Table of Contents
Last updated March 21, 2000
SPRING 2001 THEORY WORKBOOK
Media Dependency Theory
Explanation of Theory:
This theory states that the more dependent an individual is on the media for having his or her needs fulfilled, the more important the media will be to that person.
Theorist: Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur
This theory is based on
the Uses and Gratifications Theory and ties into the Agenda
Setting Theory. Uses and Grats identifies how people use and
become dependent upon the media. People use the media for many reasons.
Information, entertainment, and parasocial relationships are just a few
of them. The Dependency Theory says the more a person becomes dependent
on the media to fulfill these needs, the media will become more important
to that individual. The media will also have much more influence
and power over that individual. If someone is so dependent on the
media for information, and the media is that personís only source for information,
then it is easy to set the agenda. The individual falls victim to
Agenda Setting. As you can see, these three theories intertwine quite
Media Dependency Theory
is Relatively Scientific in nature. It predicts a correlation between
media dependence and importance and influence of the media, but each person
uses the media in different ways. Also, the media affects each person
in different ways. According to Chaffee & Berger Ďs 1997 criteria
for scientific theories, this theory is a pretty good one.
Let me introduce you to Sunny, a friend of mine from Los Angeles who now resides in Lexington, KY. When Sunny lived in L.A., he would ask his mother what the weather was going to be for the day. It was usually sunny. Now that he lives in Lexington, where the weather is sporadic, Sunny uses the media for information about the weather. Every morning, he gets up and turns on the weather channel on the television, reads the paper, and checks the internet, all for the local forecast for the day. He has become very dependent on the media. One month, Sunny forgot to pay the electric bill, and his service was disconnected. He didnít know what to do. He had no idea what to put on for the day, because he relied so heavily upon the media for information. Sunny could have easily looked outside or called a friend, but he was depending on the media to provide him with the information he needed.
More Research on Media Dependency:
Auter, P. J. (1992). TV that talks back: An experimental validation of a parasocial interaction scale. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 36, 173-181.
Blumler, J. G. (1979). The role of theory in uses and gratifications studies. Communication Research, 6, 9-36.
Donohew, L., Palmgreen, P., & Rayburn, J. D. (1987). Social and psychological origins of media use: A lifestyle analysis. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 31, 255-278.
Media Dependency in Texts:
Infante, D. A., Rancer, A.S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect, Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, Inc., 387-393.
Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed.).
Albuquerque, NM: Wadsworth Publishing, 351-354.