Magic Bullet Theory as a Model for Communications

The magic bullet perspective, also called the hypodermic needle model, is a model for communications. Magic bullet theory has been around since the 1920s to explain “how mass audiences might react to mass media,” reports Media Know All. According to University of Twent in the Netherlands, the theory states that mass media has a “direct, immediate and powerful effect on its audiences. History Several factors, including widespread popularity of radio and television, led to this “strong effects” theory of media influence.

Also important were the new “persuasion industries” of advertising and propaganda being utilized by industries and governments alike. In the 1930s, the Payne Fund, developed by the Motion Picture Research Council, studied the impact of motion pictures on children to see if the magic bullet effect was controllable. Even Hitler monopolized the mass media in the belief that he could use it unify the German public behind the Nazis in the 1940s. Function

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The theory “suggests that the message is a bullet, fired from the ‘media gun’ into the viewer’s head,’” states the University of Twente. In this model, the audience is passive. Viewers are sitting ducks with no chance to avoid or resist the impact of the message. Mass media, in this view, is dangerous because people believe the message since there is no other source of information. It is a "crude model," adds Media Know All, since it leaves out any attempt by the audience to consider or challenge the data. Theory

Information, the theory claims, passes into the audience members’ consciousness as a mass or single entity, without regard for individual opinions, experiences or intelligence. In this theory, the creators of mass media strictly manipulate the audience as a single unit and the media-makers find it easy to direct viewer’s thoughts and actions. Magic bullet theory assumes that the audience is singular and passive. Application This theory, based on assumptions about human nature rather than on empirical evidence, was not as widely accepted as mass-media experts of the era indicated.

The most famous magic bullet incident was the 1938 radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” and the mass reaction of the American audience that thought it was real. In reality, this incident sparked research into the phenomenon and eventually showed that reactions depended on situational and attitudinal aspects of the various individual listeners. Misconceptions In the 1940 presidential election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a study called “The People’s Choice” tested the theory.

The study, conducted by Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson and Hazel Gaudet used a modification of the magic bullet theory called the Two Step Flow theory. Instead of proving the theory, it showed that the majority of viewers did not respond to the propaganda. The results actually showed that interpersonal relationships influenced people more often by the media. Significance The magic bullet theory is considered too cumbersome to test and offers inaccurate results. Modern researchers wanted more empirical explanations for the relationship between media and audience.

Since media obviously did not turn the audience into unthinking drones, those studying the field sought a more definable reaction. Some groups still quote the theory to explain why certain audiences should not be exposed to certain media such as youth to comics in the 1950s or rap in the 2000s, reports Media Know All, “for fear that they will watch or read sexual or violent behavior[s] and will then act them out themselves. Reception theory Reception theory provides a means of understanding media texts by understanding how these texts are read by audiences.

Theorists who analyze media through reception studies are concerned with the experience of cinema and television viewing for spectators, and how meaning is created through that experience. An important concept of reception theory is that the media text—the individual movie or television program—has no inherent meaning in and of itself. Instead, meaning is created in the interaction between spectator and text; in other words, meaning is created as the viewer watches and processes the film. Reception theory argues that contextual factors, more than textual ones, influence the way the spectator views the film or television program.

Contextual factors include elements of the viewer’s identity as well as circumstances of exhibition, the spectator’s preconceived notions concerning the film or television program’s genre and production, and even broad social, historical, and political issues. In short, reception theory places the viewer in context, taking into account all of the various factors that might influence how she or he will read and create meaning from the text. Reception theory is a philosophy about the arts that recognizes the audience as an essential element in the creative process.

Originally developed as a method of literary criticism, reception theory posits that meaning does not lie in the work of art itself; rather meaning is part of a process of interaction between the audience and the artwork. Reception theory has been applied to many art forms, including drama, film, painting and sculpture. Emphasizing reader interpretation of works of literature, reception theory developed in the 1960s and peaked in the 1970s and 1980s as an influential form of literary criticism in academic circles.

Reception theory posited that the reservoir of life experiences a reader brings to the reading process is crucial to how he or she interprets an author’s creation. Cultural background, education and of course the reader’s native language all play a role in his or her understanding and emotional response to a work of literature. According to reception theory, the reading experience activates pre-existing experiences and memories. Readers also approach a novel, poem or short story with certain expectations about these forms of literature and relate these expectations to their previous reading experiences.

