directions. If two variables are negatively correlated, as the value of one variable increases, the value of the other variable decreases. Example: Each spring the number of students wearing coats to class (x) goes down as the average outdoor temperature goes up (y). Another useful statistic
The square of the correlation coefficient for two measured variables, expressed as a percentage, describes how much information can be known (or accounted for) about one of the variables solely by knowing the value of the other variable. Using statistics of this type, and combining the results of studies on (x) television viewing and (y) human aggression going back about 60 years, we can conclude that in such studies, watching television accounts for roughly two to nine percent of measured variance in human aggression. The relationship between correlation coefficients and "variance accounted for"
correlation coefficient (r) 1.0 0.9 0.8 . . . 0.3 0.2 0.1 correlation coefficient squared 1.00 0.81 0.64 (r 2) variance accounted for (%) 100% 81% 64% .09 .04 .01 9% 4% 1% Because much of the empirical evidence for media effects is correlational, proper understanding of correlation is essential to our academic discussion.
Mathematical correlation between two variables is not sufficient evidence to conclude that one variable is causing the other. Two things to keep in mind when evaluating correlations: Time order (directionality): (x) could be causing the observed variation in (y), or vice versa. Example: Although income and education are positively correlated, high income earned by a woman at age 50 cannot cause her earlier educational attainment. Although causes must precede effects, time order is not always clear when evaluating realworld correlations (e.g., time spent online and depression). Alternative explanations (unmeasured third variables): Observed variation in (x) and (y) could be due to another variable (z). A widely known example: The (x) amount of lemonade sold and the (y) number of deaths from drowning are positively correlated, but neither causes the other; both are largely seasonal activities and increase along with (z) summer temperatures. Significance of a correlation
Statisticians have constructed tables listing the known probabilities that correlations of given magnitude and sample size are due to chance. Scientists can determine the significance of a particular correlation they have computed by comparing it with those known probabilities. By convention, scientists agree that a computed correlation is significant if it would not have occurred by chance more than 1 time in 20. Even though the contributory role of TV on human aggression is small, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to: limit children's TV viewing to no more than two hours of "quality" programming a day younger than two years of age discourage television viewing for children forbid television sets in children's bedrooms or other locations where they might engage in unsupervised viewing How did scientists and health practitioners arrive at such recommendations?
Short answer: From the weight of evidence in empirical studies conducted at research universities (e.g., Purdue) What follows is a survey of empirical generalizations from research on media effects that have accumulated since the late 1920s. The big picture
Scientific thinking about the effects of massmedia messages on audiences can be divided into two major periods. I. POWERFUL MEDIA EFFECTS From 1920 to 1940, many scholars thought that massmedia messages had uniform effects on audiences. Historical context: A "legacy of fear" emerged from rumors about the successful transfer of propaganda techniques perfected during World War I to the private sector via practitioners of persuasion working in advertising and public relations. Theoretical perspective: Early media researchers assumed that humans were governed by instincts and hence reacted to massmedia messages in similar ways. Several terms describe the powerfulmedia idea, including: bullet theory hypodermicneedle analogy magic keys of persuasion Evidence: The Payne Fund Studies (1929), the first major investigation into the social effects of entertainment media (motion pictures), focused on the relationship between young viewers and juvenile delinquency. Social intervention: The production code of the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America was strengthened to prohibit gangsters from being portrayed favorably in movies. II. LIMITED MEDIA EFFECTS Since 1941, scholars have understood that individual differences among audience members mitigate the influence of massmedia messages. Historical context: Unexpected reactions to a 1938 radio show, followed by similar unanticipated findings in a 1940 study on voting decisions Theoretical perspective: A revised assumption that audience members react to massmedia messages in individual ways, rather than uniformly Evidence: (1) Careful examination of panic reactions following the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast on the CBS radio network Listeners who panicked did so for various reasons. Some were unsuccessful in checking the internal evidence of the broadcast. Some did not check the broadcast against an external source of information. Some checked an external source, but continued to believe the broadcast was a news report. Some made no attempt to conduct an internal or external check. (2) Discovery in 1940 that mass media messages played only an indirect role in the formation of voting intentions (largescale survey conducted in Erie County, Ohio)
