WEEK 1: THURSDAY APRIL 4TH
What is theory?
Any attempt to explain/represent a phenomenon
“the explanation ppl use to resolve the ambiguity of life”
more specifically: set on concepts and their relationships
o informed by systematic observation
o to tell us how and hwy event/patterns happen
approaches to comm. Theorizing
paradigm: a scholar’s intellectual “world view”
o like little mini religions
o important bc ...
influences the kinds of theories we construct
influences the methods used to test theories
o 2 broad paradigms for research!
Science and humanities
Comm. Is “social science” right in middle
Ontological differences (how does human nature/behavioral work?)
Science theorizing- emphasize “determinism”
o Explain social behavior in terms of cause and effect
o Goal is to identify probabilistic “laws” of behavior
Humanistic theorizing- emphasizes “free will”
o Identify/describe individual choices/rules
o Goal is to develop understandings of each unique
o BUT for “critical” theories- power constrains choice
Epistemological differences (how do we know/study human reality?)
Science theorizing- reality is out there, to be discovered
o Observe attitudes/behaviors “objectively”
o Try to control researchers personal biases
Humanistic theorizing- reality is “created’ and interpreted
o Researchers and subjects are inseperable
o “subjective” interpretations important
NEITHER approach attempts to prove truth
Axiological Differences )what do we do with researchers values?)
Sciences- keep them distant
Humanism- bring values to bear (esp. “critical” theories)
Where do comm. Theories fit into these extremes???
Can draw from one side or another, mix them “hybrid”
WEEK 2: TUESDAY APRIL 9, 13
Revisiting paradigms... Two broad perspectives
o Determinism: cause/effect explanations
o Objectivity: discover “real” reality
o Keep researcher values distant
o Free will: focus on indiv choices
o Subjectivity: explore “created” reality of your subjects
o Include/embrace researcher values
Three types of comm theories:
“covering laws” theories
o attempt to create general explanations that apply
widely across many situations.
o “when __ happens, __ will happen”
o Paradigm: very scientific
o Typically use quantitative, empirical methods to test
Aka “positivistic” approach
o Examples : URT, CAT, EVT, etc
o attempt to identify the rules people create/use to
regulate their behavior (in specific, individual contexts)
rules are created by people, unlike laws by a
theoretical government. Laws have certain
consequences like fines, jail etc but rules just feel
bad socially etc
o paradigm: draws upon both
humanistic focus on choice and researcher
but also science- regularities of observed behavior
o typically use qualitative methods
aka “interpretive” approach
o examples: CMM, structuration
o attempts to explain behavior as interdependent
relationships within a system.
Like an ecologist looking at an ecosystem: cant
just look at a spider, but need to look at and
consider surroundings other species living etc etc
Everything effects everything else
o Paradigm: it depends on the particular theory... (can
draw from both)
o Use qualitative and quantitative methods (depends) o Examples: interactional view (of relationships),
organizational networks, etc.
A fourth type??
“critical” theories/methods are purely in the humanities, so
we’ll not be covering those...
SO, revisiting paradigms again.
Two broad perspectives:
o Science and humanism
Three types on comm. Theories:
o Laws, rules, systems
Ch 3 adds 3 more terms (approaches to research)
o Positivistic, interpretive, critical methods
Which go with which?
o Laws- science- positivistic
o Rules- interpretive- science and humanism
o Systems- depends...
o Critical is pure humanities, nothing else.
Role of theory in research
Theories organize experience
Focus attention on important concepts/factors/variables , but
ignore the rest.
o Often “reductionistic” meaning your taking a complex
aspect of human life and reducing it to just some key
Theories stimulate and guide research
Point to ways to test predictions
Get modified to better explain the data
The process is cyclical
Deduction: theories- hypothesis- observations
o Science/laws theories, positivistic methods (quant)
Induction: observations- empirical generalizations- theories
o Aka grounded theory
o Rules theories; interpretive methods (qual)
System theories can be either ^
Disregard how the textbook says the diff of above two.
Just note where you are starting in the cycle.
Can also be all four in a circle.
Evaluating theory: what makes a scientific theory “good”?