Reception theory has been applied to many different art forms and has even been used in the analysis of landscape architecture and archeological studies. Many factors can shape the interpretation of a work of art, whether it be a painting, novel or film. With each of these particular art forms, reception theory recognizes not just the validity of individual interpretation, but also cultural interpretations that shift as a result of changes in economics, lifestyle, religious beliefs and innovations in technology.

Traditional literary theory, which dominated prior to 1960, did not place as much emphasis on the reader’s function in the creative process. The emphasis in traditional literary theory was on the author as well as the form and construction of the literary piece. Literary form takes into account whether the piece is a novel, short story, poem or play. In addition, the author’s style and choice of literary devices, such as character development, setting, imagery and point of view, are also considerations in literary form.

Traditional literary criticism asked questions about what the author was trying to communicate, how the work fit into a particular genre, why the author chose a particular literary device, and how the author’s background and experience influenced the creative process. Class dominant theory Mass media has a direct affect on modern culture. This is especially true in the United States where the majority of mass media originates. The moods and attitudes of our society are influenced by messages delivered through mass media channels. Mass media and advertising affect our actions, thoughts, and values.

We are at the point where mass media creates and reflects our culture–a mediated culture. A look back through the history of our society will reveal that we were not always influenced by mass media. This is due largely to the fact that our current level of media saturation has not always existed. Television, the most popular mass media medium, was less predominant in the 1960s and 1970s. Even if you were one of the fortunate families to own a television set, only three main channels existed. Additionally, a few public broadcasting and independent stations were in operation.

Radio and television shows in the 1960s were targeted to an audience with very high moral values. The audience demographic consisted primarily of two-parent, middle-class families. The programming was a reflection of everyday life. Families living three decades ago would never have tolerated a reality show. Television shows such as, “Leave it to Beaver” was a representation of actual middle-class life in the early 1960s. The same families gathering in front of a television set to watch a 1960s situation comedy would have never accepted the programming of today.

Our moral values in the early days of television dictated content and influenced advertising. We controlled mass media by our level of acceptance. Still photography, motion pictures, telegraphy, radio, telephone, and television were all invented between the years 1860 and 1930. Mass media emerged into a capitalization of the leisure industries to eventually become the dominator of mental life in modern society. Adolf Hitler used radio for propaganda sparking concern that mass media could be used for mind control. Early studies of mass media by sociologists proved that media effects were direct and powerful.

However, the level of influence on an individual depended on certain factors such as class and emotional state. C. Wright Mills defines mass media as having two important sociological characteristics: first, very few people can communicate to a great number; and, second, the audience has no effective way of answering back (The Power Elite, 1956). The introduction of the internet into mainstream mass media has changed communication into a bidirectional process. Responding to email advertisements and answering messages in a chat room change Mills’ definition of mass media.

The internet reaches a broad audience but has less of an impact on shaping society. The majority of research in the 1960s was concentrated on television. Television was believed to be the most pervasive medium. The Mass Communication Theory provides research on the cultural quality of media output. D. McQuail identifies cross-media ownership, and the increasing commercialization of programming by a few select large corporations as a pattern of control. The conflict perspective aligns with this theory. Media output is controlled and regulated by government.

History has shown restrictions ranging from complete censorship to a lighter advisory regulation. Everyone agrees that mass media is a permanent part of modern culture. The extent of the influence mass media has on our society is the cause of much debate. Both legislature and media executives combine efforts and produce reports showing that mass media is not responsible for shaping society. Sociologists and educators debate these findings and provide a more grounded, less financially influenced theory. Sociologists have three perspectives on the role of mass media in modern culture.

The first, limited-effects theory, is based on the premise that people will choose what to watch based on their current beliefs. According to a study by Paul Lazarsfeld, media lacked the ability to influence or change the beliefs of average people (Escote 2008). Individuals living through the early days of mass media were more trusting of news stories. This is evident in the famous radio broadcast, “War of the Worlds. ” A startling one out of six people believed we were being invaded by aliens. While the limited-effects theory, also known as the indirect effects theory, was applicable 40 years ago; society is not as naive today.

Competing newscasts give us the opportunity to compare stories and accept only what is common between them. Unless the “War of the Worlds” was carried on every major mass media station, society today would recognize it as fiction. Even then, we would be skeptical until our President addressed the nation. The class-dominant theory argues that the media is controlled by corporations, and the content–especially news content–is dictated by the individuals who own these corporations. Considering that advertising dollars fund the media, the programming is tailored to the largest marketing segment.