Instead, media messages flowed first to opinion leaders, and then from opinion leaders to other members of the public in a "twostep flow of communication." MASS MEDIA OPINION LEADERS PUBLIC In the aftermath of both the War of the Worlds broadcast and the Erie County voting study, the role of personal influence was considered to be more important than exposure to massmedia messages. Outcome: Scholars embraced the idea that media messages had limited persuasive effects on audiences. Even after most scientists endorsed the idea of limited media effects, a New York medical doctor gained a wide audience for linking a single medium of mass communication with a troubling social problem. The great comic book scare What: A link between reading comic books focused on crime (content) and juvenile delinquency (behavior) When: During the late 1940s and early 1950s Who: Dr. Frederic Wertham, a New York City psychiatrist Evidence: Dr. Werthan's clinical estimate that the "average child" read comic books two to three hours per day Outcome: Much buzz about "crime comic books," but social intervention was limited by the First Amendment After World War II, the limitedeffects paradigm influenced TV programming during the 1950s and early 1960s. Later in the 1960s, our country experienced profound social change and unrest (e.g., assassinations, protests, riots). Policy makers observed that violent behavior escalated as the first children raised with television became young adults. Some politicians began to question whether violent TV programming somehow contributed to violence in society. Unlike the publishers of comic books, the licensees of television stations were required by the FCC to air programming that served the public interest, convenience, and necessity. Also in the 1960s, Congress began to fund the quantitative study of social problems. Scholars of mass communication began to acquire the financial resources to study the link between exposure to violent television programming and human aggression. Two government investigations during the late 1960s provided important scientific data on television and human aggression. National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (1969) The Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior (1971) Important quote "If, as the media claim, no objective correlation exists between media portrayals of violence and violent behavior--if, in other words, the one has no impact upon the other--then how can the media claim an impact in product selection and consumption, as they obviously affect the viewers' commercial attitudes and behavior? Can they do one and not the other?" (Paul Briand, Editor, Violence and the Media, staff report of How prevalent was violence in television shows? Dr. George Gerbner provided an answer via the analysis of primetime television content broadcast by the three national commercial television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) which together captured 90percent of the primetime TV audience in the 1960s. Dr. Gerbner reported: 80 percent of primetime dramatic programs portrayed violence (newscasts were not analyzed) 60 percent of primetime characters portrayed violence More important, Dr. Gerbner found that most violent portrayals involved instrumental violent acts committed by strangers 50 percent of portrayed killers suffered no portrayed consequences Dr. Gerbner also analyzed cartoons, and found that 93 percent portrayed violence. The continuing significance of research on media violence
Violent depictions have remained a popular component of movies and television programs. Results of a 1995 study paid for by the National Cable Television Association: 57 percent of all TV programs contained violence the perpetrator of violence went unpunished in 73 percent of violent scenes Of course, the mere presence of violent portrayals on TV does not necessarily cause human aggression. The vast majority of people do not act out aggressive behavior seen depicted on TV and in movies. But could exposure to media violence cause aggression in some people under some circumstances? That was the question researchers tried to answer. If correlational designs cannot unambiguously demonstrate causality, how can scientists clearly uncover a causal relationship between exposure to TV programming and human aggression?
