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How does mass communication function differently than interpersonal communication? Do we have relationships with media like we have relationships with people? To answer these questions, we can look at some of the characteristics and functions of mass communication.
The process and effects of mass communication.
In media studies , mass communication , media psychology , communication theory , and sociology , media influence and media effects are topics relating to mass media and media culture 's effects on individual or an audience's thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. Whether it is written, televised, or spoken, mass media reaches a large audience. Mass media's role and effect in shaping modern culture are central issues for study of culture.
The influence of mass media has an effect on many aspects of human life, which can include voting a certain way, individual views and beliefs, or skewing a person's knowledge of a specific topic due to being provided false information. The overall influence of mass media has increased drastically over the years, and will continue to do so as the media itself improves.
Media effects are measurable effects that result from media influence or a media message. Whether a media message has an effect on any of its audience members is contingent on many factors, including audience demographics and psychological characteristics. These effects can be positive or negative, abrupt or gradual, short-term or long-lasting. Not all effects result in change; some media messages reinforce an existing belief. Researchers examine an audience after media exposure for changes in cognition, belief systems, and attitudes, as well as emotional, physiological and behavioral effects.
There are several scholarly studies which addresses media and its effects. Bryant and Zillmann defined media effects as "the social, cultural, and psychological impact of communicating via the mass media". The relationship between politics and the mass media is closely related for the reason that media is a source in shaping public opinion and political beliefs.
Media is at times referred to as the fourth branch of government in democratic countries. Mass media also establish its influence among powerful institutions such as legislation. Through the proper consent in mediums to advocate, different social groups are able to influence the decision-making that involves child safety, gun control, etc. Media effects studies have undergone several phases, often corresponding to the development of mass media technologies.
During the early 20th century, developing mass media technologies, such as radio and film, were credited with an almost irresistible power to mold an audience's beliefs, cognition, and behaviors according to the communicators' will. This assumption was not based on empirical evidence but instead on assumptions of human nature.
There were two main explanations for this perception of mass media effects. First, mass broadcasting technologies were acquiring a widespread audience, even among average households. People were astonished by the speed of information dissemination, which may have clouded audience perception of any media effects.
Secondly, propaganda techniques were implemented during war time by several governments as a powerful tool for uniting their people. This propaganda exemplified strong-effect communication.
Early media effects research often focused on the power of this propaganda e. Combing through the technological and social environment, early media effects theories stated that the mass media were all-powerful.
Starting in the s, the second phase of media effects studies instituted the importance of empirical research while introducing the complex nature of media effects due to the idiosyncratic nature of individuals in an audience. Many other separate studies focused on persuasion effects studies, or the possibilities and usage of planned persuasion in film and other media. Hovland et al. Researchers uncovered mounting empirical evidence of the idiosyncratic nature of media effects on individuals and audiences, identifying numerous intervening variables such as demographic attributes, social psychological factors, and different media use behaviors.
With these new variables added to research, it was difficult to isolate media influence that resulted in any media effects to an audience's cognition, attitude, and behavior. As Berelson summed up in a widely quoted conclusion: "Some kinds of communication on some kinds of issues have brought to the attention of some kinds of people under some kinds of conditions have some kinds of effect.
Instead, the pre-existing structure of social relationships and cultural contexts were believed to primarily shape or change people's opinions, attitudes, and behaviors, and media merely function within these established processes.
This complexity had a dampening effect upon media effects studies. Noam Chomsky has named five filters through which mass media operate: . Limited media effect theory was challenged by new evidence supporting the fact that mass media messages could indeed lead to measurable social effects. In the s and s, widespread use of television indicated its unprecedented power on social lives.
Meanwhile, researchers also realized that early investigations, relying heavily on psychological models, were narrowly focused on only short-term and immediate effects. The "stimuli-reaction" model introduced the possibility of profound long-term media effects. A shift from short-term to long-term effect studies marked the renewal of media effects research.
More attention was paid to collective cultural patterns, definitions of social reality, ideology, and institutional behavior. Though audiences were still considered in control of the selection of media messages they consumed, "the way media select, process and shape content for their own purposes can have a strong influence on how it is received and interpreted and thus on longer-term consequences" Mcquail, In the late s, researchers examined the media's role in shaping social realities, also referred to as "social constructivism" Gamson and Modigliani, First, the media formats images of society in a patterned and predictable way, both in news and entertainment.
Second, audiences construct or derive their perception of actual social reality—and their role in it—by interacting with the media-constructed realities. Individuals in these audiences can control their interaction and interpretation of these media-constructed realities.
However, when media messages are the only information source, the audience may implicitly accept the media-constructed reality. Alternatively, they may choose to derive their social reality from other sources, such as first-hand experience or cultural environment. This phase also added qualitative and ethnographic research methods to existing quantitative and behaviorist research methods. Additionally, several research projects focused on media effects surrounding media coverage of minority and fringe social movements.
As early as the s, research emerged on the effects of individual or group behavior in computer-mediated environments. Early research examined the social interactions and impressions that CMC partners formed of each other, given the restrictive characteristics of CMC such as the anonymity and lack of nonverbal auditory or visual cues. The internet was widely adopted for personal use in the s, further expanding CMC studies.