We would never see a story that draws negative publicity and emotion to a major advertiser. The class-dominant theory in a newsroom extends beyond corporate control. A journalist with a specific agenda can alter or twist a story to suit their own needs. The third, of the three main sociological perspectives, is the culturalist theory. As the newest theory, the culturalist theory combines both the class-dominant and limited-effects theory to claim that people draw their own conclusions. Specifically, the culturalist theory states that people interact with media and create their own meanings.

Technology allows us to watch what we want and control the entire experience. We can choose to skip certain parts of a horror movie and even mute content on live news casts. People interpret the material based on their own knowledge and experience. The discussion forums in an online classroom is one example of the culturalist theory. Although all the students read the same text and study the same content, each student produces a different view based on experiences outside of the classroom. The result is a widely divergent group of posts and many opposite opinions open for discussion. The Functionalist Perspective

Functionalists believe that mass media contributes to the benefit of society. Charles Wright (1975) identified several ways in which mass media contributes to creating equilibrium in society. He claims the media coordinate and correlate information that is valuable to the culture. The media are powerful agents of socialization. Through the media, culture is communicated to the masses. Serving society through social control, the media act as stress relievers which keep social conflicts to a minimum. The functionalists idea of equilibrium is evident in news broadcast as well as late night drama programs.

In both instances, all human acts lacking morality are reinforced by showing them as unacceptable and wrong. Crimes, such as murder, robberies, and abuse are shown as deviant behavior. Mass media make our world smaller. People gather in groups to watch, they talk about what they see, and they share the sense that they are watching something special (Schudson 1986). Functionalists view mass media as an important function in society. Mass media can influence social uniformity on scale broader than every before. The internet reaches more individuals in most social groups more often than television or radio.

Mass media has been accused of creating dysfunction. Postman (1989) argued that popular media culture undermines the educational system. Claims have been made that there is a link between television viewing and poor physical health among children. The Conflict Perspective Conflict theorists believe that mass media is controlled by corporations with the intent of satisfying their own agendas. News casts and sitcoms are not designed to entertain and inform, but rather to keep our interests long enough to deliver a well paid advertisement. The conflict perspective views mass media as a conduit for social coercion.

The controllers of mass media use programming and advertising to influence certain social classes. Trends are introduced through mass media and mimicked by the public lending credence to the theory that coercion, domination, and change in our society is partly due to television, radio, print, and the internet. From the conflict perspective, modern mass media are instruments of social control (Sullivan 2007). While functionalists and interactionists agree that mass media is necessary, followers of the conflict perspective view mass media as a necessary evil.

As instruments of social control, mass media plays an important role in shaping our society. The Interactionist Perspective From the interactionist perspective, mass media is used to define and shape our definitions of a given situation. This perception of reality seems to evolve as our everyday values and cultures change. A definition of the average American family from the 1950s and 1960s is drastically different from what we expect today. The mass media portrayal of family life has always been a benchmark to compare our own lives and successes.

Mass media serves as our social acceptance gauge by providing symbols representing what is proper and what is unacceptable. The interactionist perspective shares similarities with the functionalist perspective. Both theories agree that mass media symbolizes a perfect society that individuals strive to emulate. Celebrities, athletes and other role models promote clothing, brands, and behavior while sometimes encouraging values and moral guidelines. Mass media is defined as “the channels of communication in modern societies that can reach large numbers of people, sometimes instantaneously (Sullivan 2007).

” Only recently has technology been advanced enough to realize so many methods of communication. Television, radio, and print were the original members of mass media. The internet brought chat-rooms, email, and the idea of social networking to an already media saturated society. Television and radio represent “push” communication. The consumer has little choice over the content streamed through the cable and onto their television. They can choose to change stations or turn off the television. The internet, specifically web sites, can only be delivered to a consumer if they have made a request to “pull” the content.

Mass media has completed a paradigm shift from content and programming we chose to accept, to content designed to shape our society. In the 1960s and 1970s, society controlled mass media. Today, mass media has the single largest impact on our culture. Guidelines for behavior, major beliefs, and values are all influenced by mass media. Every sociological theory concludes that mass media affects modern culture–a mediated culture. Limited effects theory Limited effects theory is an approach to mass media effects that claims the media have limited effects on their audiences and/or on society.

