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MCM 733: Communication Theory

MCM 733: Communication Theory

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MCM 733: Communication Theory

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  1. MCM 733:Communication Theory Chapters 6, 7, 8

  2. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Orson Welles: The War of the Worlds • Only certain personality types were affected: • Emotionally insecure, phobic, lacking self-confidence, fatalists • Led social scientists to investigate these “narrow effects”? If it was true for WotW, then could it be true for all media – limited effects was born. • Tied in well with fears surrounding propaganda • Neo-Marxist (critical-cultural) and LimEff battled

  3. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • LE was developed by methodologists in 40s & 50s • We focus on Paul Lazarsfeld and Carl Hovland

  4. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Lazarsfeld & Hovland • Did not assume the power of media, wanted to prove it empirically • if media’s power could be understood then it could be controlled or harnessed for good. • Believed that the society with the best scientists would also have the best democracy • Found that Media influences were much less powerful than SES (socio-economic status)

  5. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Factors that led to limited effects • The refinement of and respect for empirical methods. • Successful branding of mass society /propaganda models as unscientific • Big commercial potential • Strong gov’t & private backers (NSF, Rockefeller) • Media corps started their own research depts • Gained interdisciplinary acceptance.

  6. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Two-Step Flow Theory • An inductive theory: • data/observations first, generalizations second • Led to middle-range theory: • empirical generalizations based on a empirical facts • Unlike “grand” social TOE’s: Mass Society/Propaganda

  7. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Presidential election of 1940 FDR vs Wendell Willkie • One of the largest LE studies ever • Chose Sandusky, Ohio for its averageness • Chose a panel of 600 who were interviewed seven times from May until November • Used a long questionnaire that focused on speech effectiveness (radio was prevalent mode of Mass Comm)

  8. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Findings were telling because they led to voter typing • Early Deciders: chose a candidate in May and never changed • Waverers: chose one candidate then were undecided or switched, but ended up voting for their first choice • Converts: chose one candidate but then switched and voted for his opponent (ideological conversion) • Crystallizers: did not choose early, but choose by e-day. Their choice were predictable along certain vectors (party affiliation, farm or not, etc.)

  9. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • These findings directly conflicted with propaganda theory predictions • Lazarsfeld concluded that mass media reinforced the voters’ choices. • People were not converted by media. Rather they were “cross-pressured” (i.e. religion, friendship bonds, kinship)

  10. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Generalizations that Lazarsfeld came up with • Gatekeepers: people who screen messages and pass on those messages and help other share their views • Opinion leaders: people who pass info on to opinion followers • Opinion followers: passive receivers of info from opinion leaders • Two step flow: message pass from media to opinion leaders then to opinion followers

  11. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Limitations to Lazarsfeld Method • Surveys are not “real time” • Surveys are expensive and cumbersome • Very conservative in terms of media effects • Produced contradictory results (i.e. was contextual to type of info transmitted) • Surveys are crude: only take a gross measurement • Surveys omit important things because the researcher must choose what to include • Theory ignores the effects of historical context at the time.

  12. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Great Contributions of Limited Effects Theory • Media rarely directly influence individuals • There is a two-step flow of media influence • By adulthood, people have developed strong group commitments • Media effects, when they do occurs, are modest and isolated.

  13. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Motivations for Attitude-Change theory • Success of Nazi propaganda challenges American’s optimism about the people’s wisdom • The military needed methods to quickly induce bonding among the diverse thousands who signed up from varied geo and cultural locations • Psychologists saw a readily available and controlled subject pool.

  14. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Karl Hovland used controlled variation to assess the strength of elements of propaganda • Why did Why we fight (Frank Capra) fail? • Propaganda did not have an immediate effect rather it required a cultivated audience. • Time was a major factor in propaganda effectiveness • One-sided arguments were effective with people already in favour of the message, • Two sided arguments worked better with the undecided.

  15. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • The Communication Research Program (Yale) • High credibility communicators increased attitude change • Fear-arousing appeals worked, but depended on the experiences and knowledge of the participants • Individual differences research: your personal attributes make you more or less susceptible to persuasion. • High intelligence = high persuasability

  16. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Mass Comm Research & Media Effects • Individual Differences: people differ so media messages must contain specific elements to appeal to specific personality types • Social categories: people who belong to well-defined social categories will respond to media messages in a coherent fashion

  17. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Cognitive consistency: people seek out and believe messages that are consistent with the values and beliefs of those around them • Cognitive dissonance (Festinger): information inconsistent with people’s beliefs create discomfort

  18. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Selective Processes: exposure (attention), retention, and perception • Selective exposure: people tend to expose themselves to messages they feel are familiar • Selective retention: people remember messages best that are in sync with their worldview • Selective perception: people will believe what they want to believe, altering the meaning of messages to suit themselves.