Scope (and boundaries)
o How much about communication does the theory cover?
Its not bigger is better. Just depends ex: initial encounters only? Or relationships over
Ex: effects of tv violence? Or mass media effects
Shouldn’t be too narrow but also not too broad.
Needs to be meaningful for whatever the
o Can the theory (or its concepts) really be put to an
Should be possible to get findings that would
show the theory is wrong.
Cant prove faith and religion because not physical
For many comm theories, can only falsify certain
EX: attribution theory- when we interact w
people we need to explain it. Either
internally or externally... internal theyre
good people, external theyre in good mood
or want something outta me.... can test the
kinds of attributes people make, but cant
really test on whether people make att’s on
WEEK 2: THURSDAY APRIL 10,13
o How well does the theory explain the phenomenon?
o -does the theory specify the causal mechanisms or other reasons for
how variables fit together
o -does the theory explain the complexities of the data?
o -ex) why rob banks?......cuz that’s where they keep the money
• Predictive power
-How well does the theory predict future events?
o Given certain conditions, can we expect certain behaviors?
o Some theories only explain events after the fact (Groupthink)
• Only evident in disastrous situations
o How elegantly simple is the theory?
o -Does the theory account for all of the factors, but in a nice, neat
package? • Heurism
-does the theory stimulate new research and/or thinking?
-ex) Communication Accommodation Theory
o Has stimulated study after study since the 70’s
o Started as speech accommodation→to how people talk in business
vs. home place, police community and many different situations
• Practical Utility
-how useful is the theory?
o How well does the theory answer the “so what?” question?
o For people’s lives? Could be a societal, relational, or cultural level
Theories of Cognition and Communication: Social Cognition Category
• What these theories have in common?: they come from the “Social
Cognition” branch of social psychology
-how we think about the social world and how it influences comm
-focus on how people make sense of others and themselves
o Such as res on: Attitudes, Stereotyping, Impressions
• Combine cognitive processes (limitations of cognitive system)
-we don’t have to think about walking/breathing or it we couldn’t focus
on other activities
o With motivation factors (goal, needs, rewards to fit in, be liked, or
o To explain how we mentally organize info about others (ex:
attributions or schemas)
-not efficient to keep everything all jumbled so brain categorizes &
• Cognitive Schema Theory
(ordering food convo w/ college students)
-a “schema” is: a mental structure for representing generic concepts
stored in memory
o ex) we have a pizza schema b/c we know the general concept &
steps it takes to get a pizza as well as what goes along with it3
-used to guide encoding, organization, and retrieval of information
-schemas are created through repeated experiences
o seen or done a lot as a kid, seen it on TV, heard about it from other
-do schemas change?
o Relatively stable & repetitive over time once they are established
o New experiences often “activate” existing schemas in mind
• Media, interactions, etc
-schemas get modified through:
• New info fits with schemas, gets added to it
Ordering pizza and it comes as wheat; still fits schema but changes a little bit
• Confirmation bias- only attend to info that confirms existing schemas
-we notice stuff that seems to “fit” and assume it’s going to happen
again; kind of goes unnoticed
• New info doesn’t fit, so either reject info or adjust/fit schema to fit
Like ordering a pizza and a pie comes: either adjust and say it is pizza,
or reject and say it’s not pizza
• Subtyping- create exception category rather than alter the schema
Christmas trees don’t need to have stars on top to be trees, they can
have angels too
o Radical Restructuring (least common)
• Create new schema altogether
WEEK 3: TUESDAY APRIL 15, 13
Theories of cognition and communication (continued)
Both theories come from the “social cognition” branch of social psych
Focus on how people make sense of others and self
Combine cognitive processes
(limitations of cognitive systems)
Cognitive Miser Model (Chaiken and others)
Miser is a stingy person with person.
Cognitive miser is stingy with thoughts- not expending them a lot
o Humans all limited cognitive capacity
o Strive to conserve mental effort
o Example problem: bob is in a bar, looking at susan. But
she is looking at Pablo. Bob is married. Pablo is not.
Q: is a married person looking at an unmarried
(a) yes (b) no (c) cannot be determined.