This theoretical approach emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s in large part because of a team of researchers at Columbia University (Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson, and Hazel Gaudet) who conducted a series of studies in Erie County, Ohio, to learn how and why people decided to vote as they did. The Erie County Study employed a longitudinal research design interviewing the same 600 participants seven times during the 1940 presidential campaign. The results of the study indicated limited effects with regard to the influence of media exposure leading to a change in vote intention from one candidate to the other.

Rather, they concluded that media exposure led to a reinforcement of voting choice as “correct” among participants instead of a change in vote intention. The whole idea of a passive audience was developed by the Frankfurt School. Its views the individual as “irrational and easily influenced” and that this kind of audience can be seen as a “collective body, but the participants [do] not communicate with each other about their media experiences” (p. 124-125). Later years brought researchers, such as Klapper, Lazarsfeld and Katz, who argued a different theory for a model of limited effects.

They believed that “the influence of the media [is] not consistent across the audience…instead, the impact varied according to the individual and the situation” (p. 125). Therefore, they believed that interpersonal relations were more powerful for influencing an individual’s view of situations then the media. It is then uses and gratifications theorists that believe everyone is “capable of making decisions about what to view based on their own needs and desires and capable of recognizing and reporting their experiences” (p.

125) which is known as an active audience. These two types of audiences can be brought in when discussing a fan based audience. Are these groups influenced by what they see, on television for example, or do they create their own ideas on the subject matter? Costello and Moore discuss how “fans appear to be frighteningly out of control, undisciplined and unrepentant, rouge readers…they do their own interpretation of the text, ignoring the opinions and desires of producers, advertisers, network executives, and critics” (p. 127).

If we are two look back at the two differing audiences, I would say that it is quite evident that fans would be considered part of the active audience grouping. The term “fan” originates from the Latin word “fanaticus” which is derived from the word “fanatic”. This intensity towards something could sometimes be seen as extreme; however it is important to respect what individuals hold an interest in. This may discourage some shows, if these fans are fanatic at exposing negative aspects of the show, however no network can expect perfect results from everyone.

Rather, these networks should take these opinions into consideration to make adjustments in their shows for more positive results. The point of television is to connect with an audience by providing them with their desires; active audiences are informing them of exactly that. AFTER THE WAR OF THE WORLDS INCIDENT, RESEARCHERS BEGAN TO THEORIZE THE ACTUAL DIRECT IMPACT MEDIA COULD HAVE ON AN INDIVIDUAL. LAZARSFIELD LOOKED TO QUESTION AND CRITIQUE THIS PARADIGM AND TO DO SO HE CREATED AN EMPIRICAL WAY OF STUDY IN ORDER TO DEVELOP HIS THEORY.




press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about. Thinking of agenda-setting theory (McCombs & Shaw, 1972), I think of a tamed version of the Hypodermic Needle Theory (or Magic Bullet Theory), first conceived by Katz & Lazarsfeld (1955). The hypodermic needle theory suggested that mass media had a direct and immediate effect on its audiences. The mass media as in the 1940s and 1950s were perceived as a powerful influence on behavior change due to: the gaining popularity of radio and television

the emergence of an industry of persuasion, such as advertising and public relations the Payne Fund studies of the 1930s, which focused on the impact of motion pictures on children Hitler’s monopolization of the mass media during WWII to unify the German public behind the Nazi party (propaganda) Considering the complexity of the agenda-setting theory, I should think otherwise. As a matter of perspective, the agenda-setting theory offers a more cautious yet precise analysis of mass media and its implications on human behavior.

While the hypothermic needle theory seem logical in the beginning, it fails to account for the complex nature of human attitudes (attitude being the interim from influence to behavior). Underlining this, Berelson (1948) aptly puts it as on any single subject, many hear, but few listen. The greatest contribution of agenda-setting theory above the other earlier theories would be how it models communication into a measurable process. By conducting content analysis of the emphasis mass media puts into its products, researchers have been able to predict the kinds of issues that would be salient in the mind of the audience.

This was observed in the 1959 General Election in England (Blumler & McQuail, 1969), as well as the 1968 Presidential Campaign. In the research done in 1968, McCombs & Shaw focused on two elements: awareness and information. Investigating the agenda-setting function of the mass media, they attempted to assess the relationship between what voters in one community said were important issues and the actual content of the media messages used during the campaign. McCombs and Shaw concluded that the mass media exerted a significant influence on what voters considered to be the major issues of the campaign.

