The hypodermic needle model is about audiences.
The idea is that messages are directly received and
accepted by the audience you are targeting at. The
theory suggests that people will do as they are told,
However it is now feared that it could no longer
exist as said by theorists Katz and lazarfeld.
An example can come from what was the Nazi
propaganda and how something as little as a poster
with a soldier acting positively to the situation
persuaded people. It tried to show that the Jews
were ‘bad guys’ and was put in place to recruit
people or support what was happening.
The main theorist behind this was Harold Lasswell.
This is considered to be passive consumption and
what media can do to people. The pictures show
what hypodermic needle is supposed to do and
make you think in a certain way.
The hypodermic needle theory implied mass media had a direct, immediate
and powerful effect on its audiences.
The factors that effected it were:
the fast rise and popularization of radio and television
- the emergence of the persuasion industries, such as advertising and
- 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
A popular example of the theory being in use was the Magic Bullet theory.
This came about in 1938 by Orson Welles and the newly formed radio show
he presented was interrupted by a news ‘bulletin’. It said that Martians has
started to invade the earth. The alert was in fact for entertainment
purposes only however many listeners did take it seriously. This proves
that what you hear can effect your actions and the media has a very strong
grasp on peoples actions. The bullet in the theory suggesting it is being
shot into the public and how they may sometimes be portrayed as gullible.
Uses and Gratifications theory tries to explain why people
consume media products and what they will receive from it. It
discusses how users deliberately choose media that will satisfy
given needs. This is seen as active consumption and what
people do to the media. It is based on Communication to a
mass media target.
The main theorists behind this are Herta Herzog who founded
the earliest form, Jay Blumer and Denis McQuail who studied
the election in the UK and looked at how peoples motives
changed by watching mass marketed television programmes,
from this they could tell how people were influenced by what
they saw. Since then the radio and TV have had a very big
influence on the media.
Denis McQuail, like all the other theorists
looked into why people use the Media. He
came up with 4 categories. Information; Where
you want to find out news for self-education.
Personal Identity; To reinforce personal values
and models of behaviour being found in
actions. Integration and Social interaction;
Having a substitute for human companionship
such as social network sites like Facebook.
Entertainment; escaping problems and
This theory looks how the audience interprets the media that they
consume. Stuart Hall developed this theory and made it with 2
The first being that of Encoding and Decoding. Encoding is that of
where the product wants to get a message across but through a
subtle way. Anchoring is used in Newspapers to relate the images
and headlines with a goal of making you buy it. Decoding is
almost the opposite and where the media product lets the
consumer decode the message of what has been put inside.
The second part looks at how someone understands a product
and what their views are towards it.
Hall’s idea said that there were 3 ways in interpreting a
media text. Preferred, Negotiated and Oppositional.
Preferred is where the reader understands what has
happened or been reported and agrees with the general
view about it.
Negotiated is where the reader generally accepts what
they are reading however puts themselves in that position
and tries to understand that from their own experiences.
Oppositional is where the reader understands the reading
but does not agree with what has been put and has the
opposite view to it.
Passive audiences do not apply their own ideas when buying a
product, the hypodermic needle therefore assumes audiences
are passive. They are Passive because they tell the audience
what to think and how they should interpret the media given to
them. This is where the person does not pay attention to what
is being said but gets psychologically effected by the media.
For example seeing an advert where someone eats some crisps
makes you want to eat crisps.
Active audiences apply their own thoughts, ideas and
experiences to the media, Uses and Gratifications are therefore
active. This is the opposite to passive and where someone goes
out their way to pay attention to what has been written.
When looking at Television programmes such as Family guy you can
easily understand the meanings on what influences an audience.
A Preferred reading on this would be that when looking at the main
character Peter Griffin. It would insist that all American males are
obese and do stupid things. This is because they take what has been
said to be true and do not believe anything else.
A Negotiated view on it could be that they
accept the stupid things Peter does however
they believe that there may be a reason behind
A Oppositional view would be that they
completely disagree with the content and
consider the characters to be false and not to
be taken seriously. Also that it should not
represent all males in America as it is only one
When applying hypodermic Needle to a Television
programme such as Family Guy then it is clear to
see that it is telling you in a passive way what to
believe about the show and how to interpret the
way the characters behave. Using the 4 categories
distinguished by McQuail it is clear that watching
the show it is found in the entertainment side and
that of escaping your own problems and can also
be seen as relaxing.