To determine if one variable causes another variable, scientists use experimental designs in research studies. All experiments require at least two conditions, or groups of research participants: an experimental group a control group for comparison purposes. Each research participant in an experiment must have an equal chance of being assigned to any of the conditions in that experiment. This process of randomly assigning research participants creates equivalent experimental and control groups prior to the start of experimental procedures. For that reason, in a true experiment, any observed difference in an experimental group--compared with a control group-- must be due to the experimental manipulation. A basic experimental design
R R X1 (violent) O1 (experimental group) X2 (nonviolent) O2 (control group) time R = random assignment to create equivalent groups X = manipulated procedure (e.g., media message type) O = observed variable (e.g., aggression) Significance of experimental effects
As in the case of correlations, statisticians have constructed tables listing the known probabilities that experimental effects of a given size are due to chance. Scientists can determine the significance of a particular experimental effect they have computed by comparing it with those known probabilities. By convention, scientists agree that a difference between mean observations in an experimental group and mean observations in a control group (O1 O2) is significant if that difference would not have occurred by chance alone more than 1 time in 20. Using experimental designs, scientists tested several theories that explained the ways that exposure to depictions of violence in the media might cause human aggression. SYMBOLIC CATHARSIS Theorist: Dr. Seymour Feshbach History: Catharsis has a long intellectual heritage (Aristotle). How did Dr. Feshbach think catharsis might work in the context of media violence? He predicted that exposure to media violence would purge or sublimate aggressive drives (i.e., transform them in socially acceptable ways). What, then, should happen in the psychological laboratory if Dr. Feshbach were correct? Exposure to media violence should lower aggression in angered humans. Dr. Feshbach's basic experimental design Treatment (manipulated) group:
Research participants were angered (the angering process is explained well on pp. 446448, 10th ed.), shown a violent televised depiction, and then given the opportunity to aggress. Control (comparison) group:
Research participants were angered, shown a nonviolent televised depiction, and then given the opportunity to aggress. Results: Researchers found little scientific support for symbolic catharsis as a tensionreduction mechanism to diminish aggression in previously angered persons. Instead, angered research participants who saw violent media depictions tended to be more aggressive than angered research participants who saw nonviolent media depictions. predicted results for symbolic catharsis observed results for symbolic catharsis aggression x x x x violent depiction nonviolent violent nonviolent depiction depiction depiction Important distinction: Although tension might be reduced in certain interpersonal settings via the process Dr. Feshbach suggested, research evidence failed to support extending the idea to massmedia depictions such as those on television or in movies. Building on these findings, researchers advanced two additional theoretical explanations for the observed experimental results suggesting that violent media depictions stimulated (rather than reduced) aggression in angered persons. INSTIGATION (AGGRESSIVE CUES) Theorist: Dr. Leonard Berkowitz History: Conditioning to aggressive cues How does it work? Certain environmental cues trigger aggression. What, then, should happen in the psychological laboratory? Media depictions that feature cues will stimulate aggression in angered research participants, compared with media depictions that do not feature such cues. Results: Media depictions that featured portrayals of violence (e.g., a boxing film) or items with aggressive cue value (e.g., guns) stimulated aggression in angered research participants, compared with media depictions that did not feature such cues. Children played more aggressively with toys that cued aggression (e.g., toy guns) than without such toys. EXCITATION TRANSFER Theorist: Dr. Dolf Zillmann History: Psychological study of emotion How does it work? Certain media depictions (e.g., suspense, violence, sex) have the excitatory potential for emotional arousal. What, then, should happen in the psychological laboratory? Compared with media depictions that do not heighten emotions, those that do excite arousal--regardless of the nature of content--will lead to greater postexposure emotional responses during the time heightened arousal lingers in a given research participant. Basic experimental design for experiments on excitation transfer Treatment group: measure of baseline arousal, exposure to arousing televised depiction, post exposure response
