Theories of Mass Communication
As for particular theories that generalize the results of primarily psychological studies of mass-communication practice, Richard Harris identifies as the main the following.
1. The theory of social learning. This approach arose in the depths of behavioral psychology, which primarily focused on the relationship between stimulus and response ( S - R ), and was developed mainly in the 1960s and 1970s. Albert Bandura and his colleagues.
The essence of this theory: we assimilate behavior patterns, looking at how others behave in a certain way, and then imitating their actions. The role of the media (or, in our case, the "heroes" of the mass media) acquires significance when these subjects become sources of learning. However, before the media in any way should attract the audience, make a person think about this or that example, behavior patterns, and the motivation should be based on internal or external reinforcement.
2. The theory of cultivation explores how the extensive, multiple impact of the media (primarily television) over the course of a long time is gradually changing our perception of the world and social reality. The main contribution to the development of this theory was made by George Gerbner and his colleagues in the 1990s.
The essence: the main result of the mass media can often be considered unification, i.e. the direction of different views of people on social reality into a single channel. This unification is carried out by means of construction reality, the formation of their ideas about the real world or, for example, gender roles through the created on the television screen. By the same principle, the formation of political attitudes, and often the choice of the life path by man. When this constructed world and reality are in good agreement with each other, the phenomenon of resonance takes place and the effect of cultivation becomes even more noticeable. In the opposite case, there may be a persistent psychological dissonance with unpredictable consequences for a person.
3. Different theories of socialization have much in common with the theory of cultivation, but focus primarily on how the media, through their continued impact, become the source of our knowledge about the world and our role in it. The media is a kind of window through which children, for example, learn about the world of adults much of what in previous years remained a mystery to them for a long time.The essence: J. Mayrovitz and N. Poustman (in the 1980s), Van Evra (in the 1990s), as a result of the conducted studies, concluded that in the age of television, the process of socialization of children and youth is taking place much more dynamic than in previous years and even centuries. And if children become similar to adults, then adults, in the process of development with the help of
Media of various technologies igrerealizatsii representatives of the audience, often fall into the world of childhood and unrealized once complexes.
With the help of offensive mass media, it can also "smooth out" the difference of sexes, the difference of status roles (for example, "politician" - "philistine"), etc. Many scientists in the late 1990s. also made important conclusions about the media as sources of national and cultural socialization, found factors that dynamize these processes and impede their development.
4. The theory of use and satisfaction attaches great importance to the active role of the audience in decision-making and setting goals when consuming media products. G. J. Bloomer in the 1970s, A. Rubin in the 1980s and 1990s. made important conclusions that the nature of the impact of the media depends in part on how a person uses them and what satisfaction he receives from them.
Essence: The media are in most cases not only a source of news and entertainment. They, for example, allow a person to get rid of the need to study something. Or give a departure from the realities of life in a world of illusions and fantasies. They help the initiation (affiliation - joining) of a social group, both real and one that a person would like to belong to. The connection between the use of the media and the characteristics of the character and personality can interact with the reasons that compel a person to consume this or that kind of media production. Discussing specific publications or TV programs can help explain the psychological motivations of individual actions.
5. The theory of the establishment (imposition) of the agenda arose on the basis of studies of the influence of communications on political socialization (E. Rogers, J. Diering, etc.).
The essence: imposing the agenda is the ability of the mass media to structure the cognitive capabilities of the audience (first of all, the knowledge acquired by it) and to make changes to existing cognitive possibilities. In other words, the formation of public relations and interest in important issues through information messages. The media, as has been proved by many years of research, although they can not predetermine the audience's attitude to a particular topic or issue, can rank these topics and problems in the minds of the audience in terms of importance. So the media agenda sets a public agenda. As one scientist put it figuratively: the media do not need to say, how we should think, they rather say, what we should think about.
The first direction of psychological research on this issue: the effects of setting the agenda (conclusion - the media effectively influence the audience only when they work with "unrelated", everyday problems and plots on the life experience of the society). The second direction of research: the formation of the media agenda (how to select this kind of topics and problems).
The three-pole model describing the main types of agendas and their interaction among themselves was built by J. Deering and E. Rogers: the political agenda (it is established by the state), the media agenda (set by the media based on their interests), public agenda ( is formed in public opinion under the influence of two previous and personal experience of the audience and individual recipients). J. Kingdon considered the process of establishing a political agenda as a result of competition (in the political arena, in the public arena, etc.).
6. Cognitive (constructivist) theory generalizes the long-term empirical material of the study of mass-communication practice.
The essence: an important general cognitive principle is the assertion that the processing of information is constructive. That is, the audience not only encodes, but then reproduces information received from the media. Rather, people learn the information, interpreting it in accordance with their knowledge, views, and the context in which the message is received.
We always actively comprehend what we see and hear, and our thoughts become an important part of the constructive process of cognition. In the process of assimilation of information, schemes are involved (V. Brever, G. Nakamura - 1980s): in contrast to the stereotype, this is verbal and non-verbal information plus a mental scheme based on past experience of the person. A significant part of the content, as a rule, is culturally conditioned.
A scheme that representatives of a culture can follow can lead to the fact that they will interpret the content of the mass media differently from representatives of another culture. Suffice it to recall the so-called "caricature scandal" when, after the publication in the Danish newspaper of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, a wave of protests broke out in the Muslim world, resulting in the pogroms of embassies in a number of countries. Taking into account cultural differences is very important not only in the creation of media products, but also in forecasting and modeling (as will be discussed in other sections of our manual) of perception processes and humanitarian and other tasks.
The scheme in the mind can activate and provoke various formal tricks (editing, repetitions - for example, using fragments from popular feature films in news programs, etc.). A number of researchers use the concept of the script in connection with the realization of the media tasks of modeling the possibilities of mass-communication practice. In this context, the concept means a certain scheme, formed as a rule for a long time by various media, and concerning how one should act in a given situation. Scenarios are drawn from mass media and other sources. But the first, due to many reasons of an objective nature, are the most affective.
It is enough to give only one illustration. In the American media, in films, in numerous instructions recently, it was clearly recorded that in the event of the terrorists taking the plane, hostages must obey all their demands without question. So it was before the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Then only one of the four planes captured by terrorists became a fire torpedo for ground targets. This happened due to the courage of passengers who changed the course of the airliner. Shortly before his fall at zero, iodine from Pittsburgh from the side on his cell phones was telephoned by two men: "Something strange is happening here, let's try to intervene." It was they who changed the intended tragic finale. Yes, they, like all the passengers of the plane, were killed, but became heroes, as thousands of other people were saved. Changed this fact and the scenario of the behavior of Americans in similar situations. Act upon circumstances - this is the reason for the fact that is recommended today the US mass media.
As a result, one can conclude that each of the theoretical approaches contributes to the understanding of modern mass-communication practices and the impact/interaction of the media with different audit groups or individual recipients.
But the importance of the media, both cognitively and emotionally, depends not only on how we process information in the course of interaction with the media. Media, with the support of the psychological uniqueness of the individual, create for us reality in a variety of different areas. But the sphere of creativity of consciousness, creative activity of man remains the most dynamic factor in the organization of intersubject dialogue relations. This, strictly speaking, should be dedicated to the course "Psychology of Journalism".
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