CS101 Ten Things Wrong with the Effects Model by: David Gauntlett Week 11
-After 60 years of a considerable amount of research effort, direct effects of media upon behaviour have not
been clearly identified, then we should conclude that they are simply not to be found
1. The Effects Model Tackles Social Problems ‘Backwards’
-To explain the problem of violence in society, researchers should begin with that social violence and seek to
explain it with reference, quite obviously, to those who engage in it: their identity, background, character and
so on. The 'media effects' approach, in this sense, comes at the problem backwards, by starting with the media
and then trying to lasso connections from there on to social beings, rather than the other way around.
-This is an important distinction. Criminologists, in their professional attempts to explain crime and violence,
consistently turn for explanations not to the mass media but to social factors such as poverty, unemployment,
housing, and the behaviour of family and peers.
-In more general terms, the 'backwards' approach involves the mistake of looking at individuals, rather than
society, in relation to the mass media.
2. The Effects Model Treats Children as Inadequate
-The individualism of the psychological discipline has also had a significant impact on the way in which children
are regarded in effects research.
-In psychology, then, children are often considered not so much in terms of what they can do, as what they
(apparently) cannot. Negatively defined as non-adults, the research subjects are regarded as the 'other', a
strange breed whose failure to match generally middle-class adult norms must be charted and discussed.
-This situation is clearly exposed by research which seeks to establish what children can and do understand
about and from the mass media. Such projects have shown that children can talk intelligently and indeed
cynically about the mass media (Buckingham, 1993, 1996), and that children as young as seven can make
thoughtful, critical and 'media literate' video productions themselves (Gauntlett, 1997).
3. Assumptions within the Effects Model and Characterized by Barely-concealed Conservative Ideology
-The systematic derision of children's resistant capacities can be seen as part of a broader conservative project
to position the more contemporary and challenging aspects of the mass media, rather than other social
factors, as the major threat to social stability today.
-For example, 'We are awash in a tide of violent representations unlike any the world has ever seen...
drenching every home with graphic scenes of expertly choreographed brutality' (1994, p. 133)
-The condemnation of generalised screen 'violence' by conservative critics, supported by the 'findings' of the
effects studies - if we disregard their precarious foundations - can often be traced to concerns such as
'disrespect for authority' and 'anti-patriotic sentiments'
-This view of a section of the public is clearly reflected in a large number of the effects studies which presume
that 'antisocial' behaviour is an objective category which can be observed in numerous programmes and which
will negatively affect those children who see it portrayed.
4. The Effects Model Inadequately Defines its own Objects of Study
-effects studies have generally taken for granted the definitions of media material, such as 'antisocial' and
'prosocial' programming, as well as characterisations of behaviour in the real world, such as 'antisocial' and
'prosocial' action. CS101 Ten Things Wrong with the Effects Model by: David Gauntlett Week 11
-to use a Beavis and Butt-Head example - sabotaging activities at one's burger bar workplace, will always be
interpreted in effects studies as 'antisocial', not 'prosocial'.
5. The Effects Model is often Based on Artificial Studies
-Since careful sociological studies of media effects require amounts of time and money which limit their
abundance, they are heavily outnumbered by simpler studies which are usually characterised by elements of
artificiality. Such studies typically take place in a laboratory, or in a 'natural' setting such as a classroom but
where a researcher has c