With the emergence of dynamic user-generated content on websites and social media platforms, research results are even more conducive to CMC studies. Therefore, this media use may enhance those friendships. New media and web technologies, including social media, are forcing communication scholars to rethink traditional effects models Bennett and Iyengar, The broad scope of media effects studies creates an organizational challenge.
Organizing media effects by their targeted audience type, either on an individual micro or an audience aggregate macro level, is one effective method. Denis McQuail , a prominent communication theorist, organized effects into a graph. Theories that base their observations and conclusions on individual media users rather than on groups, institutions, systems, or society at large are referred to as micro-level theories.
Theories that base their observations and conclusions on large social groups, institutions, systems, or ideologies are referred to as macro-level theories. Representative theories:. Created by Denis McQuail , a prominent communication theorist who is considered to be one of the most influential scholars in the field of mass communication studies. McQuail organized effects into a graph according to the media effect's intentionality planned or unplanned and time duration short-term or long-term.
See Figure 1. The following are salient examples of media effects studies which examine media influence on individuals. Individuals often mistakenly believe that they are less susceptible to media effects than others. About fifty percent of the members in a given sample are susceptible to the third-person effect , underestimating their degree of influence. This is a concept derived from a network model of memory used in cognitive psychology.
In this model, information is stored as nodes clustered with related nodes by associated pathways. If one node is activated, nearby nodes are also activated. This is known as spreading activation. Priming occurs when a node is activated, causing related nodes to stand by for possible activation. Both the intensity and amount of elapsed time from the moment of activation determine the strength and duration of the priming effect.
In media effects studies, priming is how exposure to media can alter an individual's attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs. Most media violence research , a popular area of discussion in media effects studies, theorizes that exposure to violent acts may prime an individual to behave more aggressively while the activation lingers.
Miller and Dollard pioneered social learning theory with their finding that individuals do not need to personally act out a behavior to learn it; they can learn from observation. The effects of media violence upon individuals have many decades of research, starting as early as the s. Children and adolescents, considered vulnerable media consumers, are often the target of these studies. Most studies of media violence surround the media categories of television and video games.
The rise of the motion picture industry, coupled with advances in social sciences, spurred the famous Payne Fund studies and others [ who else? Though the quality of the research has been called into question [ by whom? Wertham later suggested that comic books influenced children into delinquent behaviors, provided false worldviews , and lowered literacy in his book Seduction of the Innocent.
This research was too informal to reach a clear verdict, and a recent study suggests information was misrepresented and even falsified, yet it led to public outcry resulting in many discontinued comic magazines. Television's ubiquity in the s generated more concerns.
Since then, studies have hypothesized a number of effects. Cognitive effects include an increased belief of potential violence in the real world from watching violent media content leading to anxiety about personal safety.
The following are salient examples of media effects studies which examine media influence on an audience aggregate. Not all media effects are instantaneous or short-term. Gerbner created cultivation theory , arguing that the media cultivates a "collective consciousness about elements of existence.
There are two primary areas of media agenda-setting : i the media tells us the news and ii the media tells us what to think about the news. Press coverage sends signals to audiences about the importance of mentioned issues, while framing the news induces the unsuspecting viewer into a particular response. Additionally, news that is not given press coverage often dissipates, not only because it lacks a vehicle of mass communication, but also because individuals may not express their concerns for fear of being ostracized.
This further creates the spiral of silence effect. News outlets can influence public opinion by controlling variables in news presentation. News gatherers curate facts to underscore a certain angle. Presentation method—such as time of broadcast, extent of coverage and choice of news medium—can also frame the message; this can create, replace, or reinforce a certain viewpoint in an audience. Entman describes framing as "the process of culling a few elements of perceived reality and assembling a narrative that highlights connections among them to promote a particular interpretation.
One long-term implication of framing, if the media reports news with a consistent favorable slant, is that it can lend a helping hand to certain overarching institutions of thought and related entities.
Limited Effects Theory
In media studies , mass communication , media psychology , communication theory , and sociology , media influence and media effects are topics relating to mass media and media culture 's effects on individual or an audience's thoughts, attitudes, and behavior. Whether it is written, televised, or spoken, mass media reaches a large audience. Mass media's role and effect in shaping modern culture are central issues for study of culture. The influence of mass media has an effect on many aspects of human life, which can include voting a certain way, individual views and beliefs, or skewing a person's knowledge of a specific topic due to being provided false information. The overall influence of mass media has increased drastically over the years, and will continue to do so as the media itself improves. Media effects are measurable effects that result from media influence or a media message. Whether a media message has an effect on any of its audience members is contingent on many factors, including audience demographics and psychological characteristics.
Limited Effects Theory
The theory states that even if there is an effect created by the media on the thoughts and opinions of individuals; this effect is minimal at best or limited. Mc Quail while tracing the history of research in media effects has pointed out four distinct theory eras. The media was no longer viewed as a single stimulus that induced effect; rather the focus was on its role in a natural setting among various other variables. The profile of an average media consumer was also changed.