assignment 1 - The Decatur study & the role of Personal...

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Personal Influence , published by Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld, detailed the findings of The Decatur Study, a 1955 study in Decatur, Illinois regarding the influence of opinion leaders. The concept of opinion leaders dates back the two-step flow, which was discovered in Lazarsfeld’s study The People’s Choice in 1944. He, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet determined that there were a number of intervening variables between the media and the masses; namely, exposure to media, characteristics of different media types (ie: print versus radio), the form and content of media products, the attitudes and predispositions of audiences, and interpersonal relations. The two-step flow exists within interpersonal relations and tracks communication from the media to the masses through opinion leaders. Opinion leaders absorb the media and choose which aspects they find valuable and which they don’t appreciate. Communication between opinion leaders and the masses is flexible, personal, and non-manipulative, which is why the masses tend to be more affected by the opinion leaders than the media directly. The Decatur Study aimed to identify these ‘influentials’ or opinion leaders by specific characteristics. Decatur was chosen as the city of study because it was deemed representative of an average US town at the time. Eight hundred women were surveyed about fashion, movies, political opinions, and shopping, as well as asked to describe times they had been influenced. The researchers found that status, lifecycle position, and gregariousness were primary factors in determining whether a woman was an opinion leader or not. The study intended to explore the social environment and the network of interpersonal relationships emerging as a crucial intervening factor that affect media intake. Interpersonal communication was a developing field of examination that observed individuals embedded within larger social institutions and organizations. Resultantly, the media appeared to have a supplementary influence on the masses, with opinion leaders and personal preferences holding more value. (308)
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This note was uploaded on 02/13/2011 for the course COMM 211 taught by Professor Traubaut during the Spring '08 term at University of Michigan.

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assignment 1 - The Decatur study & the role of Personal...

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