Answer is yes. Regardless of susans status.
o Use “heuristics” to process info
(rules used as mental shortcuts)
ex: “availability heuristic” judge (frequencys, etc) based on what
easily comes to mind (“available” in
memory) rather than on actual data
Q: more likely cause of death? Falling
airplane parts of shark attacks?... airplane
parts is 30x more likely. Most people
thought shark attacks because its extremed
on news so much.
Ex: “affect heuristic”
Judge based on good/bad feeling.
Ice cream underfilled vs overfilled,
how you feel jipped or getting extra
regardless of actual amount in
Gambling example, one red bean of
ten or 10 red beans of 150 ppl think
more red beans is better- wrong.
Think of actual fractions.
Also influences risk vs. benefit assessments.
The more you think it’s a good thing then
the risks are shadowed.
Ex: “consensus heuristic”
Rule in our head if we think everything else
is doing it, then it must be a good thing.
o Process “systematically” only when must.
Why is this important for comm.?? Marketing etc
Theories of message processing and persuasion.
What is persuasion?
Not just gaining compliance.
Persuasion involves: attitude change, chance in mental
evaluation of something… social influence, change occurs
because of social agents using communication…
Cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger)
o distress come from discord between
beliefs/attitudes/behavior. “I know I should study but I
don’t want to” “I want to save the environment- as I
litter” they don’t match up
o people are motivated to avoid/reduce dissonance
to persuade: provoke dissonance, and then provide your way
to reduce it.
Reducing dissonance o Beforehand: try to prevent it
Selective exposure, attention
o After a decision: rationalize
Need reassurance, remove nagging doubts
Dissonance likely to be greater if:
Important decision, irreversible, much
o When feeling an inconsistency…
Ex: attitude: you feel that its good to be healthy.
Belief: you believe ice cream in unhealthy.
Behavior: you eat lots of it.
Shift the belief, attitude, or the behavior.
o Decide ice cream is ok, quit eating it, or decide you
don’t need to be healthy.
o Add consonant cognition/attitude(s)
Remind yourself of what is consistent.. ex: this is
the only thing I eat that’s unhealthy! Im gonna
work out later anyways!
o Reduce importance of cognition/attitude/behavior
Being healthy is good, but theres more to life.
WEEK 3: THURSDAY APRIL 18, 13
Distress comes from discord between
People are motivated to avoid/reduce dissonance
To persuade: provoke dissonance, and then provide your way
to reduce it.
When “minimal justification” (for behavior) more
dissonance shift attitude.
o Do boring task and told to tell the next person that it
was fun. Half offered $20 and they did not shift
attitude, because being paid for it justified the lie. Other
half paid $1 to lie and cause dissonance… they shifted
their attitude because they felt they needed to ease the
Criticism! Are we really that uncomfortable with dissonance?
o Alternative explanation (Aronson): inconsistency is with
behavior and self-concept. (e.g. guilt) Blurry now.. is it feeling, emotion, or something
Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) (Petty and Cacioppo)
The likelihood of elaborating in your head effects persuasion.
Assumes people are motivated to hold “correct” attitudes
People vary as to how much they cognitively “elaborate” on
Different factors are persuasive, depending on the amount of
A “dual process” approach:
o Two cognitive routes to persuasion.
Central route: persuasion results from
elaboration; thoughtful consideration of
Peripheral route: persuasion is result of attention
to superficial cues in the context; heuristics
Goes around the actual argument
Ex: attractiveness, eye contact, likability.
o Occurs along a continuum: peripheral ------ central
o What influences the amount of elaboration?
Motivation to process messages.
Need for cognition. Gotta know about
Ability to process messages
o Low motivation and/or ability
Lower cognitive elaboration
Peripheral cues more important
o High motivation/ability
Higher cognitive elaboration
Persuasive arguments more important
What factors have been found to be persuasive?
o If centrally processing: strong, high quality arguments
o If peripherally processing: source credibility, likeability,
powerful lang (celeb tweets political statement)
o Consensus of others (“90% of people agree” = wow I
should agree too, cause everyone else is)
o Message length (more bullet points showing point, then
yeah more evidence! Peripheral shortcut)
Attitude change o From central processing: lasts longer, predicts behavior
better, resists counter-persuasion
o From peripheral processing: more temporary, less
predictive of behavior. And counter persuasion
o Not very good at predicting persuasive effectiveness…
doesn’t say if that person is gonna be persuaded or not.
