Lecture 2. January 6, 2000.

Media effects.



Purpose of this lecture:

What is impact of media?

What effect do they have on us?

I. Media

1. Agents of democracy

2. Window on the world


Common Knowledge

II. "Media Reality"

Being There

"TV not real but it is realistic"

III. Media as Teachers

1. Beauty



Media: Be Attractive!



2. Violence

National Television Violence Study.

Popular Concern


IV.Media Effects

1. All Powerful Media

Simple, Direct, Clear

Hypodermic Needle Model

2. Limited Effects

3. Effects limited by

V. Media and Children

Media Use

VI. Types of Media Effects

1. Imitation

2. Cultivation Analysis

Dr.George Gerbner

"Mean World Syndrome"

VII. Media Effects

Some people, some times, some effects

What we focus on

How we define


More extended Lecture Notes.


Purpose of this lecture:

What is impact of media?

What effect do they have on us?


1. Video. Elton John singing Candle in the Wind.

2. Show me the money.

3. Is that your final answer?

4. Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

5. He Man

How do we know these things?

1. Were you present at #1?

2. How do you know 2-5?



I. What do media do?

1. Agents of Democracy

2. Window on the world.

Last class: surveillance function.

The way we experience much of reality.

a. participation.

Attending Diana’s funeral -- events far removed from our immediate environment or place.

Television: Tuesday night you could watch national college football championships -- but we are very long way from New Orleans.

b. community, joining with others.

common focus, common experience, common knowledge.

Margaret Thorpe, writing in 1939 about the movies:

"The movies are furnishing the nation with a common body of knowledge. What the classics once were in that respect, what the Bible once was, the cinema has become for the average person. Here are stories, names, phrases, points of view which are common national property. The man from Cedar Creek, Maine, and the man in Cedar Creek, Oregon, see the same movie in the same week. The movies span geographic frontiers; they give the old something to talk about with the young; they crumble barriers between people of different educations and different economic backgrounds."

common knowledge, common experiences:

show me the money

Is that your final answer?

II. Media Reality

Being There.

Story of Chance, the gardener.

Left at the doorstep of a wealthy man.

Chance: "simple-minded"

Works in the man’s garden for years.

Chance never leaves the house.

Watches TV.

Only experience outside of house = TV

Old man dies, Chance must leave.

Gets hit by a car.

Owner helps him -- misunderstands his name.

He is coughing; "Chance the Gardener" comes out, at least to her, as Chauncey Gardiner.

People project their own views on to him.

What’s interesting about this movie is that Chance doesn’t know the difference between Media Reality and Reality.

TV remote. He thinks he can turn things off.

Video store. He’s been on TV!

In the car: This is just like TV, only larger.

Copies what he sees on TV: mimics.

Appears on TV without fear. He’s been on TV before.

Tells the president: You look much smaller on TV.

Spins on and by the end of the movie, he’s on his way to being president.




Virtually no one is as naive as Chance the Gardener. Still, there’s a challenge to differentiate between Media Reality and Reality.

Erik Barnouw: TV isn’t real, but it is realistic.

Lone Ranger story from the 1950s.


III. Media as teachers: what’s normal, right, good.

They not only show us the world, but they show us things in a way that we learn about the world.

Who’s good, who’s bad, what’s normal....

Wide range of topics that the media teach us about.

Focus on two

Over time -- give us cues as to what is the way we should behave.

1. Media: teaching about beauty


Women in fashion ads tend to be very thin. The average fashion model today weighs 23 per cent less than the average American female.

One study of prime time television found that 70% percent of female TV stars were thin compared to just 18% of men. Over 25% of men were heavy, while just 5% of women were heavy.

Beauty means youth.

Almost all of the women appearing on TV are young. One study found that 71% of women appearing in network TV ads were between 20 and 35 years of age -- twice the pattern for men. (Men can be older).

Wrinkles, lines and gray hair are unacceptable. Products: anti aging creams, hair dyes, cosmetic surgery are e method widely used for denying the aging process -- or rather, the appearance of the aging process.


Slides shown here.

What are the notions of beauty?

These are quite typical ads from mainstream women’s magazines.



What other attributes make up beauty?

How do we see women?


Baywatch Excerpt here.

Media urge: be attractive!

Even commercials which do not directly sell beauty products often emphasize appearance as important. TV viewers are exposed to more than 5,000 attractiveness messages in advertisements each year. That does not include attrcativeness messages in general programming.

Naomi Wolf writes:

"The harm of these messages (of beauty in mass culture) is not that they exist, but that they proliferate at the expense of most other images and stories of female heroines, role models, villains, eccentrics, buffoons, visionaries, sex goddesses and pranksters. If the icon of the anorexic fashion model were on a flat image out of a full spectrum in which young girls could find a thousand wild and tantalizing visions of possible futures, that icon would not have the power to hurt them.