Control group: measure of baseline arousal, exposure to nonarousing televised depiction, post exposure response arousal before emotional event during emotional event after emotional event Results: Independent of content, arousing media depictions led to heightened emotional responses while research participants remained in a state of heightened arousal. predicted and observed results for the process of excitation transfer emotional response x x arousing depiction nonarousing depiction Important implications: violent content is not required for arousal prosocial possibilities (e.g., sharing, helping) Another theory addressed what we learn from watching television and movies. Do TV shows and movies serve as schools for violence? OBSERVATIONAL LEARNING (MODELING) Theorist: Dr. Albert Bandura History: A subset of general learning theory How does it work? Humans learn by cognitively integrating witnessed behaviors, such as those depicted on television. What, then, should happen in the psychological laboratory? Research participants should learn to refrain from spontaneously modeling socially undesirable behaviors seen on TV after viewing negative consequences for such behavior. When given sufficient incentives, research participants should nevertheless be able to model socially undesirable behaviors learned from TV depictions, even after viewing negative consequences of such behavior. Each nurseryschool child who participated in the study viewed televised violence in one of three experimental conditions: a televised character's aggression depicted as rewarded punished a televised character's aggression depicted as a televised character's aggression depicted without consequences (i.e., neither reward nor punishment) Dr. Bandura measured how much the children imitated what they saw depicted on TV in two ways: for all children in the study, spontaneous modeling during "free play" after viewing televised depictions for children in the "punished" condition, modeling after being offered incentives leading to "disinhibition" (loss of inhibition) Results: Strong and compelling support for observation as a humanlearning mechanism predicted and observed results for observational learning spontaneous modeling modeling with incentives imitation (modeling) x x x R P NC x x x R P NC R P NC = witnessed aggression rewarded = witnessed aggression punished = witnessed aggression with no consequences Important implications: inhibition affects only spontaneous imitation children also imitate cartoon characters prosocial possibilities Perspective on prosocial media effects Research shows that the variance accounted for in studies of media effects involving antisocial messages and antisocial behavior is significantly stronger than in studies of media effects involving prosocial messages and prosocial behavior. Researchers explain this difference by pointing out that antisocial messages typically contain obvious physical actions that are easy to see and comprehend. Prosocial messages, on the other hand, are usually subtle, likely to be verbal, and hence comparatively harder to grasp. HOW CHILDREN PAY ATTENTION TO TV MESSAGES The orientation reaction (OR), the most basic form of attention, attracts us to movement or sudden changes in our environment. When a child begins to watch TV, the child's OR with regard to the TV stimulus begins to habituate. Television producers must manipulate the child's OR in order to maintain his or her attention to the TV screen. Formal features of television production (e.g., cuts, zooms, fades, pans, slow motion, animation, morphing, etc.), can be used to maintain attention via manipulating the OR. Some TV shows, cartoons, and commercials aimed as young children maintain attention via such formal features. THE ROLE OF DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES IN THE PROCESSING OF MEDIA MESSAGES (Why young children are sometimes frightened by what they see in movies and on TV) Characteristics of preschool television viewers: Some have difficulty understanding formal features of television production such as morphing. Some have difficulty distinguishing between essential and peripheral information in TV shows, and hence have trouble understanding plots, causal sequences, consequences, and motives. Two developmental stages of interest to mass communication researchers (from Dr. Jean Piaget, a major theorist): preoperations (approximately ages 26); preoperational children think perceptually concrete operations (approximately ages 711); concreteoperational children think abstractly Preoperational thought has two major characteristics: concreteness, the tendency to react to things as they appear in immediate, egocentric perception without appreciating that a substance can take different forms (e.g., water, ice) centration, the tendency to center attention on a single, striking feature of an object (e.g., height, color) How does a researcher know if a child is pre or concreteoperational?
