Media Effects

Yariv Tsfati

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Media Effects

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Media effects are typically defined as social or psychological responses occurring in individuals, dyads, small groups, organizations, or communities as a result of exposure to or processing of or otherwise acting on media messages. The changes caused by media can take place on several dimensions. The effects can be intended by the message source or unintended. The consequences can include not only changes, but also preservation of the status quo. If a certain social situation perpetuates because of media this is also considered a media effect. In addition, media effects can be both short-term and long-term. Dating back to the 1920s, media-effects research emerged as an academic field grounded within the young communication discipline only in the 1950s. The dominant paradigm in communication research, after an initial wave of public apprehension of massive media effects, was that media have only limited effects on the audience. In the 1970s and 1980s, with the advent of new theories stressing significant media impact, scholars called for a return to the concept of massive media impact. These new theories moved away from the notion that exposure to media can immediately and directly affect people’s attitudes and behaviors. Rather, each theory stressed more sophisticated and limited processes that may only indirectly affect decisions and actions. In recent years, research has focused less on whether media effects are “minimal” or “massive” and more on identifying moderators (the conditions under which effects are stronger or weaker) and mediators (the phenomena that lie between exposure and the changes caused by exposure). This move suggests an increasing realization that media effects are not “massive,” uniform, or direct. Scholars have examined the effects of a variety of texts, disseminated through a diversity of media, in a variety of contexts, on a range of cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral dependent variables. This article represents the main theories and concepts, and the different generations of scholarship, research contexts, topics, and types of responses investigated. The organization of this article has a chronological-historical component: it starts with the early notions of powerful media, moves to the limited effects theories prevalent from between the 1940s and 1960s, and proceeds to more contemporary theories of more powerful effects. However, every time a theory is addressed, an effort is made to cover must-read items on this theory from different contexts, generations, and research traditions.

Article.  12377 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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