Models and Theories on Mass Media Effects


Hypodermic Syringe Model

The Hypodermic Syringe Model proposes that the media injects a message into a passive and homogeneous audience. The media thus has an instant effect on people's behaviour (eg: copycat crimes and violence).


Orson Welles' broadcast of War of the World in 1938.

Much research at the time focused on how violence in the media effects people's behaviour, the assumption of society as a homogeneous and passive audience dominated thought. Little attention was given to the different ways in which audiences reacted to the media or what they did with it.


Bundura's Bobo Doll study in 1963

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Two Step Flow (Katz and Lazarsfield)

The obvious failings of the Hypodermic Model led to the development of active audience approaches, there are many different types of these but they all share the assumption that audiences are active and heterogeneous.

The Two Step Flow model suggests that media and non-media communication is related. Media texts are discussed in social networks (eg: friends, family, collegues). These networks influence people's beliefs and attitudes as well as their views on stories in the media. Opinion Leaders in these networks often have a dominant role and their views have a considerable effect on other members of the network.


Morely 1980 found 3 receptions to news:

  • Dominant- acceptance of the views expressed
  • Negotiated- partial acceptance of the views expressed
  • Oppositional- rejection of the views expressed
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Uses and Gratifications Model (McQuail)

This model concerns itself with what people actually do with the media. It suggests that people mak a conscious choice in deciding what to watch. Different groups use the media in different ways to satisfy their specific needs.


Pluralist views on the media suggest that the media has to provide for a heterogeneous audience and for the needs of different consumers. Thus the emphasis is on consumer choice

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Cultural Effects Model

This model combines elements of the Hypodermic Syringe Model and the active audiences approaches by arguing that the meida does have important effects but in a direct manner as suggested by the Hypodermic Syringe Model. Effects instead are described as gradual, more like a dripping tap.


The continual portrayal of a stereotypical view of the female form filters into the consciousness of the audience and may lead to eating disorders.

Ivor Crewe found no immediate change in readers' views when the Sun shifted alliance to the Conservatives but over a longer period of time many readers' views and voting behaviours did change.

Neo-Marxists support this model of media effects suggesting that the constant communication of ruling-class ideology gradually infiltrates the consciousnesses of the masses.

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The Miners' Strike

Philo 1990, a member of the GUMG, asked many different groups in society who had been influenced by the strike to produce newspaper headlines and stories. All the groups understood the media's message, that the picketing was violent and the miners were to blame. The differences appeared in whether or not the groups believed the media messages:

  • Logical approach: "If it had been that violent the police wouldn't have coped, the Army would have been needed"
  • Personal experience: "We met the miners whilst on holiday and know they are nice people so we refuse to believe that they are being violent now."

The majority of paticipants belived the media representations and some even changed their views due to media reporting.

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