PS 475 Lecture Outline: Media Effects

  1. Perspectives on Media Influence
    1. Strong Media: Early studies raised fears that mass media could be a powerful propaganda tool.
      1. War propaganda
      2. Hypodermic model
      3. Gerbner’s "cultivation" model
    2. Weak Media: Research on persuasion from 1940’s (e.g., Lazarsfeld’s classic 1940 panel survey study in Ohio) to 1970’s concluded that media have "minimal effects." This became the conventional wisdom.
      1. Reevaluating the conventional wisdom: Problems with narrow definitions (of media, media effects, messages, etc.); political and technological developments; and methodological considerations.
    3. Media effects of crime coverage as an example of potential media influences (skipped)
    4. Media effects:
      1. *Agenda-setting
      2. *Priming: Iyengar and Kinder experiments at Yale
      3. *Framing: Iyengar experiments of episodic versus thematic frames
      4. Visual Images vs auditory and textual info
      5. *Learning of factual information, general orientations
      6. Reinforcement of values
      7. Direct persuasion, attitude change (classic focus)
      8. Entertainment programming
  2. Methods for Studying Media Effects
    1. Design Issues
      1. Trade-off between two types of validity: external versus internal validity
        1. Internal Validity: Can one state that the independent variables caused the dependent variable or are there confounding factors that make such conclusions tenuous?
        2. External validity: Can we generalize the results of the current study and sample?
    2. Survey research: correlational analysis of associations between variables
      1. Advantage of Survey Research is that by interviewing a relatively small number of people drawn randomly from the population, we can generalize the results of our sample to the larger population.
      2. Disadvantage is inability to uncover cause and effect relationships and inability to control exposure and news messages
    3. Experiments
      1. Manipulation of independent variable
      2. Random assignment of subjects to different treatment groups
      3. Advantages: internal validity
      4. Disadvantages: external validity
  3. Learning of factual knowledge: Neuman, Crigler, and Just, Common Knowledge
    1. Learning is complex and conditional. Depends on medium, issue, and citizens (audience).
    2. Hypothesized media differences
      1. Television
      2. Newspapers
      3. Magazines
    3. Perceptions of media differences: audience evaluations
    4. Findings:
      1. Media Experiments: information gain
      2. Media differences: Explanations for TV gain:
        1. Modalities? Visual learning?
        2. Different attitudes and perceptions of the media?
      3. Issue differences: TV learning versus print learning differs across issues that differ in terms of salience, interest and difficulty.
      4. Individual Differences: differences in learning for low, medium and high knowledge groups varies across medium.
    5. Conclusions
      1. Different media for different people and different issues
      2. Media complementarity
      3. Importance of grabbing viewers’ attention and taking down the attention barrier before ingesting lots of hard news and contextual information
      4. Optimal news strategies for citizens would be to complement their news diet with different media.