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MCM 733: Communication Theory Chapters 6, 7, 8. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Orson Welles: The War of the Worlds – Only certain personality types were.

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Presentation on theme: "MCM 733: Communication Theory Chapters 6, 7, 8. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Orson Welles: The War of the Worlds – Only certain personality types were."— Presentation transcript:

1 MCM 733: Communication Theory Chapters 6, 7, 8

2 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Orson Welles: The War of the Worlds – Only certain personality types were affected: Emotionally insecure, phobic, lacking self-confidence, fatalists – Led social scientists to investigate these narrow effects? If it was true for WotW, then could it be true for all media – limited effects was born. – Tied in well with fears surrounding propaganda – Neo-Marxist (critical-cultural) and LimEff battled

3 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … LE was developed by methodologists in 40s & 50s We focus on Paul Lazarsfeld and Carl Hovland

4 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Lazarsfeld & Hovland – Did not assume the power of media, wanted to prove it empirically – if medias power could be understood then it could be controlled or harnessed for good. – Believed that the society with the best scientists would also have the best democracy – Found that Media influences were much less powerful than SES (socio-economic status)

5 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Factors that led to limited effects – The refinement of and respect for empirical methods. – Successful branding of mass society /propaganda models as unscientific – Big commercial potential – Strong govt & private backers (NSF, Rockefeller) – Media corps started their own research depts – Gained interdisciplinary acceptance.

6 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Two-Step Flow Theory – An inductive theory: data/observations first, generalizations second – Led to middle-range theory: empirical generalizations based on a empirical facts – Unlike grand social TOEs: Mass Society/Propaganda

7 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Presidential election of 1940 FDR vs Wendell Willkie One of the largest LE studies ever Chose Sandusky, Ohio for its averageness Chose a panel of 600 who were interviewed seven times from May until November Used a long questionnaire that focused on speech effectiveness (radio was prevalent mode of Mass Comm)

8 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Findings were telling because they led to voter typing – Early Deciders: chose a candidate in May and never changed – Waverers: chose one candidate then were undecided or switched, but ended up voting for their first choice – Converts: chose one candidate but then switched and voted for his opponent (ideological conversion) – Crystallizers: did not choose early, but choose by e-day. Their choice were predictable along certain vectors (party affiliation, farm or not, etc.)

9 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … These findings directly conflicted with propaganda theory predictions Lazarsfeld concluded that mass media reinforced the voters choices. People were not converted by media. Rather they were cross-pressured (i.e. religion, friendship bonds, kinship)

10 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Generalizations that Lazarsfeld came up with – Gatekeepers: people who screen messages and pass on those messages and help other share their views – Opinion leaders: people who pass info on to opinion followers – Opinion followers: passive receivers of info from opinion leaders – Two step flow: message pass from media to opinion leaders then to opinion followers

11 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Limitations to Lazarsfeld Method – Surveys are not real time – Surveys are expensive and cumbersome – Very conservative in terms of media effects – Produced contradictory results (i.e. was contextual to type of info transmitted) – Surveys are crude: only take a gross measurement – Surveys omit important things because the researcher must choose what to include – Theory ignores the effects of historical context at the time.

12 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Great Contributions of Limited Effects Theory – Media rarely directly influence individuals – There is a two-step flow of media influence – By adulthood, people have developed strong group commitments – Media effects, when they do occurs, are modest and isolated.

13 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Motivations for Attitude-Change theory – Success of Nazi propaganda challenges Americans optimism about the peoples wisdom – The military needed methods to quickly induce bonding among the diverse thousands who signed up from varied geo and cultural locations – Psychologists saw a readily available and controlled subject pool.

14 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Karl Hovland used controlled variation to assess the strength of elements of propaganda – Why did Why we fight (Frank Capra) fail? – Propaganda did not have an immediate effect rather it required a cultivated audience. – Time was a major factor in propaganda effectiveness – One-sided arguments were effective with people already in favour of the message, – Two sided arguments worked better with the undecided.

15 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … The Communication Research Program (Yale) – High credibility communicators increased attitude change – Fear-arousing appeals worked, but depended on the experiences and knowledge of the participants – Individual differences research: your personal attributes make you more or less susceptible to persuasion. High intelligence = high persuasability

16 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Mass Comm Research & Media Effects – Individual Differences: people differ so media messages must contain specific elements to appeal to specific personality types – Social categories: people who belong to well- defined social categories will respond to media messages in a coherent fashion

17 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Cognitive consistency: people seek out and believe messages that are consistent with the values and beliefs of those around them Cognitive dissonance (Festinger): information inconsistent with peoples beliefs create discomfort

18 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Selective Processes: exposure (attention), retention, and perception – Selective exposure: people tend to expose themselves to messages they feel are familiar – Selective retention: people remember messages best that are in sync with their worldview – Selective perception: people will believe what they want to believe, altering the meaning of messages to suit themselves.