A concreteoperational child understands that a quantity (liquid or solid) can remain the same while changing in appearance. Preoperational children do not yet understand this. Two studies that demonstrate developmental differences in children's understanding of television (Drs. Joanne Cantor, Glenn Sparks, and Cynthia Hoffner): The Incredible Hulk Prediction: Preoperational children will center on visual depictions, while concrete operational children will respond to plot development in a scene in which a normal man transforms into a green incredible hulk. Predicted and observed results in three Incredible Hulk plot sequences for preoperational and concreteoperational children pre transformation transformation post transformation preoperational children low fright high fright high fright concrete operational children high fright low fright low fright The ScaryLooking Lady Across the Street Prediction: Preoperational children will center on surface features in a story about a woman described as "kind" or "cruel" and depicted as "grandmotherly" or "scary looking." predicted and observed results for preoperational children (all children in this study were preoperational) "grandmotherly" depiction "scary" depiction kind behavior "nice lady" "lady was not nice" cruel behavior "nice lady" "lady was not nice" An important generalization for parents (and future parents!) from research on cognitive development and the mass media: One cannot successfully use rational arguments to comfort a preoperational child who is frightened by a media depiction. The best course of action is to remove the child from the frightening depiction. THE ROLE OF TELEVISION ADVERTISING IN CHILDREN'S SOCIALIZATION Two subgroups of citizens receive special protection from the Federal Trade Commission: terminally ill adults children Some specific issues in advertising directed at children have focused on effects of exposure to advertising. Two prominent examples: parentchild conflict arising from premium offers child unhappiness arising from exaggerated performance expectations of some toys Other specific issues in advertising directed at children have focused on advertising techniques. Two prominent examples: hosts of television programs targeted at children also serving as advertising spokespersons advertising disclaimers that young children do not understand (e.g., "some assembly required") Prominent regulatory interventions include: plainlanguage disclaimers (e.g., "You might need a grown up to help you put it together.") programcommercial separators (e.g., "We'll be back after these messages.") A critical perspective on advertising and children
Some critics of advertising targeted at children believe longterm exposure to commercial messages can result in disillusionment and eventually cynicism about the merits of advertising. Critics also point to an absence of correspondence between exposure to TV commercials and development of consumer skills (e.g., price comparisons). Television viewing, intelligence, and school performance The relationship between time spent viewing TV and general intelligence is negative. The relationship between time spent viewing TV and overall school grades also is negative. The negative correlation between time spent viewing TV and verbal academic achievement (reading comprehension and vocabulary) is stronger than the negative correlation between time spent viewing TV and quantitative academic achievement (mathematics). MEDIA CULTIVATION Media cultivation is an agricultural metaphor that describes the influence of watching television over a long period of time on the formation of an audience member's worldview. Dr. George Gerbner, who originated the media cultivation concept, said television programming "bends, blurs, and blends" perceptions of reality among those who watch it because overall, the messages contained in television programs do not coincide with statistical norms. In other words, "heavy" television viewers (those who watch a lot of television when compared with "light" viewers who watch less TV) tend to say they think the "real world" is like the world as depicted in television programs. In terms of time spent viewing, what, exactly, is a heavy viewer? Dr. Gerbner chose not to define heavy viewers in terms of an absolute, specified amount of time. When he studied a group of viewers, he instead determined heavy and light on the basis of average viewing for that particular group. Key assumptions underlying media cultivation passive, ritual viewing (we mostly graze through the TV channels rather than engage in planned viewing) assemblyline production (television programs feature consistent themes and characterizations) televisiondominated media diets (people spent more time watching TV than consuming other media) Evidence requirements for media cultivation systematic analysis of television content (the source of knowledge about "television reality" or "what's on TV") audience surveys that provide comparisons of responses given by heavy and light TV viewers to questions of interest to researchers archival data about the real world, such as vital statistics about crime Mainstreaming vs. resonance
Dr. Gerbner said mainstreaming occurs when the content of television programming fails to correspond with a heavy viewer's realworld experiences. Watching television is said to pull such viewers into the dominant ideological mainstream of televised viewpoints. A research example of mainstreaming: How we perceive our overall financial situation might be due, in part, to how much TV we watch regularly. Researchers have found that although light viewers of TV tend to give accurate estimates of their financial circumstances, some heavy viewers tend to see themselves in the middle, or mainstream, regardless of their financial resources. survey respondents who are light TV viewers Those with few financial resources: "I could be doing better." Those with ample financial resources: "I'm doing better than average." vs. survey respondents who are heavy TV viewers