  19. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Limitations of the experimental persuasion research • Experiments were conducted in labs in controlled environments • Experiments have opposite problems from surveys (i.e focus on immediate effects, not long-term) • Conservative about assessing media influence: eliminated key factors such as convos pre/post TV watching • Experiments are crude for studying long-term media effects • Many variables that are hard to explore in experminents

  20. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Information Flow Theory • 1950s saw a rise in interest of how messages flow from media organizations to audiences • Based on the idea that maximizing how well-informed citizens are will improve democracy • Hard News (politics, science, world events, community organizations): people did not partake much and learned little • Soft News (sports, life, gossip, entertainment): partook a lot and learned much

  21. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • The trick to making information flow theory work is embed soft ideas into hard news. These act as hooks making people pay attention to the hard facts (Colbert Report) • Limitations: Info-flow is a simplistic, linear, source-dominated theory.

  22. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Klapper’s phenomenistic theory • Argued that researchers exaggerated the effects of media • Mass comm does not serve as a cause of audience effects, rather functions through a nexus of mediating factors and effects • These factors lend mass comm a reinforcing power – exaggerating already held beliefs and existing trends

  23. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Elite pluralism • This theory came of the desire to understand Lazarsfeld’s opinion leader observation. • Most audience members are apathetic, but they listen to opinion leaders, who are well-informed • This is in contradiction to libertarian theory • Elite: a small number of opinion leaders • Pluralism: a diversity of groups

  24. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • C. Wright Mills and the Power Elite • Democratic theorists disdained elite pluralism • They felt it was just reflective of current trends and did not offer a hope for a return to libertarian democracy • Mills’ book raised lots of interesting questions • If elite pluralism was true, why were black and religious minority elites not powerful?

  25. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Major Generalizations of Limited Effects Perspective: • Role of mass media is limited, it mostly reinforces existing trends • Role is limited in people’s lives, tends to be positive, can be negative in certain pathological cases (personality dis., addicts) • The role of mass media is overwhelmingly positive

  26. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Drawbacks of Limited Effects Perspective • Survey and experimental research are very limited methodologically • Systematically excluded certain effects for fear of spurious effects • Too large of a focus on immediate effects. Very little focus on long-term effects

  27. Ch 6: Rise of Limited-Effects … • Contributions of Limited Effects • Supplanted Mass Society theories • Prioritized empirical observation and downgraded speculative forms of theory construction • Provided a framework for research in universities and colleges in the 50s and 60s

  28. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Functionalism: a theoretical approach that conceives of social systems as living organisms whose various parts work, or function, together to maintain essential processes • Communication Systems Theory: the mass media as a series of parts that work together to meet a goal • Social cognitive theory: theory of elarnign through interaction with the environment that involves reciprocal causation of behaviour, personal factors and environmental effects

  29. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Theories of the Middle Range and the Functional Analysis (Merton, 1967, p. 45): • consist of limited sets of assumptions from which specific hypotheses are logically derived and confirmed by empirical investigation • do not remain separate but are consolidated into wider networks of theory • sufficiently abstract to deal with differing spheres of social behaviour & social structure; transcend sheer description • cuts across the distinction between micro-sociological problems • Involves the specification of ignorance

  30. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Merton was value-neutral: he did not divide the world into “us and them” bad guys and good guys • Merton promoted the cumulative nature of small, limited-effects studies that were empirically grounded • Manifest functions: intended and observed consequences of media use • Latent functions: unintended and less easily observed consequences of media use

  31. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Merton’s Four Functions of the Media: • Surveillance of the environment • Correlation of the parts of society in responding to the enivroment • Transmission of the social heritage from one generation to the next (oral culture) • Entertainment

  32. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Narcotizing dysfunction: as news about an issue inundates people, they become apathetic to it, substituting knowing about the issue for action on it.

  33. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Mendelsohn’s Mass Entertainment theory: • The relaxing and entertaining properties of TV serve a vital social function. • Some very few become addicted, but most are happily pacified and removed from the daily tension of worklife • Typical of Functionalist theory: some functions are good, some are bad, but they are balanced in the organism, like toxins and vital elements in a body. • Researchers found that they could combine LE findings to come up with a functionalist middle-range theory • Television and the Lives of Our Children (1961): TV made some kids violent, but most were simply pacified.