19 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Limitations of the experimental persuasion research – Experiments were conducted in labs in controlled environments – Experiments have opposite problems from surveys (i.e focus on immediate effects, not long-term) – Conservative about assessing media influence: eliminated key factors such as convos pre/post TV watching – Experiments are crude for studying long-term media effects – Many variables that are hard to explore in experminents

20 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Information Flow Theory – 1950s saw a rise in interest of how messages flow from media organizations to audiences – Based on the idea that maximizing how well- informed citizens are will improve democracy – Hard News (politics, science, world events, community organizations): people did not partake much and learned little – Soft News (sports, life, gossip, entertainment): partook a lot and learned much

21 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … The trick to making information flow theory work is embed soft ideas into hard news. These act as hooks making people pay attention to the hard facts (Colbert Report) Limitations: Info-flow is a simplistic, linear, source-dominated theory.

22 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Klappers phenomenistic theory – Argued that researchers exaggerated the effects of media – Mass comm does not serve as a cause of audience effects, rather functions through a nexus of mediating factors and effects – These factors lend mass comm a reinforcing power – exaggerating already held beliefs and existing trends

23 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Elite pluralism – This theory came of the desire to understand Lazarsfelds opinion leader observation. – Most audience members are apathetic, but they listen to opinion leaders, who are well-informed – This is in contradiction to libertarian theory – Elite: a small number of opinion leaders – Pluralism: a diversity of groups

24 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … C. Wright Mills and the Power Elite – Democratic theorists disdained elite pluralism They felt it was just reflective of current trends and did not offer a hope for a return to libertarian democracy – Mills book raised lots of interesting questions If elite pluralism was true, why were black and religious minority elites not powerful?

25 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Major Generalizations of Limited Effects Perspective: – Role of mass media is limited, it mostly reinforces existing trends – Role is limited in peoples lives, tends to be positive, can be negative in certain pathological cases (personality dis., addicts) – The role of mass media is overwhelmingly positive

26 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Drawbacks of Limited Effects Perspective – Survey and experimental research are very limited methodologically – Systematically excluded certain effects for fear of spurious effects – Too large of a focus on immediate effects. Very little focus on long-term effects

27 Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … Contributions of Limited Effects – Supplanted Mass Society theories – Prioritized empirical observation and downgraded speculative forms of theory construction – Provided a framework for research in universities and colleges in the 50s and 60s

28 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Functionalism: a theoretical approach that conceives of social systems as living organisms whose various parts work, or function, together to maintain essential processes Communication Systems Theory: the mass media as a series of parts that work together to meet a goal Social cognitive theory: theory of elarnign through interaction with the environment that involves reciprocal causation of behaviour, personal factors and environmental effects

29 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Theories of the Middle Range and the Functional Analysis (Merton, 1967, p. 45): – consist of limited sets of assumptions from which specific hypotheses are logically derived and confirmed by empirical investigation – do not remain separate but are consolidated into wider networks of theory – sufficiently abstract to deal with differing spheres of social behaviour & social structure; transcend sheer description – cuts across the distinction between micro-sociological problems – Involves the specification of ignorance

30 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Merton was value-neutral: he did not divide the world into us and them bad guys and good guys Merton promoted the cumulative nature of small, limited-effects studies that were empirically grounded Manifest functions: intended and observed consequences of media use Latent functions: unintended and less easily observed consequences of media use

31 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Mertons Four Functions of the Media: Surveillance of the environment Correlation of the parts of society in responding to the enivroment Transmission of the social heritage from one generation to the next (oral culture) Entertainment

32 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Narcotizing dysfunction: as news about an issue inundates people, they become apathetic to it, substituting knowing about the issue for action on it.

33 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Mendelsohns Mass Entertainment theory: – The relaxing and entertaining properties of TV serve a vital social function. – Some very few become addicted, but most are happily pacified and removed from the daily tension of worklife Typical of Functionalist theory: some functions are good, some are bad, but they are balanced in the organism, like toxins and vital elements in a body. Researchers found that they could combine LE findings to come up with a functionalist middle-range theory Television and the Lives of Our Children (1961): TV made some kids violent, but most were simply pacified.

34 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… The Rise of Systems Theories – System: consists ofa set of parts that are interlinked so that changes in one part induce changes in other parts – Cybernetics: the study of regulation and control in complex systems – Feedback loops: ongoing mutual adjustments in systems – Communication systems: systems that function primarily to facilitate communication

35 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Modeling Systems – Model: any representation of a system, whether in words or a diagram – Goal-orientation: characteristic of a system that serves a specific overall or long-term purpose Systems models can be adapted to human communication ( , internet use, etc.) In mass comm, systems models replaced the linear transmission model of Lasswell

36 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Criticisms of Functionalism – Humanists dislike the mechanistic and biological analogies used in systems theory – Do not focus on traditional views of causality because functional systems are not linear – Are biased towards the status quo because of their basis in description and empiricism

37 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… TV changed the global mediascape in at the Worlds Fair in New York TV occurred simultaneously with big changes in USA society – WWII made USA more urban – Shift work and regularly scheduled jobs – Had more leisure – More regular incomes to spend on leisure – Non-Caucasian fought in WWII and demanded share of American Dream – Women permanently entered the workforce – People moved away from small towns and traditional influences, like church and school diminished in importance. – New demographic because of the baby boom: the Teenager!