Those with both few and ample financial resources: "I'm about like everybody else." Theoretical implication: Television obscures class consciousness, a Neomarxist argument (i.e., elites maintain power in society by controlling messages contained in cultural products distributed via mass communication). Dr. Gerbner also said resonance occurs when heavy viewers of TV see depictions that conform to their everyday lives and hence are highly salient. In essence, they get a "double dose" of certain messages. A research example of resonance: Fear of crime among heavy viewers who live in highcrime areas heavy viewer light viewer lowcrime neighborhood mainstreaming (no media effect) highcrime neighborhood resonance (no media effect) How, exactly, does watching television affect viewers? Does viewing pull them into the mainstream, or push them out "to the edge" when television content resonates with personal experience? Dr. Gerbner's critics have pointed out that together, mainstreaming and resonance are irrefutable from a scientific standpoint. Empirical generalizations drawn from cultivation research: Many independent studies have demonstrated small but statistically significant correlations between TV viewing and various social indicators (e.g., fear of criminal victimization, fear of being sold contaminated food) that could reasonably be described as media cultivation. Important paraphrase Whoever tells the stories of a culture...controls that culture (Dr. George Gerbner) Two recent studies in the tradition of media cultivation . . .
In 2008, researchers reported a fairly strong relationship between time spent viewing sex on TV (e.g., Beverly Hills 90210) and pregnancy before age 20. Susan Sarapin, a Ph.D. student in communication at Purdue, found that survey respondents who watch TV programs including CSI, Cold Case, and Forensic Flies overestimate realworld crime, compared with respondents who do not watch such programs. TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM In general, technological determinism captures what people mean when they say that certain devices (e.g., steam engine, automobile, computer) "changed the world." In the context of communication, technological determinism--sometimes referred to as "media determinism" describes the influence of dominant messagedistribution systems (e.g., printing, television, Internet) on the ways people obtain information. Two major players Dr. Harold Innis: The dominant "medium of communication affects the character of knowledge to be communicated which over time can lead to a new civilization." Dr. Marshall McLuhan: "The medium is the message." Some of Dr. McLuhan's fundamental ideas: All systems of mediated communication, regardless of the content of messages carried by those media systems, exert tremendous influence on humans and society. Humans originally were in sensory balance. Literacy and the phonetic alphabet caused eye dominance, which in turn caused humans to favor vision over other senses. The Gutenberg Revolution (printing) accelerated sensory imbalance. Electronic communication (especially television) made hearing an equally important sense, and helped return us to an oral tradition within a "global village." Perspective on technological determinism Samuel F. B. Morse, who in the 1840s developed electric telegraphy in the U.S., described the possibility of communication technology "making one neighborhood of the whole country." When radio stations began broadcasting in the 1920s, people began to write about the new medium making the whole earth into one neighborhood. Dr. McLuhan, who died in 1980, did not witness the Internet and broadband media that we take for granted today. Some of Dr. McLuhan's ideas about the global village make more sense now than when he advanced them during the 1960s. A technological innovation does not shape itself; it has no meaning outside of the ways humans use it. Dr. Neil Postman, in Amusing Ourselves to Death, wrote about the political and social decisions that shaped the television industry, which in turn contributed to the way Americans understand the world. SOME OTHER NOTEWORTHY MEDIA THEORIES The agendasetting function of the press (media)
"The mass media may not be very good at telling us what to think, but they are stunningly successful at telling us what to think about" (Dr. Bernard Cohen). Agendasetting research was pioneered by Drs. Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw. Do the media of mass communication serve as the main agendasetters for society? In the 1960s, opinionpoll researchers noticed that when people were asked to identify the important issues of the day, their responses tended to reflect the content of recent news reports. Those researchers concluded that instead of changing attitudes or behaviors, the most important role of mass communication was the process of mentally ordering and organizing information (cognitions) for audience members. The fundamental agendasetting research question: Where do people obtain the information they use to assess the importance of issues affecting them? Basic research design: message analyses (the amount of coverage media gatekeepers give to certain people, events, and ideas) significance of certain people, events, and ideas) audience surveys (audience perceptions of the What have researchers found? consistent positive correlations between the "media agenda" and the "audience agenda" Who is most susceptible to agenda setting? those who need orientation because of interest or uncertainty regarding a certain type of information, especially political information Agenda setting is most useful within the realm of political communication for two reasons. Messages generated during a political campaign are designed to set agendas. A political campaign has a clearcut beginning and end, making the time period for study unambiguous.
