MEP 203 CONTEMPORARY MEDIA THEORY 2. BEHAVIOURISM / MODERNITY
Behaviourist approaches • Direct effects (the ‘stimulus–response model’) • Social cognitive theories • Cultivation and agenda setting • Limited effects (the ‘active audience’ model) • Media and modernity (NOTE: a different perspective)
Direct effects • Media stimulus audience response • Wertham’s (1955) five psychological effects of media targeted at children (esp. crime comics and TV): passivity, misconceptions of reality, imitation, identification and desensitization • Audience assumed to be isolated individuals • Laboratory methods used in psychological research are problematic (see Gauntlett 1995) – artificial, can only measure short-term responses/effects, neglect social influences on respondents’ behaviour
Social cognitive theories • Social learning / modelling theory (Bandura): media provide sources of observational learning, esp. for kids, as evident from the BoBo doll experiment (?) • Priming: the process of mental association between mediated and personal experience (e.g. when music makes us recall memories)
Cultivation and agenda setting • Cultivation theory is based on levels of reception to TV in particular • Content and survey analysis deployed • Heavy viewers are likely to change their values and beliefs with increased exposure to representations of violence • TV causes ‘Mean World syndrome’ • Agenda-setting theory argues that the news agenda affects the public agenda • Prominent news and views become important to people’s everyday opinions and actions
Limited effects • Two-step flow model (Katz and Lazarsfeld 1955): media messages flow to opinion leaders, who mediate these messages to other individuals • Uses and gratifications theory: individual needs generate expectations of media – the media in turn gratify these needs (needs precede effects)
Media and modernity • The 2nd IR occurs in USA c.1870: electricity, mass production, mass consumption, advertising, cinema, automobile, radio • Modernists (e.g. the Leavises) promote a minority culture (educated elite) to counter the threat of cheap mass culture on the individual personality • Individual character becoming other-directed: ‘mass media serve as tutors’ (Riesman 1961: 290) instead of parents, teachers, etc.
Conclusions • Behaviourist theories of media effects are diverse and draw on different methods and modes of analysis • Long history of theory/debate continues today: eg, Sigman (2005) links ADHD to children who watch TV indiscriminately • But evidence to prove ‘effects’ remains inconclusive e.g. role-play CVGs re: visual impairments, relation to US gun/sniper culture