Ex: what IS a strong argument?
o Are there really TWO paths...?
The Heuristic–Systematic Model (HSM) (Chaiken and others)
Same person of cognitive miser model and similar concepts….
Very similar to ELM.
o Also a “dual process” model
o Processing is labeled “systematic” vs “heuristic”
o Results for persuasion are similar
Key differences are conceptual:
o Using heuristics is default. (conserve mental effort)
o Processes are parallel, not separate routes. (can do
both at once)
WEEK 4: APRIL 23, 13
Persuasion theories (continued)
Social judgment theory (Sherif)
Focus: the attitudes we bring to persuasive encounters matter
“Anchor”- our basic position on a given issue.
“ego-involvement” important- the position matters more,
super strong on your position.
Example range of attitude positions: gov’t influence in
Far left: total gov’t control ownership (socialism)
o In betweens…
Labor laws, min wage laws.. more reg
Heavy intrusion; health care, banking systems,
Far right: complete free market, no gov’t influence on
capitalism. Latitudes: we have a range of positions relative to that
o latitude of acceptance- range of attitudes that your
basically okay with.
o Latitude of rejection- what you’re not okay with
o Latitude of non-commitment- not sure, in between
o Role of ego-involvement?
Getting persuaded involves two steps:
o Step 1. Perceptual judgment
You judge where argument is relative to your
Biases in judgment:
Contrast effect- when you judge the
message to be further away then it really is.
Assimilation effect- think of the message as
closer to regular position then truly is
o Step 2. Attitude change (shifting the anchor)
If judge message to be within your lat of noncom
(lat of acceptance too, depending…)
You shift anchor toward message
If judge within your lat of rejection
No shift at all, or anchor shifts away from
o How big is the change??
Inoculation Theory (McGuire; Pfau & others)
Focus: how messages can be used to make people resists persuasion
“inoculation” – metaphor of inoculation against disease
o threat: forewarn upcoming challenge
o refutational preemption: raise the challenges, then
how does this create resistance?
o Threat triggers bolstering of existing attitudes
o Refutations provide “antibodies” to protect against
attack (ammo for defense)
o Protection can extend to broad range of attacks
o Modest, short-term effects
o Must catch people before attitudes have already been
Mass Communication Theories
Early Theorizing: Magic Bullet Theory (hypodermic needle) (example: the war of the worlds radio broadcast in 1930s?)
Audiences are disconnected masses
Influence is: powerful, direct, uniform.
Problem: no research support; basically a disregarded theory
among researchers. (yet still part of pop lore)
The rise of “limited effects” theories
Researchers found media effects to be mediated by:
o Individual & social differences
o Selectivity- choose what to pay attention to
o Interpersonal relationships
WEEK 4: THURSDAY April 25, 13
The Rise of “Limited Effects” Theory
Media effects found to be mediated by:
o Individual and social differences
o Interpersonal relationships
Uses and gratifications theory (katz, blumer, gurevich; &
Focus: what people do with media (rather than what media
do to people)
o Audiences are active- not passive sponges
o Make media choices to gratify needs
Information, surveillance, entertainment, pleasure
Examples of uses and grats research:
o Identifying underlying motives
o For TV: passing time, escaping, getting info..
o For facebook: finding old friends, maintaining
o Examining how motives/needs relate to use
Ex: recognition, social, entertainment needs
user-generated online content.
o Examining consequences of motives and uses
Ex: user generated content stronger sense of
o Reliance on self reports of motives
o Lack of coherent, unified theory Media Systems Dependency Theory (Ball-Rokeach and
Focus: relationships between individual, media system and
o For media: expectations for audience members and
o For indiv: expectations/demands for media satisfying
Need to get on facebook, need to be connected.
o Dependence varies based on:
Ex: cable news ratings beat out all other
stations during boston bombings.. same as
Type of media use
o More dependence on media
More important media become
More influence media have
Is there an “ideal” level of dependence?