Is there any evidence that these sort of images have any real impact?

There are scores and scores of other studies that reiterate these sorts of themes. Many women do absorb these beauty messages.


2. Media: Teaching about violence

National Television Violence Study.

1995 study, Sponsored by National Cable TV Assn., and conducted by Mediascope, Inc., in association with several universities.

Videotaped over a 20 week period the equivalent of one week of TV from 23 channels from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. 2500 hours of programming. 2693 programs, of which 384 were reality based shows.

Violence defined as: overt depiction of the use of physical force (or the credible threat of such force) intended to physically harm an animate being or group of beings. Violence also includes certain depictions of physically harmful consequences against an animate being or group that occur as a result of unseen violent means.

The study did not simply just count the number of acts of violence, but looked at larger contextual factors, such as whether the violent act was condoned or condemned, whether the perpetrator was punished, etc.

Key findings:

1. 57% of shows contained violence.

2. 33% of violent shows contained 9 or more violent interactions.

3. Perpetrators of acts of violence go unpunished 73% of the time.

4. Negative, realistic consequences of violence seldom portrayed. Less than half of violent interactions showed victims experiencing signs of pain. One in six showed any long term consequences of violence (e.g., limping, psychological results, etc.)

5. Kids’ shows least likely to show long term negative consequences of violence (only 5% of the time)

6. 33% violence presented as humorous (and 67% of the time on kids’ shows)

Popular concern

A great deal of concern about this in US Society.

81% of American adults believe that violent entertainment is a cause of increased violence in society; 73% say the government should do something to restrict access of minors to such materials.


U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde:
"Anybody that thinks rotten movies, rotten TV, rotten video games are not poisoning, toxically poisoning our kids’ minds and making some kids think that conduct is acceptable just is not paying attention."


Congress planning to set up a special task force to look into issues of violence in media.

IV. Media Effects

1. All Powerful Media

From c 1900 to the late 1930s.

Theory: Media have a clear, direct and powerful effect on people.

Hypodermic Needle Model.

This model assumes that media had powerful and direct impact on society and on the beliefs and behaviors of individuals.

One criticism of this model: it implies a passive and vulnerable audience. Media messages were also assumed to have uniform and nearly immediate effect on people.

Scholars no longer ascribe to the notion of simple, direct and powerful effects. This viewpoint, however, is still popular with many critics of the media, especially those of TV.


2. Limited Effects.

Since the 1940s, there have been various developments in research in terms of effects. Virtually all have moved away from the notion of simple, direct and powerful effects. Researchers have found that media do not influence all people all the time in the same way.

3. Effects limited by:

Media effects depend upon a variety of things, including:

V. Media Effects and Children

Receptivity an interesting issue. Idea here is that receptivity may vary a lot. But there are some people who are probably more vulnerable to media messages that any one else.

Younger, less educated, less knowledgeable, fewer real world experiences.


Who are some of the key heavy viewers? Children.

Between the ages of 5 and 13, U.S. children spend more time watching TV than in any other WAKING activity.

By the time children reach high school graduation, they will have spent more time in front of the TV than in the classroom.

Children and media

media use in hours/minutes

All Children















Average amount of time, daily, with each activity:



Cds, tapes








Video games




Watching TV:

Children 2-7, average of 1:59 hours/minutes a day.

Children 8-18: 3:16.

Media in children’s bedrooms



Tape player




CD player


Video game player




Cable/Satellite TV







Percentage of children who watch TV without parents

8-18: 95%

2-7: 81%

Percentage of children who live in homes where:

TV on during meals: 58%

No rules about watching TV: 49%

TV is on most of the time: 42%.

VI. Types of Media Effects.

Various theories, types of effects.

1. Imitation

People, especially children, learn through imitating behavior. If we see behaviors we like and respect, we imitate them, or try to imitate them. Kids do this a lot, and in some instances this has led to problems.

2. Cultivation Hypothesis

Media cultivate beliefs and behaviors in us that are powerful but that build up, gradually, over time and often go unnoticed by the viewer/reader.

Research has focused on the difference between light and heavy TV viewers.

Heavy viewers tend to adopt the TV world view.

Light viewers far less likely to do so.

Research in this area has been primarily in terms of violence and media.

Heavy Viewers: "Mean World View." Compared to light viewers, they have greater feelings of fear, are less trusting, and have more favorable attitudes toward the use of violence.


Video excerpt: Killing Screens.

Other studies of heavy viewers of soap operas show that:

1. They over estimate the number of doctors and lawyers in the US

2. They over estimate how many of them are men.

3. Over estimate how many abortions there are each year

4. Over estimate the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases.



VII. Overall: What effects do media have?