Media Effects on Society

On October 7th, 2011, Posted by author

Last modified: October 26, 2015

Media effects is about how the different types of mass media like newspapers, films, music, television,radio, books and magazines, and recently websites and video games, affect the lives of people. Mass media has definitely evolved from being a mere reflection of society, into a shaping and directorial tool.

Debates are rife on the who, how, when and why of its impact on society in the fields of communication, psychology, sociology, political science, anthropology, and education and so on.

Earlier, the function of media was simple, linear and one-way message dissemination (Shannon & Weaver, 1949) with the medium and message being the cause and the responses of the audience in their behaviour, emotions or psychology were the effects (Bryant & Thompson, 2002). But in the modern version, media functions are observed to be two-way processes with an interactive and transactional character, in which it is not only the audience who are influenced by the media, but the media itself is shaped and directed by the audience.

Media influences can be both good and bad: media can be a learning avenue with positive effects on the audience like the health and safety campaigns, informative and scientific studies that have served to improve man’s way of life.

But it is the negative effects of media that are more discussed. Exposure to violence and sexual content, political and corporate manipulation of media for their benefit, and dissemination of hate campaigns and business promotions that mislead the public are some of the negative effects of media.

The recently introduced digital media has turned the audience into active users and the multi-directional communication serves to reach out to even society-shy loners. Media fragmentation has created specialised media channels to target particular audiences (The World Bank, n.d.)

Several theories and models have been developed to show how media effects changes in the attitudes and opinions of the audience. Some of them are the Cognitive Response Theory, the Elaboration Likelihood Model and the Diffusion Innovation Theory.

The Cognitive Response theory persuades the audience to think about the message and brings about a change in their behaviour (Greenwald, 1968). The Elaboration Likelihood Model considers the cognitive or thinking as happening at both the conscious and subconscious levels Burnkrant & Unnava, 1989). Both these theories are used extensively in crafting advertising messages that are very effective. The Diffusion Innovation Theory shows how the different types of receivers can be reached by the gradual diffusion of the message through the different kinds of audiences from the innovators to the slackers (Rogers, 1962).

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