The effects model (effects theory) is how media affects society and how society affects media. For example, certain video games that include a lot of violence can have a negative impact on its users as they enforce violence. A good example of this is when a teenage boy murdered his best friend in 2004, and the video game ‘Manhunt’ was banned from the UK because the murder was similar to a murder in the game, and therefore was believed to be of influence. This model is important because media really can influence certain individuals of society, in both positive and negative ways.
Another example of the effects model is TV shows, such as Eastenders. Different cultures are presented in contrasting ways, which arguably could be a reflection of how society sees itself. For instance, the majority of young people are presented in a negative way which is an interpretation that a part of society may have in real life, whether it be true or not.
Two-Step Flow Model
The two-step flow of communication model argues that most people form opinions under the influence of opinion leaders, who are influenced by mass media; ideas flow from mass media to opinion leaders, and from them to a wider population.
An opinion leader is someone who is close to mass media and its messages, and is an influential person. Whereas, the people who are influenced by these opinion leaders are not really informed about the media and look up to these opinion leaders.
The hypothesis of this theory was introduced by Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson and Hazel Gaudet after they were doing some research into the decisions of voters in the 1940 US elections. They discovered that most voters got their information about the candidates from other people who read about the campaign in the newspapers, not directly from the media. They then concluded that word-of-mouth transmission of information plays an important role in the communication process and that mass media only has a limited influence on most individuals.
Despite this, the theory was developed by Elihu Katz and Lazarsfeld, who released a book together called ‘Personal Influence’ which is referred to as the handbook to this theory. This book explains that people’s reaction to media messages are mediated by communication with members of their social environment for example, family, friends, work and religious associations as these interactions have more influence on a person’s decision making process and behaviour rather than information from the mass media.
Agenda Setting Model
The agenda setting model describes the “ability of the news media to influence the importance placed on the topics of the public agenda”. It argues that the mass media determines the issues that concern the public rather than the public’s views. The issues that receive the most attention in the news is what people talk about the most. This means that the media is determining what issues and stories the public thinks about. Therefore, when the media fails to address a particular issue, it becomes marginalised in the minds of the public.
For example, the idea of smoking to be seen negatively has risen in society. Before the media started to encourage anti-smoking, smoking was considered to be a personal health issue. However, due to the increase in anti-smoking advertisements, smoking is now see to be a public health issue rather than a personal one.
Uses and Gratifications Model
The uses and gratifications model is an approach to understanding why and how people actively seek out specific media to satisfy specific needs. The question comes from other theories, “What does media do to people?” and “What do people do with media?”. It is argued that people choose specific media that will satisfy their needs.
Katz, Blumler and Gurevitch researched into this model and came up with five reasons why people engage with media:
- Cognitive – people want to be informed and educated.
- Affective – people want to be able to have an emotional connection with certain people in certain situations, which then allows us to have an emotional response.
- Personal integrative – to be influenced in our lives, eg. we look for certain traits of inspirational people that influence us to do better in our lives.
- Social integrative – to enhance social interaction, eg. social media.
- Tension Release – to escape from the stresses of daily life.
The cultivation theory explores the long term effects of television. It argues that the more that people watch television, the more likely they are to believe that social reality aligns with the “reality” portrayed on television. The key idea of the cultivation theory is that exposure to television cultivates viewer’s perception of reality over time. George Gerbner and Larry Gross developed this theory in 1976 and said, “Television is a medium of the socialisation of most people into standardised roles and behaviours. Its function is in a word, enculturation”.
This theory is emphasises with three main assumptions:
- Television is different from other forms of mass media.
- Television shapes the way individuals within society think and relate to each other.
- Television’s effects are limited.
Gerbner’s initial work specifically looked at the effects of television violence on American audiences. He focuses on high-use television users and their views on the crime they are watching on television in relation to what is happening in real life. He argues that since a high percentage of television programs include violent or crime-related content, viewers who spend a lot of their time watching television are inevitably exposed to crime and violence. Therefore, an increased exposure causes viewers to make judgements about the world in terms of it being a more violent and crime filled environment, when in reality, this is not the case.
In 1968, Gerbner carried out a survey to prove this theory. From his results he placed television viewers into three categories; “light viewers” (less than 2 hours a day), “medium viewers” (2–4 hours a day) and “heavy viewers” (more than 4 hours a day). He found that heavy viewers held beliefs and opinions similar to those portrayed on television rather than the real world, proving his theory. Those who would be classified as heavy viewers to Gerbner experience shyness, loneliness, and depression much more than those who either do not watch television or who do not watch television nearly as much. From this study, Gerbner also began working on his ‘Mean World Index’, an idea that argues that heavy consumption of violent related television content leads the viewer to believe the world is more dangerous than it actually is. “In most of the surveys Gerbner conducted, the results reveal a small but statistically significant relationship between TV consumption and fear about becoming the victim of a crime. The question at the start of the chapter is illustrative: Those with light viewing habits predict their weekly odds of being a victim are 1 out of 100; those with heavy viewing habits fear the risk 1 out of 10. Actual crime statistics indicate that 1 out of 10,000 is more realistic.”
Stuart Hall’s reception theory states that media texts are encoded by the producer. This means that whoever produces the text, fills it with values and messages. The text is then decoded by the audience, however it may not be in the same way that the producer intended as it depends on the person. A text can be decoded in one of three ways:
- Dominant or preferred reading – this is when the audience interprets the text in the way the producer intended. They agree with the producer’s ideology and the producer’s message has been delivered.
- Negotiated reading – this is when the audience understands message that the producer has put across, however they also have their own input and understanding of the text.
- Oppositional reading – this is when the audience disagrees with the producer’s ideology and has their own views and interpretation of the text, which is usually the complete opposite as they reject the meaning completely.
Selective perception is when people understand and acknowledge what they want to in media, but ignore the things they do not agree with.
Selective exposure is when individuals favour information that backs up their pre-existing views and beliefs, whilst avoiding any contradictory information.
Selective retention is the process where people remember messages close to their interests and that relate to their personal views and beliefs, rather than remembering messages that oppose personal beliefs.