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The mass media have direct and immediate effects on the ideas and behaviour of audiences. To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view?

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Introduction

"The mass media have direct and immediate effects on the ideas and behaviour of audiences." To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view? There are a variety of sociological theories and evidence that suggest the media has direct and immediate effects on audiences, such as Bandura's hypodermic syringe theory, Katz and Lazarsfeld's two-step flow model theory and McQuail's uses and gratifications model. However, these theories have been subjected to criticisms, which shows there are opposing sides to the view that the mass media has effects on audiences. The hypodermic syringe theory assumes that media messages are directly "injected" into audiences, as if by a syringe. The media can act like a drug or narcotic, directly changing behaviour. This process was demonstrated by Bandura, who conducted psychological experiments which showed that boys would imitate aggression in films they had watched. However, the hypodermic syringe theory has been criticised because audiences are very diverse and react in different ways, and the theory also ignores the different uses audiences make of the media; TV programmes may be used as background noise and not watched closely, for example. ...read more.

Middle

McQuail also mentions that the uses made of the media may vary according to a variety of factors, such as age and gender. However, the model fails to explain why people use the media in different ways, and focuses on individuals rather than social, cultural and structural factors. In the interpretative model, the audience filters messages, ignoring, rejecting, accepting, or reinterpreting them. Fiske uses the idea of intertexuality, where different texts or contexts are related to one another (for example, relating soap operas to your own life or relating interviews with actors to their performance in a film). Audience members can move between different levels of involvement in watching television; engagement, detachment, and reference. Buckingham explores how individuals' media literacy (their degree of knowledge and understanding of the media) affects how they interpret media output. More sophisticated viewers can understand the codes of TV language and the meanings that can be inferred from the way programmes are produced. ...read more.

Conclusion

Webster criticises these views by arguing that the social context still influences the way in which the mass media are used and interpreted, and the question of who creates media information and for what purposes is still important. Lerner argues that postmodernism obscures inequality and prevents attempts to improve the world. In conclusion, there are many theories and sociological evidence that support the view that the mass media has direct and immediate effects on audiences. Furthermore, there is concern that the portrayal of violence in media such as TV and video games can breed aggression in viewers. School violence, such as the Columbine High School shootings of 1999, has come to symbolise these fears. There is very little empirical evidence, however, to support this idea. Doyle has identified many problems in using empirical evidence to establish the impact of the media on levels of violence, by pointing out that the effects of the media cannot be inferred just by analysing the content of media texts, and the media is diverse, which means there is no single representation of violence. ...read more.

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