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Media Simply Reflects And Reinforces Existing Social Values

1466 words - 6 pages

Media Simply Reflects and Reinforces Existing Social Values

There is a notion held by many people that the media has the power to
affect our beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviours either directly
or indirectly. Many sociologists believe that the media could be
extremely powerful and influential because of their technology,
economics, and because of the sheer scale of operations.

There has been a tremendous amount of research done into the possible
short and long term effects of the media on society but very little
has been proved either way. Early research often stressed the
construction of the audience and made assumptions about the impact on
the public. This includes the hypodermic effect theory, also known as
the behaviourist approach, which sees the mass media as not just an
influence on society but as being able to directly affect us with a
metaphorical, powerful syringe full of messages directly into the
mind. Based on the theory that behaviour is learnt through rewards and
punishment, the notion here is that the media could provide a model of
behaviour which could influence people by showing them that they could
get the same results as those portrayed in what they had
read/seen/heard. For instance if a child sees someone get hurt on
television and finds it exciting then they would want to replicate
this behaviour, to gain the reward of feeling the same emotion again.
In 1960 Albert Bandura undertook a research project based on these
ideas. He showed three groups of children a film which included scenes
of violence towards a doll, in the first film the person committing
the crime was punished, in the second the person was rewarded and in
the third no punishment or reward took place. Only the group which had
seen the violent person punished was not violent toward the doll. This
theory has since been discredited for being too simplistic and narrow
in its approach. It does not take into account for other variables
such as the fact that the tests were done on small groups in unnatural
surroundings, and the personality of those tested. This approach would
appear to make no allowance for the fact that as human beings we are
active in how we try to make sense of the world.

A contrasting model of behaviourism is the audience selection
approach. This approach sees the media as having an active audience
rather than the passive one portrayed by the behaviourist view. This
theory proposes that the audience choose what they want to
read/hear/see, based on their own attitudes, values and beliefs. For
example television programmes could be used as an escape from
loneliness or as a central leisure interest. Basically this approach
implies that the messages have meaning to the individual or group.
David Morelys 1980 study was seen by some sociologists as an important
step forward in...

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