(Agenda setting and media cultivation are similar concepts.) Mass media dependency theory
In the micro context of media effects on individuals, media dependency explains shortterm, situationally induced reliance on massmedia messages during a crisis (e.g., an approaching storm). Those dependent on massmedia messages for information tend to be influenced by those messages.
(Microlevel media dependency and agenda setting are also similar concepts.) The concept of media dependency also has been applied at the macro level by some critics of Western media systems who study mass communication in developing nations. (Macrolevel media dependency is similar to our earlier discussion of cultural imperialism and the content rules for Canadian radio and TV stations.) The mass media and knowledge (information) gaps
It would be a wonderful thing if the media of mass communication could be used to "bring us all together" and diminish inequities in society. Regardless of effort, some segments of society ("information rich") adopt new information technologies at a faster rate than others ("information poor"). Social interventions via mass communication have rarely been successful in narrowing the distance between the "information rich" and "information poor." Research indicates that gaps instead shift up, and often widen. Example: Sesame Street Television and voting Radio may have contributed to the 87% increase in the number of persons voting in national elections from 1920 1940. Voter turnout has decreased since 1964, the first election in which a "TV generation" was eligible to vote. Research suggests that the decline in daily newspaper reading since 1960 accounts for more of the decrease in voter turnout since that time than any increase in time spent watching TV. In general, the mass media rarely convert voters, but instead reinforce and crystallize voter choices.
(These empirical generalizations are consistent with the results of the 1940 Erie County, Ohio, voting study.) Putting it all together
The media of mass communication are most influential as agents of socialization when: depictions are consistent audience members are heavily exposed to media messages audience members have limited access to alternative sources of information FIVE NEWER QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDIA EFFECTS Should Congress limit TV portrayals of violence in the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech? In April of 2007 some legislators expressed a desire to require cable TV systems to provide programming on a channelbychannel basis so that parents could better control the amount of violent programming coming into the home (compared with protection provided by technological devices such as the V Chip). Those in favor believe such choice would protect both impressionable children, and the First Amendment rights of those who produce TV programming. Do violent video games contribute to violence in society? Combined evidence from 30 independent studies suggests an even weaker relationship between exposure to violent video games and human aggression than exposure to televised violence and human aggression. Is television use linked to obesity? Studies that when combined include 5,000 respondents suggest a positive correlation between time spent watching TV and obesity. Is heavy use of online media linked to clinical depression? It depends; heavy use of the Internet for personal communication is positively correlated with social isolation, which in turn is correlated with clinical depression. Chicken or egg: Use of the Internet may lead to social isolation, but the socially isolated may be the most likely to use the Internet for personal communication. Personality: Some researchers have found a correlation between depression and heavy use of the Internet for personal communication among individuals with introverted personalities, but not among extroverts. Other researchers have linked heavy Internet use with decreased social skills. Will niche media aimed at highly segmented audiences result in numerous small groups of people with similar interests who are largely unconcerned with the rest of society? One way we cope with the complexities of modern life in which knowledge doubles every few years is by exposing ourselves only to information that we find comfortable. Sociologists call this the "cocoon effect." The implications of cocooning for a successful participatory democracy are not yet fully understood. Stay tuned! STOP! END OF LECTURE MATERIAL COVERED ON THE SEVENTH (AND FINAL) EXAM ...
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