The Effects Theory:
• The idea that the media can have
an effect over its audience- this
is often discussed in terms of
• Thought of as what the media
does to its audience.
Consider both sides…
• Media has a positive
influence on us
• Media has a negative
influence on us
Hypodermic Needle Theory:
• A theory that suggests that the
media ‘inject’ its audience with its
ideas like a passive patient rather
than a critical and active consumer.
• The focus here is on the fact that we
don’t choose to believe certain things;
the media chooses for us.
History and Orientation
The "hypodermic needle theory" implied mass media had
a direct, immediate and powerful effect on its audiences. The
mass media in the 1940s and 1950s were perceived as a
powerful influence on behaviour change.
Several factors contributed to this "strong effects" theory
of communication, including:
• the fast rise and popularization of radio and television
• the emergence of the persuasion industries, such as
advertising and propaganda
• the Payne Fund studies of the 1930s, which focused on the
impact of motion pictures on children, and
• Hitler's monopolization of the mass media during WWII
to unify the German public behind the Nazi party
The theory suggests that
the mass media could
influence a very large
group of people directly
and uniformly by
‘shooting’ or ‘injecting’
them with appropriate
messages designed to
trigger a desired
War of the Worlds
30th October 1938 when Orson
Welles and the newly formed
Mercury Theater group
broadcasted their radio edition
of H.G. Wells' "War of the
Worlds.“ On the eve of
Halloween, radio programming
was interrupted with a "news
bulletin" for the first time.
What the audience heard was
that Martians had begun an
invasion of Earth in a place
called Grover's Mill, New
It became known as the "Panic Broadcast" and
changed broadcast history, social psychology, civil
defence and set a standard for provocative
Approximately 12 million people in the United
States heard the broadcast and about one million
of those actually believed that a serious alien
invasion was underway. A wave of mass hysteria
disrupted households, interrupted religious
services, caused traffic jams and clogged
communication systems. People fled their city
homes to seek shelter in more rural areas, raided
grocery stores and began to ration food. The
nation was in a state of chaos, and this broadcast
was the cause of it.
Hypodermic needle theory
• The media inject messages into their audiences
• The audience is seen as passive and unable to resist these media
• Theory associated with Marxist academics - Marxists are
traditionally hostile to the media – seeing it as vehicle to enable
ruling class to maintain their dominance over society
• The theory first articulated in a different era to our own – a time
when the mass media was still relatively new
• Continues to apply to today: e.g. Moral panics
• Also creates feelings of ‘I want it’ / ‘I must have it’ / ‘I must look
In what ways can we be said to
passively consume ideas given to
us by the media? Can you think of
any modern examples?
Should you believe everything the
media tells you? Why or why not?
What do we mean by body image?
• Representations of what a body should look
• Can be related to both male and female
• It is the representation of a body
What issues arise from this?
• Size Zero debate
What is the Size Zero debate?
• Whether this is a neccesity for models?
• Is it a positive representation of women/men?
• Has it led to eating disorders? Copy Cat Theory?
• Celebrity fad?
• Create a case study in pairs:
• Find both positive and negative
representations in the media for your debate
• Background of the debate
• Use news/magazines articles, tv
shows, films, advertising etc
• Can describe what the representation is
• How features of the media texts create the
• The effect of the media representation
What is it?
How do they do it?
What’s the effect of that?
Why is it like
Demonstrate in-depth understanding involves providing
reasoned explanations for the effect of the
representation. This includes such aspects as
• Reasons for the difference between the representation
• Reasons for stereotypes, messages, and/or values
created by the representation
• Reasons why the selection and/or omission of material
reinforce stereotypes, messages and/or values
A reasoned explanation involves a logical argument
supported by specific evidence.
Why does it
Demonstrate critical understanding involves examining likely
consequences of the representation and drawing conclusions
based on the evidence. The examination includes aspects of
the representation such as:
• the effectiveness of the features in creating the
• implications of the difference(s) between the
representation and reality
• the implications and/or effectiveness of the
stereotypes, messages, and/or values that are created by
• the implications and issues associated with the selection
and/or omission of material.
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