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COM 226, Summer 2011
PPT #2
Includes chapters 1, 9-10 of DeFleur textbook
Relationship Between Mass
Media & Society (textbook)
 1600s—Early Period:
 Mercantilism/Private Enterprise
 Local & Autonomous Government
 Separation of Church & State
 Individualism & Frontier Mentality
 1700s-Colonial Era:
 Distrust of Big Government/England
 Newspapers & Independence Movement
Relationship Between Mass
Media & Society (textbook)
 1800s—America Expands:
 Industrial Revolution—Steam, Literacy, Advertising,
Transportation, Communication Technologies
 Territorial Expansion
 Civil War
 Urbanization, Migrations
 1900s—Urban/Industrial Society:
 U.S. as a Mass Communication Society
Golden Age of Print Media
American Movies dominate the world
Thus- The U.S. became uniquely poised for media effects on:
 Individuals
 Society
 Reasons? DISCUSS:
 ????
Mass Media Effects:
A Common Viewpoint
“Well, I really don’t think media violence makes us
more violent. After all, look at me. On Saturday
mornings, I watched every violent cartoon that
the networks put on. Today, I like movies like
Rambo. The more blood and guts, the better. But
am I a violent person? Of course not! I’ve never
even gotten into a fight. My whole life is a
personal testimony to the fact that media
violence has no negative effect at all. Kids can tell
the difference between real and fantasy violence.
So, I just don’t buy it. Media violence is just fun
entertainment. I don’t see the harmful effects.”
Strong vs. Weak Media Effects
 Are we “sitting ducks,” at the mercy of media?
 Or are we in complete control over our reactions of
 Or somewhere in between?
 Over the past 70 years, this three-pronged debate has
Strong vs. Weak Media Effects
 Magic Bullet Theory (textbook)/Hypodermic Needle
 People in mass society lead socially isolated lives
 Humans have a uniform set of instincts
 Humans attend to and interpret media messages in a uniform way
 Therefore, media messages are “symbolic bullets”. . . that strike
with direct, immediate, uniform, and powerful effects
 EXAMPLE: Propaganda in WWI
 EXAMPLE: The Payne Fund Studies in 1920s, 1930s. . . MORE in a
Strong vs. Weak Media Effects
 Selective & Limited Influences Theory (textbook)
 Individual differences in psychological makeup
 Social categories
 People in mass society are not isolated (social networks)
 Selective attention and Selective perception
 Therefore, media have only limited effects on the audience as a
 EXAMPLE: 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast. . . VIDEO—
The Night That America Trembled
 EXAMPLE: Why We Fight studies during WWII
Strong vs. Weak Media Effects
 Accumulation of Minimal Effects Theory (textbook)
 Cultivation Effects??? (a la Gerbner)—the Mean World
Strong vs. Weak Media Effects
 Accumulation of Minimal Effects Theory (textbook)
 Cultivation Effects??? (a la Gerbner)—the Mean World
 VS.
 Greenberg’s Drench Hypothesis (1988)
 Drip vs. Drench
 EXAMPLE: Eliza in The Wild Thornberrys (Calvert et al.,
2003). . . Both girl and boy fans of the program more
likely to write about female role models, heroes
The Payne Fund Studies
Immense Popularity of Film
The Payne Fund Studies
 Offshoot of public concern and emergence of
social science in the 1920s.
 Designed to find out impact of films on children
and adolescents, using social scientific methods.
 Phase One: Content Analysis by Edgar Dale
 Attempted to categorize movies according to most
popular themes.
 What were the most popular themes from 1920 to 30,
accounting for 75% of 1500 films?
Dale’s Movie Categories
 Children
 Comedy
 Crime
 History
 Love
 Mystery
 Sex
 Travel
 Social Propaganda
 War
Dale’s Movie Categories
 Children
 Comedy
 Crime
 History
 Love
 Mystery
 Sex
 Travel
 Social Propaganda
 War
The Payne Fund Studies
 Dale also had coders content analyze films. . . In
“real time” in movie theaters!
 Coded for nine types of “social values,” with numerous
measured variables under each one:
Nature of American life and characters
Nature of foreign life and characters
Motivation of characters
Emotional appeals to audience
Relations of the sexes
Military situations
Depictions of underprivileged peoples
The Payne Fund Studies
 Dale’s diverse findings included this “balance
sheet” for 1930:
Not emphasized
Portrayals of life in the upper economic
Life among the middle and lower
economic strata
Problems of the unmarried and young
Problems of the married, middle-aged,
and old
Problems of love, sex, and crime
Everyday problems
Motifs of escape and entertainment
Motifs of education and social
Individual and personal goals
Social goals
Physical beauty
Beauty of character
The Payne Fund Studies
 Another Phase: Emotional Responses to Romantic or
Sexual Content (Dysinger & Rucknick)
 Physiological measures used.
 Younger children not affected but adolescents were—
became more aroused by content.
The Payne Fund Studies
 Another Phase: Effects of Movies on Social Attitudes
(Peterson & Thurstone)
 Series of experiments involved exposing children and
adolescents to films with social messages and measuring
before and after attitudes.
 One experiment used D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation as
stimulus—shown to 434 high school children in Illinois.
Effect of Birth of a Nation
School children’s attitudes toward Blacks went down, from a mean of
7.46 to 5.95 (on a 0-10 Unfavorable/Favorable scale). . . The effect
was still apparent 5 months later (Peterson & Thurstone, 1933; also
studied impact of Four Sons on attitudes toward Germans)
The Payne Fund Studies
 Another Phase: Behavioral Effects of Motion Pictures
 Used questionnaires and interviews.
 Asked respondents to recall instances when they were
affected by media.
 What are some strengths and weaknesses of this
 How have you been affected by media?
The Payne Fund Studies
 Huge role in development of the study of media
 Helped establish legacy of fear, or belief that
media is powerful and dangerous and might
pervert and upset proper social order.
 Does this still exist today?
The War of the Worlds Broadcast, 1938
 Halloween eve—CBS radio show Mercury Theater on
the Air (narrated by Orson Welles) broadcast an
adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel War of the Worlds.
 Around 6 million heard the broadcast.
 More than 1 million were frightened or disturbed.
Orson Welles on the air
The War of the Worlds Broadcast
 Aftermath studied by sociologist Hadley Cantril.
 Why did it frighten some and not others?
 1) Characteristics of the Broadcast
 Highly realistic
 Dramatic excellence
 2) Characteristics of Affected Listeners
 Naive, rural, low SES country
 Had faith in broadcasting
 3) Situational Variables (maximized influence)
 Tuning in late
 Poor reception from competing stations
The War of the Worlds Broadcast
 Cantril identified four groups of listeners:
 1) Those who checked internal evidence.
 2) Those who checked broadcast against other info.
 3) Those who checked against other info but continued
to believe.
 4) Those who made no attempt to check.
The War of the Worlds Broadcast
 Powerful effects on some
 Individual differences very important
 Q: Could (does) the same type of thing happen
after 1938?