What are real consequences? More persuaded or
what? What influence does it have- not specified-?
A return to theories of “powerful (but indirect/subtle) effects”
Criticism of social ills increased (1960s+) civil rights,
Methods and stats got more sophisticated
…(to detect more subtle or indirect effects)
several different areas investigated
o social-psychological effects
o broad cultural/societal influences
o political/public opinion influence
Social Psychological Effects
Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura) aka Social Learning
Main idea: people learn by observing others (modeled
Learning from media models is cognitive process that
(further below, next class….) WEEK 5: Tuesday April 30 2013
Prof mullin special office hours: thurs may 2 2:30-4pm (ssms 4105)
TA Q&A session: mon may 6, time/loc TBA
Review guide on gauchospace
Includes list of topics covered
And where: lecture, readings, or both
Includes a few example questions
Mass Communication (continued)
Social Psychological Effects
Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura) aka Social Learning Theory
Main idea: people learn by observing others (modeled behavior)
Learning from media models is cognitive process that
o Attention (incl. features of show, viewer skills)
o Retention (incl. repetition, cog rehearsal)
o Production (incl. physical skill, and self-efficacy)
Self efficacy- how confident in own skills
o Motivation (esp expectations for rewards vs.
punishments, identification with model)
o Lots of research support
o Limited to short term effects on behavior
Broad Cultural/Societal Influences
Technological Determinsm (McLuhan) [aka Media Ecology]
The technology is the determining factor.
Focus: how media inventions cause cultural change
Key premises: “we shape our tools and they in turn shape us”
o “the medium is the message”
o it used to be the message from the media is the thing
affecting us, but now he says it’s the media affecting us
whether its TV internet (facebook, youtube) book etc.
doesn’t matter what show your watching or what
post your writing.. specific content not important
medium determines how we process info
o big problem: its not testable.. what the actual effect? Cultivation Theory (Gerbner)
Wanted it to be a broad level theory but is really at the individual level
o TV “cultivates” perceptions of social reality
Long term heavy expos. TV Perceptions match
o Most tv presents essentially the same message (e.g.
Amount of tv counts most (heavy vs light)
Heavy viewers display a “mean world syndrome”
They think they’re more likely to be
attacked or part of a violent crime, etc etc.
TV homogenizes viewers
Ex: Everyone thinks they’re middle class
TV + personal experience = double dose of
Because its relatable
conceptual problems (is tv really uniform?)
methodological problems (correlation does not = causality)
o causality- one thing causes the other (tv causes us to
think plastic surgery is normal)
o correlation- heavy viewers are more impressionable
then low viewers
o but is it reversed? People who are already more innate
to be scared of crime tend more to watch the tv/news
Difficult to test; alternative explanations.
WEEK 5: Thursday May 2, 2013
Help for the midterm:
Prof mullin special office hours: thurs, may 2 230-4pm
TA Q&A session: mon, may 6, 630-730, ssms 1009
Review guide on gauchospce
o Includes list of topics covered o And where: lec only, rdg only, or lec and rdg.
o Includes a few example questions
46 multiple choice questions (2 pt each)
be sure to…
o bring pink parscore form and #2 pencil
o bring id
o sit in your TAs section
Political/Public Setting Theories
Agenda Setting (McCombs and Shaw)
Main premise: media tells us not necessarily what to think, but what to
think about. “if the headline is big enough, then the news is big
Research support for agenda setting
o Match press agenda with public agenda
Public agenda- surveys
Correlation problem (like cultivation)
More press = more importance
But which comes first?
o Time series design and experiments too
Time series, same as above but multiple over
different time spans.
In experiments, dose em up on some stories and
mediate what news they see.
Then ask about rating the issues importance
o More recent developments
Individual differences and issue diff
Control of agenda
Who’s controlling what gets out there?
priming is when you bring a thought to front
of mind, (from social psych) like prime
anger then your more aggressive.
Like ask about an issue and then “overall” if
rank issue high then rank overall high..
same with low. Its like a spillover.
impact of “new” media
(e.g. blogs twitter fb)
Spiral of Silence (Noelle-Neumann) Main idea: people do not voice their opinions when they think their