Assignment One

September 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Theories of Uniform Influence:

-Developed in the early 1900s, this theory suggested that the media exerts direct effects over viewers.  Members of society, although different, all have similar human nature and are alike in terms of emotions and outlooks.

-The Media presents messages to society who perceive them, more or less, uniformly.

-Such messages are stimuli that influence the individuals emotions and sentiments strongly.

-The stimuli leads individuals to respond in a somewhat uniform manner, creating changes in thought and action that are like those changes in other people.

According to this theory, every media message has the same effect on each member of the audience.  This doesn’t take into account the differences of morals and ethics throughout the audience members.  In that way the theory is flawed and was replaced by theories that imply indirect effects.

Theories of Selective Influences:

-Media messages have indirect effects over audience members.

-People aren’t all alike.

-Media presents messages to the members of society but those messages are received and interpreted selectively

-Variations in habits of perception occur because each individual has a unique set of beliefs, attitudes, values, needs, and modes of experiencing gratification that have been acquired through learning.

According to this theory, the same media message can be interpreted differently across audiences.  This explains why a certain television program could be liked by some, hated by some, and ignored by others, even if none of those group’s actions and thoughts were influenced at all by the program.

Disinhibition Theory:

-Throughout our lives, we acquire a set of moral and personal ethics

-Some of these moralist ideas are ones that ethically prohibit us from engaging in certain behaviors called inhibitions

-over time, if we come into contact with a number of mass-mediated messaged that seem to condone this behavior, we may lose our inhibitions

-once we lose our inhibitions we become more likely to engage in these behaviors

While morals keep up from engaging in reckless and unacceptable behavior, those same behaviors are exhibited daily through media outlets.

For example if we grew up in a strict home in which alcohol was forbidden, we would grow up with inhibitions against drunks and pursue a life away from that.  However with drinking so acceptable on television, through enough exposure we may lose our inhibitions and decide to indulge in alcohol consumption.

Desensitization Theory

-Over time , heavy media exposure can cause people to become less sensitive to certain topics and issues. Often they are topics and issues to which they formerly displayed considerable sensitivity.

-Situations which are not regularly experienced in real life are constantly portrayed in the media, situations that constantly portray violence and profanity are then viewed by the audience as more acceptable than they really are.

For example, watching a lot of horror movies may make an audience member less sensitive towards intense violence, not truly realizing the results of such actions.  These acts are put into an unrealistic perspective.

Sensitization Theory:

-Viewers can react strongly to real-life events covered in the media so much, that they become traumatized and much more sensitive to certain topics.

-Viewers are much less likely to imitate such behavior because they are scared of the results of such a behavior.

For example, watching a high speed police chase which ends in a fatality may make an audience member much more fearful of the possibility of being killed while driving at an unsafe speed, and also more reluctant to participate in any altercation with authorities.  Another example is the media’s coverage of the Vietnam War.  Graphic and gruesome footage of soldiers in combat as well as Vietnamese civilians being killed and burned alive scared the American public and therefore popular support of the war dropped as such stories were covered.

Modeling Theory:

-Behavioral theory that enforces the belief that people are likely to model their behavior after things they’ve seen in the media.

-Hearing about something sensational may cause audience members to imitate said acts.  When something is given coverage, people are more likely to copycat that act, whether it be for recognition or idolization.

For Example, when Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide, publishers knew that the more coverage and higher priority of such coverage would increase suicide attempts among the public, especially young people who idolized Cobain prior to his death.

Cultivation Theory:

-The news interprets reality to such an extent that people base perceived reality on news stories.

-People take their basis of what is real from what they gather from media sources.

-Because sensational and horrific stories are covered often, people begin to believe that these events are commonplace, rather than the exception.

-People who reported watching a lot of news responded with a higher perception of neighborhood crime than really exists.

-We believe that instead of the media reporting on what’s real, the media tells us what is real, what we should believe.

Socialization Theory:

-Theories that present the idea that prolonged exposure to the media can teach the audience about the world and their roles in the world.  This mostly comes from altered views of reality based on entertainment programming.

-Because of electronic media, children growing up in today’s world (since the dawn of affordable, electronic home-media) are socialized into the role of adults earlier than in previous centuries.

-This also works the other way around.  Children want to be more like adults, and adults want to be more like teenagers

-Influences over children are especially prevalent when the media content is realistic or is perceived by them as being realistic.  Young people think this is how real adults act in certain situations and mock that behavior in the belief that that is how they are supposed to act.

-All of this can be traced to the incorrect belief that social reality is portrayed in television.

Uses and Gratifications Theory:

-This perspective gives credit to the audience as being able to make decisions as to what they expose themselves.

-This theory asks the question of what people do with media more so than the other theories, which primarily cover what the media does to audience members.

-The effects of media heavily depend upon what the viewer is trying to get out of a message or program.

Ex. Someone’s internet experience may be different if they are trying to be entertained rather than if they are seeking serious informational content.

Reasons we use media:

-Information or entertainment

-Avoidance of responsibilities

-Escaping reality

-Seeking sexual or emotional stimulation

-Staying current with social events

Agenda-Setting Theory:

-This theory was originally designed to observe media behavior during political elections, conflicts or debates.

-The media sometimes tries to tell us that a certain issue is more important than others.  They can stress this by giving a certain topic higher priority, thus making the audience believe that it is somehow more important.

-The news media gives subtle emphasis to certain stories and topics by virtue of things such as headline size, placement of story, use of photos/video, length of story…

-Such emphasis then has the ability to raise audience awareness about those topics

-The topics that attract the most awareness are deemed more important than other items on the public agenda

An example of this was during Bill Clinton’s final years in office, after he was found lying to the American public about having an affair.  The media gave a huge amount of coverage to the impeachment and his approval rating dropped significantly.  Although plenty of politicians have affairs, it doesn’t reflect their professional positions.  The media ignored Clinton’s success with public policies as well his significantly lowering of the national deficit, and focused instead on his infidelities.  The current president, whose policies have seriously hurt the country economically, receives much less criticism.

Reinforcement Theory:

-All people have set ideas (schema) of possible behaviors that can be used in response to various situations that they will encounter.

-If they come into contact with media content that shows people reacting to situations in ways similar to their self-predicted ideas, their schemas are strengthened.

-Mental schema then become proven to that person each time they witness said reaction and therefore are reinforced more-so each time.

-Actions are reinforced further when an action is rewarded, this tells the audience that engaging in such reactions will yield rewards, therefore there are more likely to react to certain situations accordingly.

-We seek out information which reinforces already-developed opinions and these ideas are therefore more likely to be encouraged by such programming.

-Through Selective Exposure we choose to watch, research, and read, primarily content which agrees with our schema.  Television channels are often designed toward people with certain schema, for example Fox News is very sensitive towards people with pro-life views because many of their audience members strongly believe in this issue and would choose not to watch the network if it did not reinforce their schema.

In this example, the owner of the apartment rewards the girl living with them with chocolate each time she acts politely, according to the man’s beliefs of etiquette.

Schema Theory:

-Schema are constructed from frameworks that organize an individual’s memory of people and events.

-We hold mental schema based on past events and experiences.

-Many schema are based on race, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion.

-One consequence of holding schema is that people think past realistically-presented information to draw inferences about people or events that match up with their schema.

For example, two people watching the same program about homosexuals and gay clubs in San Francisco would remember different things about the program based on their schema.  Someone who is more comfortable around homosexuals would bring back more tolerant ideas, while someone who is conservative and more uncomfortable, will remember the negative aspects, based merely on his preconceived ideas, regardless of what positive information has been presented.

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