  34. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • The Rise of Systems Theories • System: consists ofa set of parts that are interlinked so that changes in one part induce changes in other parts • Cybernetics: the study of regulation and control in complex systems • Feedback loops: ongoing mutual adjustments in systems • Communication systems: systems that function primarily to facilitate communication

  35. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Modeling Systems • Model: any representation of a system, whether in words or a diagram • Goal-orientation: characteristic of a system that serves a specific overall or long-term purpose • Systems models can be adapted to human communication (email, internet use, etc.) • In mass comm, systems models replaced the linear transmission model of Lasswell

  36. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Criticisms of Functionalism • Humanists dislike the mechanistic and biological analogies used in systems theory • Do not focus on traditional views of causality because functional systems are not linear • Are biased towards the status quo because of their basis in description and empiricism

  37. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • TV changed the global mediascape in at the World’s Fair in New York 1939. TV occurred simultaneously with big changes in USA society • WWII made USA more urban • Shift work and regularly scheduled jobs • Had more leisure • More regular incomes to spend on leisure • Non-Caucasian fought in WWII and demanded share of American Dream • Women permanently entered the workforce • People moved away from small towns and traditional influences, like church and school diminished in importance. • New demographic because of the baby boom: the Teenager!

  38. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • More changes: • Crime waves, • JFK, RFK, MLK assassinations • Civil rights & Anti-Vietnam War • Weathermen & Black Panthers • Young people behaving oddly: weird music and taking drugs • Generation gap was observed

  39. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Media’s role in these changes was hotly debated • TV and film became the subject of many investigations • Surgeon General Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behaviour was founded in 1969

  40. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Television Violence Theories • Catharsis: viewing violence is enough to sate or reduce people’s natural aggressive drives • This theory doesn’t really hold generally: people who watch video sex don’t have diminished sex drive • Aristotle used catharsis to explain the effects of Greek tragedy, so the argument from the tradition was used for TV • Final finding: showing representations of violence can reduce violent behaviour, but because of learning – not catharsis.

  41. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Humans learn from observation (although cognitivism denies this) • Imitation: we learn by direct reproduction of others’ behaviours • Identification: a special form of imitation that springs from wanting to be like an observed model relative to some broader characteristics or qualities (thin like Cindy Crawford, hip like Angeline Jolie, tough/sensitive/rugged like Brad Pitt) • Social learning: encompasses both imitation and identification to explain how people learn through observation of others in their environments

  42. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Social Cognition from Mass Media • Operant learning theory: learning occurs only through the making and subsequent reinforcement of behaviour • Behavioural repertoire: learned responses available to an individual in a given situation • Negative reinforcer: particular stimulus whose removal, reduction or prevention increases the probability of a given behaviour over time • Modeling: acquisition of behaviour through observation

  43. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Social Cognition from Mass Media (cont) • Observational effects: when the observation of a behaviour is enough to learn that behaviour • Inhibitory effects: the effects of seeing a model punished for a behaviour, reducing the likelihood of the observer reproducing the behaviour • Disinhibitory effects: model rewarded for an aggressive or prohibited behaviour, increasing the likelihood observer will engage in the behaviour

  44. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Social Cognition from Mass Media (cont) • Vicarious reinforcement: reinforcement that is observed rather than is directly experienced • Reinforcement contingencies: the value, positive or negative, associated with a given reinforcer • Behavioural hierarchy: the likelihood that we will engage in a particular behaviour.

  45. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Aggressive Cues: information contained in media portrayals of violence that suggests (or cues) the appropriateness of aggression against specific victims • Boxer example: boxer got shocked more often • Two observations: • Viewers’ psychological state can lead them to respond to cues in programs that meet the needs of that state • Viewers who see justified violence see it as a good or useful problem-solving device (disinhibition) • Aggressive cues research is supported by priming effects research

  46. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Bandura’s summary of so-coggie findings: • Reward/Punishment: rewarded aggression is more frequently modeled (disinhibitory); punished aggression is less frequently modeled (inhibitory). • Consequences: mediated violence accompanied by portrayals of negative or harmful consequences produces less modeling (inhibitory). • Motive: motivated media aggression produces greater levels of modeling, and unjustified media violence results in less viewer aggression. Viewers are cued to the appropriateness of using aggression.

  47. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Bandura’s summary of so-coggie findings cont • Realism: especially with boys, realistic media violence tends to produce more real-world aggression. • Humor: because it reduces the seriousness of the behaviour, humourously presented media violence elads to the greater probability that viewers will behave aggressively in real life. • Identification with media characters: the more viewers identify with media characters (like themselves or attractive models) the more likely it is that they will model the behaviours demonstrated by those characters.

  48. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Active Theory of Television Viewing: View of TV consumption that assumes viewer comprehension causes attention and, therefore, effects or no effects • Viewing Schema: interpretational skills that aid people in understanding media content conventions • Active-audience theories: put a focus on assessing what people do with media, these are audience-centered theories

  49. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Developmental perspective: the view of learning from media that specifies different intellectual and communication stages in a child’s life that influence the nature of media interaction and impact. • Jean Piaget – argued that children, as they move from infancy to adolescence have different cognitive abilities avail. to them.

  50. Ch. 7: Beyond Limited Effects: Focus on Functionalism and Children… • Video Games Reignite interest in media violence • There has been a shift away from TV toward video game research • Kaiser Family Foundation study revealed that more than eight out of ten young people have a game console at home, half have one in their bedroom