As such, there are two basis assumptions about agenda-setting: 1. The press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it 2. Media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues. In the later part of agenda setting research (1980s), much of the focus was on priming, a term taken from the field of cognitive psychological. In simple terms, I see priming as similar to judging a book by its cover. Priming refers to the effects of the media of giving the audience a prior context used to interpret subsequent communication (i.

e. a frame of reference). While agenda-setting refers mainly to the importance of an issue, priming suggest to us whether something is positive or negative. An example of priming was seen in how in 1994, Times magazine depicted O. J. Simpson on the cover of their magazine with a digitally enhanced face that made him look darker and more malicious than in reality. (See lead image and check out photojournalism manipulation) History and Orientation Agenda setting describes a very powerful influence of the media – the ability to tell us what issues are important.

As far back as 1922, the newspaper columnist Walter Lippman was concerned that the media had the power to present images to the public. McCombs and Shaw investigated presidential campaigns in 1968, 1972 and 1976. In the research done in 1968 they focused on two elements: awareness and information. Investigating the agenda-setting function of the mass media, they attempted to assess the relationship between what voters in one community said were important issues and the actual content of the media messages used during the campaign.

McCombs and Shaw concluded that the mass media exerted a significant influence on what voters considered to be the major issues of the campaign. Core Assumptions and Statements Core: Agenda-setting is the creation of public awareness and concern of salient issues by the news media. Two basis assumptions underlie most research on agenda-setting: (1) the press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it; (2) media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues.

One of the most critical aspects in the concept of an agenda-setting role of mass communication is the time frame for this phenomenon. In addition, different media have different agenda-setting potential. Agenda-setting theory seems quite appropriate to help us understand the pervasive role of the media (for example on political communication systems). Statement: Bernard Cohen (1963) stated: “The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about. ” Example

McCombs and Shaw focused on the two elements: awareness and information. Investigating the agenda-setting function of the mass media in the 1968 presidential campaign, they attempted to assess the relationship between what voters in one community said were important issues and the actual content of media messages used during the campaign. McCombs and Shaw concluded that the mass media exerted a significant influence on what voters considered to be the major issues of the campaign. Warranting Theory Warranting Theory is a theory adapted by Joseph B.

Walther and Malcolm Parks from the works of Stone (1995). The adapted construct of warranting suggests that in the presence of anonymity, a person may potentially misrepresent information about his or her self. The greater the potential for such misrepresentation, the more likely observers are to be skeptical of the presented information. Warrants in this manner are cues that an observer uses to gauge the accuracy of a person’s given information or profile. Walther and Parks (2002)[1] observed a phenomenon in which people met offline after having first met online.

Sometimes these experiences were positive, and other times they were negative. Walther and Parks (2002) were dissatisfied with existing theories’ ability to explain these phenomena. To fill in the theoretical gap, Walther and Parks (2002) adapted the original concept of warranting presented by Stone (1995), describing connections between one’s self and self-presentation as a continuum rather than a binary, moderated byanonymity. They suggested that the potential for anonymity resulted in the potential for a discrepancy along this continuum.

The greater this potential discrepancy, the more compelling it is for observers to be skeptical of information provided by the individual about the self (Walther & Parks, 2002). Warrants, as described by Walther and Parks (2002), are perceived reliable cues that observers use to gauge how one’s true identity matches that which is presented online. However, not all of these cues are weighted equally; rather, warrants possess a warranting value (Walther & Parks, 2002). This value is defined as the extent to which the cue is perceived to be unaltered by the target.

Warrants that are very difficult to manipulate by the user are considered high in warranting value, while those that are easily changed have a low warranting value and are therefore much more questionable in terms of accuracy (Walther & Parks, 2002). For example, an article written about an individual has a higher warranting value than a social profile created by the same individual. Walther and Parks (2002) speculated that being able to obtain information from a partner’s social network would increase the warrants within an online relationship.

Because information from others is of high warranting value, it stands to reason that those invested in a potential online relationship would use available resources, in this case social networks, to alleviate any skepticism about the accuracy of claims made by a relational partner. Warrants do not necessarily have to be provided or controlled by others. Walther and Parks (2002) introduced the concept of partial warranting. This is information that, though provided by the user, contains easily verifiable facts.

For example, the presentation of one’s given name is a partial warrant, as this information can be used to look up public records or link to other profiles the user may possess. Providing numerical information, such as height, weight, age, or address, also constitutes as partial warranting, as these figures are easily checked and provide little room for gray area. Existing Research[edit source] Others-Generated Warrants[edit source] Much of the existing research regarding warranting examined how perception and judgments about an individual are influenced by others-generated information. Walth

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