38 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… More changes: – Crime waves, – JFK, RFK, MLK assassinations – Civil rights & Anti-Vietnam War – Weathermen & Black Panthers – Young people behaving oddly: weird music and taking drugs – Generation gap was observed

39 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Medias role in these changes was hotly debated TV and film became the subject of many investigations Surgeon General Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behaviour was founded in 1969

40 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Television Violence Theories – Catharsis: viewing violence is enough to sate or reduce peoples natural aggressive drives – This theory doesnt really hold generally: people who watch video sex dont have diminished sex drive – Aristotle used catharsis to explain the effects of Greek tragedy, so the argument from the tradition was used for TV – Final finding: showing representations of violence can reduce violent behaviour, but because of learning – not catharsis.

41 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Humans learn from observation (although cognitivism denies this) Imitation: we learn by direct reproduction of others behaviours Identification: a special form of imitation that springs from wanting to be like an observed model relative to some broader characteristics or qualities (thin like Cindy Crawford, hip like Angeline Jolie, tough/sensitive/rugged like Brad Pitt) Social learning: encompasses both imitation and identification to explain how people learn through observation of others in their environments

42 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Social Cognition from Mass Media – Operant learning theory: learning occurs only through the making and subsequent reinforcement of behaviour – Behavioural repertoire: learned responses available to an individual in a given situation – Negative reinforcer: particular stimulus whose removal, reduction or prevention increases the probability of a given behaviour over time – Modeling: acquisition of behaviour through observation

43 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Social Cognition from Mass Media (cont) – Observational effects: when the observation of a behaviour is enough to learn that behaviour – Inhibitory effects: the effects of seeing a model punished for a behaviour, reducing the likelihood of the observer reproducing the behaviour – Disinhibitory effects: model rewarded for an aggressive or prohibited behaviour, increasing the likelihood observer will engage in the behaviour

44 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Social Cognition from Mass Media (cont) – Vicarious reinforcement: reinforcement that is observed rather than is directly experienced – Reinforcement contingencies: the value, positive or negative, associated with a given reinforcer – Behavioural hierarchy: the likelihood that we will engage in a particular behaviour.

45 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Aggressive Cues: information contained in media portrayals of violence that suggests (or cues) the appropriateness of aggression against specific victims Boxer example: boxer got shocked more often Two observations: – Viewers psychological state can lead them to respond to cues in programs that meet the needs of that state – Viewers who see justified violence see it as a good or useful problem-solving device (disinhibition) Aggressive cues research is supported by priming effects research

46 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Banduras summary of so-coggie findings: Reward/Punishment: rewarded aggression is more frequently modeled (disinhibitory); punished aggression is less frequently modeled (inhibitory). Consequences: mediated violence accompanied by portrayals of negative or harmful consequences produces less modeling (inhibitory). Motive: motivated media aggression produces greater levels of modeling, and unjustified media violence results in less viewer aggression. Viewers are cued to the appropriateness of using aggression.

47 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Banduras summary of so-coggie findings cont Realism: especially with boys, realistic media violence tends to produce more real-world aggression. Humor: because it reduces the seriousness of the behaviour, humourously presented media violence elads to the greater probability that viewers will behave aggressively in real life. Identification with media characters: the more viewers identify with media characters (like themselves or attractive models) the more likely it is that they will model the behaviours demonstrated by those characters.

48 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Active Theory of Television Viewing: View of TV consumption that assumes viewer comprehension causes attention and, therefore, effects or no effects Viewing Schema: interpretational skills that aid people in understanding media content conventions Active-audience theories: put a focus on assessing what people do with media, these are audience-centered theories

49 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Developmental perspective: the view of learning from media that specifies different intellectual and communication stages in a childs life that influence the nature of media interaction and impact. Jean Piaget – argued that children, as they move from infancy to adolescence have different cognitive abilities avail. to them.

50 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Video Games Reignite interest in media violence – There has been a shift away from TV toward video game research – Kaiser Family Foundation study revealed that more than eight out of ten young people have a game console at home, half have one in their bedroom

51 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Four major reasons why video games are of research interest: – Amount of game play kids engage in – Presence of video games in high-profile high school shootings (Columbine/Jonesboro) – Video games interactivity: gamers are actors, not viewers – Sheer brutality of many video games

52 Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… Media & Childrens Socialization – Early Window theory: media allow children to see the world before the have the skill to successfully act in it – This is particularly powerful for gender learning – Advertising, junk food and obesity: most ads are for candy and snacks – leads to a desire to consume theses instead of healthy alternatives.


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