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Lecture Twenty-One: Mass Media and Audiences

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David Young

Mass Media and Audiences: Some Social Scientific Approaches to Studying Audiences November 25, 2013 – December 2, 2013 Effects Research • Effects Research was the first major approach to studying audiences • Dominant from the 1940s to the 1960s • This approach was utilized by American social psychologists who were doing this type of research • 1940s, television began – started to enter households and the social psychologists decided to document the impact that television had on audience members • While this type of research was dominant from the 1940s through to the 1960s, we do still see variations of it – has not completely gone away • Key Aspects o Early research assumed that television had strong, direct and specific effects on the behaviour of audience members o Assumed that television would have an impact on how people voted – see election debates on television which would affect how they would vote o Assumed that if people were exposed to violence on television, they would become more violent o Researchers only found weak affects in their research – television did not have a huge impact on how people voted or increased violence  That meant they had to rethink their research – reconfiguring their approach o The researchers started looking for longer-term, indirect and diffuse effects on audience members o As effects research developed between the 1940s and the 1960s, it started to develop different approaches  Agenda-setting: an approach that focuses on how media content influences the issues or topics that audience members or members of the public think about  Cultivation Analysis: an approach that focuses on how media content encourages positive or negative attitudes among audience members with regard to a particular topic  Media content cultivates certain attitudes Cultivation Analysis • George Gerbner developed the notion of “the mean world syndrome” • Gerbner and his colleagues were interested in examining the impact of television violence o Interested in how television violence and exposure to television violence could possibly have an impact on attitudes about violence in society • Mean World Syndrome: suggests that people who watch a lot of television and are exposed to more television violence perceive society to be more violent and dangerous than those who watch less television and are exposed to less television violence Evaluation of Effects Research • Very usefully draws our attention to social psychological effects that flow from exposure to media content • While that is the advantage, there are some disadvantages, particularly from a sociological view, there are two significant disadvantages o There was a
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