Media effects • Hypodermic needle model • Minimal effects model • Uses and gratifications • Agenda-setting • Framing • Priming • Spiral of Silence
Hypodermic needle model • Working hypothesis of propaganda studies (1920s-1940s) • Regarding public as undifferentiated mass • Vulnerable, because of its atomization, to outside influences • Media intending to (instrumentalised in order to) doctrinate • Assuming immediate persuasive effects • Anecdotical evidence • Did Randolph Hearst prompt the Spanish-American war in 1898? • Did Stalinist propaganda work, or did Russians merely acquiesce and resign to their fate under totalitarianism?
Limited effects model • Early empirical (survey) research into campaign and media effects (e.g. Berelson, Lazarsfeld & McPhee, The People’s Choice, 1954) • Finding remarkably weak informational and persuasive effects • Explanation: • Avoidance of cognitive dissonance • Selective exposure • Selective perception • Selective retention • Limited effects or fugitive effects?
Uses and gratifications • Shifting focus • From what the media do to the audience • To what the audience do with the media • “The 'uses' approach assumes that people's values, their interests, their associations, their social rôles, are pre-potent, and that people selectively 'fashion' what they see and hear to these interests.” (Katz 1959) • Gans (1974) Popular Culture and High Culture • Taste cultures • Audience active and goal directed • Audience use media • Media compete with other sources of need satisfaction • Audience self-conscious of interests and motives for media use • Abandon value judgments about cultural significance of mass communication • Level of political interest is a matter of choice/taste not duty
Limitations of the “uses and gratifications” model • Coincides with claims (first emerging in the 1960s) that low levels of political interest and participation should not be regarded as a problem, but rather as indicator of stability, and public satisfaction with democracy (higher participation → polarization → instability) • Diversity of motivations for media use may undermine the “selective exposure” argument of the limited effects model • Individual (news) media selection can be based on non-political considerations (e.g. entertainment value) • In US, for example, talk radio, the Daily Show, or Wall Street journal consumed for entertainment/information reason • Resulting in exposure to biased political content with possible effects
Agenda-setting • Shift in focus • From persuasive (directional) effects • To cognitive effects • Press ”may not be successful … telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.” (Cohen, 1963) • Amount of news coverage afforded to a particular issue expected to determine public concern about that issue • Groundbreaking publications • McCombs & Shaw (1972) “The Agenda-Setting Function of the Mass Media” • Funkhouser (1972) “The Issues of the Sixties: An Exploratory Study in the Dynamics of Public Opinion” • Assessing causality between media and public agendas • Hierarchical vs. Longitudinal studies • Controlling for real-world indicators • Aggregate vs. individual-level studies • Considering conditionality of effects • Assessing Granger causality • Assessing dynamics (optimal effect-spans and memory decay functions)
Framing • Framing sometimes defined as second-level agenda-setting • First level: transmission of object salience • Second level: transmission of attribute salience • Framing is indirect persuasion • Direct persuasion concerns the altering of belief contents (convincing through argument that e.g. a policy choice will produce a positive instead of a negative outcome) • Framing concerns the altering of importance that individuals attach to particular beliefs (convincing to support a certain policy by associating the policy measure with a particular value) • Media vs. Individual frames • Media frames: making some aspects of perceived reality more salient, to promote particular problem definitions, causal interpretations, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation • Individual frames: mentally stored clusters of ideas that guide processing of information
Causes and effects of framing • Media frames as dependent variable • Influenced by social norms and values of journalists, organizational pressures and constraints, pressures of interest groups, journalistic routines, ideological or political orientations of journalists • Intentionality: ”authorities and pressure groups categorize beliefs in a way that marshals support and opposition to their interests” (Edelman) • Media frames as independent variable • Influences on attitudes and opinions - through problem definition, attribution of blame, indication of problem solution by the media • Influences on individual frames – overlapping frames, but different weights attached: ”what was central to the media might be rather peripheral to most repondents” (Huang) • Individual frames as dependent variable • Thematic vs. episodic media framing affects attribution of responsibility, dependent on general salience of issues • Conflict, human interest, or conflict frames tend to activate different cognitive processes in the audience • Individual frames as independent variable • Linking audience frames with patterns of political action and participation • Audiences may process media stories either in terms of diagnostic, prognostic, or motivational framing; first two imply attribution of blame and responsibility, and expectations about future policy, hence asserting passivity in audiences
Priming • Priming, a close relative to framing, reintroduces the notion of persuasive media effects • Concerned with the consequences of setting the public agenda • Experimental studies (Iyengar and Kinder, 1983) • Persuasive effects on beliefs, attitudes and choices • Placing issues or values high on the public agenda makes these salient, i.e. important, problematic, easily retrievable • Salient issues serve as criteria for evaluating leaders, performances, political processes • “It is difficult to change people’s preferences; it is easier to affect the priorities or weights they give to subpreferences bearing on the central decision. A voter may assess the political situation from several standpoints; from one, the Democrats appear better to him and, from another, the Republicans do. His decision is likely to follow the aspect given greater weight by him – with no change in the substance of his own opinions. Thus the voter’s feeling about what is critical in the political situation enables him to find a way out of a potential ‘conflict’ over the issues and hence facilitates political integration within the individual.” (Berelson, Lazarsfeld and McPhee, The People’s Choice, 1954)
Spiral of silence • Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann • Public, opinion, sanction and punishment • ”to the individual, not isolating himself is more important than his own judgment” • Indidividual observes environment to assess distribution of opinions • The stronger he finds his opinion present and reinforced by the environment, the more confident and outspoken he will be • Public opinion understood as amalgam that compels consent • Role of media • It is not the actual but the apparent, publicly visible strength of opinions that the individual assesses • Spiral of silence a dynamic model of public opinion formation • Prevalence of opinions in the media key variable in explaining the likelihood that an individual will speak his mind, be silent, or change his mind