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Media Effects


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A brief summary of the research deployed in 'media effects' debates.

Published in: Education, Technology
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Media Effects

  1. 1. Media effects research Jim Barratt 10 October 2006
  2. 2. Aim <ul><li>Introduction to media effects research, with a </li></ul><ul><li>focus on violence. </li></ul><ul><li>Part one </li></ul><ul><li>Types of effects </li></ul><ul><li>Historical context </li></ul><ul><li>Hypotheses </li></ul><ul><li>Methods </li></ul><ul><li>Public debate </li></ul><ul><li>Other approaches </li></ul><ul><li>Part two </li></ul><ul><li>Clips: </li></ul><ul><li>Violence </li></ul><ul><li>TV debate </li></ul>
  3. 3. Types of media effects <ul><li>Negative </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. aggression </li></ul><ul><li>Positive </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. 'pro-social behaviour' </li></ul><ul><li>(Influences </li></ul><ul><li>Negative: 'moral decline', body image, stereotyping etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Positive: informed democracy etc.) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Historical context <ul><li>1930s: Payne Fund studies </li></ul><ul><li>1960s: Behavioural science </li></ul><ul><li>1980s: Moral crusade </li></ul>
  5. 5. Hypotheses (1) <ul><li>Imitation </li></ul><ul><li>Social Learning Theory- Bandura et al (1960s). Children </li></ul><ul><li>learn by imitating significant others. </li></ul><ul><li>Identification </li></ul><ul><li>As above but viewers more likely to imitate characters they </li></ul><ul><li>identify with. </li></ul><ul><li>Triggering </li></ul><ul><li>Media provide cues for behaviour, e.g. violence rather than </li></ul><ul><li>talk used to resolve conflict. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Hypotheses (2) <ul><li>Instigation (arousal) </li></ul><ul><li>Viewing arouses people and when levels of arousal reach a </li></ul><ul><li>peak it results in an outburst of violence. </li></ul><ul><li>Desensitisation </li></ul><ul><li>Viewers' responses to real life violence are dulled by </li></ul><ul><li>exposure to media violence. </li></ul><ul><li>Disinhibition </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone has a propensity for violence but we are </li></ul><ul><li>socialised to inhibit our impulses. Media weaken our </li></ul><ul><li>inhibitions. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Hypotheses (3) <ul><li>Reinforement </li></ul><ul><li>In contrast this theory says only certain people have a </li></ul><ul><li>violent disposition and the media reinforce this </li></ul><ul><li>propensity. </li></ul><ul><li>This has found the strongest support in the </li></ul><ul><li>research literature, but causality is hard to prove: </li></ul><ul><li>Are violent people more likely to watch violent films </li></ul><ul><li>(i.e. correlation), or do violent portrayals increase violent </li></ul><ul><li>tendencies (i.e. causality)? </li></ul>
  8. 8. Hypotheses (4) <ul><li>Cultivation - an ideological effect </li></ul><ul><li>Gerbner et al (1970/80s): media cultivate in viewers a </li></ul><ul><li>particular view of the world, including about levels of </li></ul><ul><li>violence and crime (e.g. leading to a greater fear of crime). </li></ul><ul><li>Catharsis - pro-social effect </li></ul><ul><li>Feshbach and Singer (1970s): following Aristotle, drama </li></ul><ul><li>provides a safe outlet for venting aggression etc. without </li></ul><ul><li>resorting to violence. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Methods (1) <ul><li>Laboratory studies </li></ul><ul><li>'From the point of view of testing scientific theories in a rigorous </li></ul><ul><li>manner…experimental laboratory studies are without doubt the </li></ul><ul><li>method of choice' (Eysenck and Nias, 1980) </li></ul><ul><li>Pros </li></ul><ul><li>Can control experimental conditions; </li></ul><ul><li>Use of control groups; </li></ul><ul><li>Can be easily replicated. </li></ul><ul><li>Cons </li></ul><ul><li>Artificial conditions (i.e. not 'real life'); </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy reliance on undergraduate students as participants; </li></ul><ul><li>Experimenter effects (e.g. coercion). </li></ul>
  10. 10. Methods (2) <ul><li>Surveys </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. Parliamentary Group Video Enquiry, 1983. </li></ul><ul><li>Pros </li></ul><ul><li>Provides insights into self-reported viewing habits and opinions about violence; </li></ul><ul><li>Sampling enables statistical generalisation. </li></ul><ul><li>Cons </li></ul><ul><li>Self-reported behaviour may be unreliable due to poor recollection, desire to please the researcher or avoid being seen in negative light; </li></ul><ul><li>Can only establish correlation between viewing habits and violence, not causation; </li></ul><ul><li>Questions must be unambiguous and not leading. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Methods (3) <ul><li>Natural or found experiments </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. Hennigan et al (1982), which looked at different uptake rates of TV </li></ul><ul><li>in the USA in late 1940s/early 1950s compared with local crime rates. </li></ul><ul><li>Pros </li></ul><ul><li>Wholly naturalistic research conditions. </li></ul><ul><li>Cons </li></ul><ul><li>Cannot control confounding variables (e.g. cinemagoing in the Hennigan study); </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to find proper experimental controls. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Methods (4) <ul><li>Longitudinal studies </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. Children in the Community study (Johnson et al, 2002), which </li></ul><ul><li>found aggressive individuals are more likely to be heavy TV viewers. </li></ul><ul><li>Pros </li></ul><ul><li>Can measure change over time and longer-term 'effects'. </li></ul><ul><li>Cons </li></ul><ul><li>Tend to be survey or interview based, reliant on self-reported data. </li></ul><ul><li>Can establish a correlation not causality. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Public debate <ul><li>Prevailing view in public discourse: </li></ul><ul><li>Media are powerful, audiences are passive </li></ul><ul><li>'Television is a powerful medium, and young people are </li></ul><ul><li>uniquely susceptible to it' (Strasburger, 1995) </li></ul><ul><li>Other key element: the protection of children and calls for greater censorship </li></ul>
  14. 14. Other approaches <ul><li>The growth of reception studies, which look at audience interpretation, coupled with what is known as the 'ethnographic' turn in research has led to a reappraisal by media academics of the audience as 'active'. </li></ul><ul><li>Work by researchers like David Buckingham (IoE) and Sonia Livingstone (LSE) has revisited the child audience to find out what they make of the media they consume. </li></ul><ul><li>This tradition is not without its own challenges (not least a reliance on children's accounts of their behaviour) but it does shift focus from censorship to media education. </li></ul>
  15. 15.