Media Studies 102: The Effects of Mass Media

Hey all! I have a midterm tomorrow for my media studies class – The Effects of Mass Media. I’ve been enjoying all of my core MS classes immensely – it’s just so fascinating to learn about something so immediate to our lives. What makes this class particularly interesting is that we study theories on how everyone is affected by the media, whether consciously or (more often than not) subconsciously.

Haven’t done this in a while, but I thought a good way to prep for my midterm tomorrow is to share some of the main concepts I’ve been studying. I figure it’ll be good practice, plus you can read some interesting approaches to looking at media effects. I’ll try my best to keep the jargon to a minimum – one of the best ways to understanding something is to explain the idea clearly. Feel free to read all of it, some of it, or none of it. Enjoy!

Uses & Gratifications – This is an approach to understanding why people actively seek out specific media sources and content. The main idea behind this approach is that people actively choose what media to consume in order to meet a given need – and not only a given need but also to enhance knowledge, social interactions, and entertainment.

Priming Effect – This approach relates to how people respond to violence in the media. A researcher named Berkowitz concluded that a presentation of a certain stimulus with a particular meaning (think violence) primes, or stimulates, related concepts, thoughts, and actions. Research suggests that exposure to violence makes people think about violence, but doesn’t necessarily mean they will act out on it.

Agenda Setting – Media sets agenda not by telling people what to think, but what to think about. In other words, people generally come to their own conclusions from a set of information – what the media does is make sure to cover certain topics more than others so that people will be thinking about and making conclusions from those topics.

Knowledge Gap – We could argue that with the increase of mass media information through technology, knowledge is being distributed more evenly among the population. This approach instead argues that segments of the population with higher socioeconomic status tend to acquire information at a faster rate than the lower status segments (because of previous knowledge and discussion), so that the gap between these segments actually increases.

Information Diffusion – This is the process by which new information is spread to the population over time. Adoption of new information can be depicted as an S-curve, starting with innovators and moving to early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. This curve also depicts adoption of new technology.

Third Person Effect – This is an interesting one. People tend to overestimate the influence that media messages have on others, and believe these messages have a greater effect on others than on themselves. This is related to the term “pluralistic ignorance,” where a person has a mistaken impression of how other people think and feel on various issues. So an example would be a person who believes that the majority of Americans are sharply divided along partisan lines, when in fact most people are more toward the center.

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed – I’ll be studying some more.

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One Response
  1. October 18, 2012

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