Media effects on audiences
What effect does the media have on its audience? The four models below explain the four views sociologists have come up with to explain the effects the media has on audiences.
As will become evident, there is no consensus over which model best explains the effects of the media on audiences receiving media messages.
Media effects Hypodermic syringe model – this approach assumes ideas/ideologies transmitted in mass media products are automatically ‘injected’ into the minds of the audience for example a newspaper telling its readers who to vote for. The audience is seen as passive recipients
Two-step flow model – unlike the hypodermic syringe model above this model takes the view audience is not directly influenced by the mass media. Instead Katz and Lazarsfeld argue opinion leaders (an opinion leader is anyone who has a high status among a group, such as work colleague or friend) views are valued by a group or individual to the extent they have a direct influence on their behaviour. For example an opinion leader watches Newsnight, after watching Newsnight they decide voting Labour is the best idea and they encourage their friends to do the same.
Cultural effects theory – this approach argues media influence on its audience isn’t immediate but occurs over a long steady build up over a significant period of time. This process is sometimes known as the drip, drip, drip effect and is popular with neo-Marxists in explaining how hegemony is achieved.
Uses and gratifications model – this approach argues audiences use the media for a raft of reasons. For example after a hard day at work you might turn on the TV to watch ‘anything’ just so you can relax. It might be that the ‘anything’ is a party political broadcast which you ‘watch’ without absorbing any political message. This approach sees the audience as active. The audience uses the media, rather than the media manipulating the audience. This model is popular with pluralists as well as postmodernist particularly in the creation of identity.