THE EVOLUTION OF MEDIA EFFECTS - The Evolution of Media...

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The Evolution of Media Effects 1 Running head: THE EVOLUTION OF MEDIA EFFECTS The Evolution of Media Effects Theory: Fifty Years of Cumulative Research W. Russell Neuman and Lauren Guggenheim University of Michigan
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The Evolution of Media Effects 2 Abstract The literature of media effects is frequently characterized as a three-stage progression initially embracing a theory of strong effects followed by a repudiation of earlier work and new model of minimal effects followed by yet another repudiation and a rediscovery of strong effects. We conclude that such a characterization is both historically inaccurate and that this misrepresentation may prove to be a significant distraction and impediment to further theoretical refinement and progress. We analyze the citation patterns of 20,736 scholarly articles in five communication journals with special attention to the 200 most frequently cited papers in an effort to provide an ‘alternative history’ of six fundamental and, we argue, theoretically cumulative media effects models for the period 1956 -2005.
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The Evolution of Media Effects 3 The Evolution of Media Effects Theory: Fifty Years of Cumulative Research The notion of “media effects” represents one of the core ideas of the communication research tradition since its inception. Elihu Katz characteristically puts it most directly in positing simply that communication research “is about effect. It could have been otherwise-- consider the study of art, for example--but it is not” (2001b, p. 9472). Some trace the intellectual origins of communications scholarship back hundreds or even thousands of years (Peters, 1999). But the modern field of scholarship defined by scholarly associations, key journals and academic departments is roughly a half-century old. The field has grown dramatically. The membership of the seven scholarly communication associations in the United States numbers over 10,000 with over a thousand doctoral students currently enrolled and preparing to enter the field as scholars and practitioners. Thus, at the 50-year mark, it seems appropriate to ask--how much progress have we made? Focusing on the broadly defined issue of media effects: is there evidence of accumulative theoretical progress, scientific convergence on key findings and improved methods of measurement and analysis? Some analysts have suggested that we have witnessed a troubling lack of progress. The question of progress and disciplinary identity has been addressed in the Journal of Communication under the heading “Ferment in the Field” (Gerbner, 1983; Levy & Gurevitch, 1993) and in several recent presidential addresses of the International Communication Association’s annual meeting (Bryant, 2004; Craig, 2005; Donsbach, 2006). One sometimes gets the impression we are still debating the same fundamental questions that inaugurated the field in mid-century. A particularly cogent analysis, focusing on the media and children, makes the case that we actually recycle strikingly similar questions about effects--almost always defined as
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THE EVOLUTION OF MEDIA EFFECTS - The Evolution of Media...

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