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Mass media effects: models and theories
Homogenous audience: an assumption that audiences have common social characteristics and react in
similar ways to media texts.
Social networks: groups of people such as friends and family who influence uses and interpretations of
Opinion leaders: influential individuals in social networks.
Heterogeneous audience: a view that audiences have very different social characteristics and react
different to media texts.
Hypodermic Syringe Model
A Positivist approach - The media injects messages into a passive homogeneous audience; the audience
reacts simple process of cause and effect. Media have immediate direct effect on people's attitude and
behaviour e.g. copycat crimes and violence OR Aids awareness campaigns led to increased condom use.
Little attention given to how audiences experience or interpret media.
Illustration of model: radio dramatization of war of the worlds by Orson Welles 1983. Broadcast
transmitted in form of news bulletins and many listeners thought it was real & were convinced
Martians had landed. It caused major panic.
Active Audience Models:
All share view that audiences are not passive or homogenous and that media messages are influenced by
other factors in people's lives and culture e.g. class, gender, ethnicity etc. The interpretation and effect of
media affected by context in which it is consumed
Two-step flow (Katz & Lazarsfield 1955) Media and non-media communications are interrelated.
People discuss media within social networks and these networks influence their interpretations
opinion leaders often have considerable effect on views of other members of social network.
Study Morley (1980) studied viewers interpretations of a popular TV news & current affairs
programme and found people responded in 3 ways: (Like Halls' model of media reception)
Dominant accept views expressed
Negotiated partly accept views expressed
Oppositional reject views expressed
Uses and Gratifications model: McQuail (1968) argued different individuals and groups use media
to satisfy their specific needs. Viewers make conscious choices when decided when and what to
watch. E.g. older people may keep TB on all day for company; men more likely to watch sport than
women. This model relates to pluralist theory emphasis on consumer choice; media have had to
provide heterogeneous audience with its demands.
Cultural Effects Model: Combines elements of hypodermic syringe model & active audience
approaches media has important effects but not in immediate and direct ways. Effects tend to be
gradual and long-term (Drip Feed) E.g. if media continually presents image of perfect female form,
this is likely to filter into audiences' consciousness and may cause eating disorders in long term.
Research Study (Ivor Crewe) in 1970's Sun shifted political support from Labour to
Conservatives. Crewe found no immediate change in readers voting affiliations but over a
longer period, some readers' values and voting behaviour did change. Sun shifted back to
Labour in 90's.
Tend to adopt Cultural effects model. They argue media constantly communicates ruling class ideology to
lower classes and most people come to accept pro-capitalist viewpoint.
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He studied media effects theory in study of 1984/85 miners' strike.
Methodology: Groups of people including miners and police involved in strike and people who weren't were
asked to produce news stories and headlines about strike, they were given small no. of photographs to act
as stimulus. Groups were clear on intended message of reports from photos (picketing was violent and
miners were to blame.) It was then possible to compare this to what the groups thought to be true.…read more
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Pluralists and Postmodernists
Moral panics have become almost continuous in sensationalised news coverage (paedophilia, asylums
seekers, binge drinking, hoodies etc.)Argue sheer volume of moral panics means media is less able to
produce same depth of reaction; audiences have become more cynical & distrustful of media accounts.
Relationship between media and social violence
Early studies took simplistic hypodermic syringe approach. Psychological experiments were crude & open
to criticism.…read more
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A more plausible argument is the steady intake of violence the media feeds us may cause desensitisation
(i.e. we come to accept higher level of violence as normal) drip feed idea central to Cultural Effects model.…read more