Theoretical and Methodological Problems Associated With Viewing Media in Terms of Effects

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What different kinds of “effects” can the media have, and what are the theoretical and methodological problems associated with viewing media in terms of effects? Discuss in relevance to research.

‘One of the first and most important assumptions of the study of mass communication has been the presumption that media and their content have significant and substantial effects’ (Perse, E.M. 2001: 3). The topical debate and concerns of ‘media effects’ has had a long history. ‘Mass communication could become the basis for people’s view of the world’ (Lippman, 1922)4. This quote demonstrates that in the early 1900s scholars were concerned with media’s dominant ability to influence audiences. As new mediums have come into play, opinions on the matter have rarely changed. ‘Media effects’ refers to how powerful and influential the mass media is upon audiences in society and how this affects individuals patterns of thought and behaviour.
It has been considerably argued that research evidence on the topic of media effects has resulted in concern and more recently research has tended to focus extensively on illustrating how the media can have damaging effects on people. Influence or effects exist when we can notice “a significant causal link between an external factor and a view we have formed or perhaps an action we have undertaken” (Corner, 1999). This demonstrates ‘the direct effects on the audiences behaviour and patterns of thinking’5.

The most commonly researched and written about possible media effects are about the relationship between the media and real life violence, the audiences notion of fear, worry and insecurity arisen from new forms of media, the relationship between the media and sex, socialisation of children, the cre...

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... as every method has a disadvantage and may not result in valid results.


1. Cumberbatch, G. (1998) “Media effects: the continuing controversy‟ in Briggs, A. and Cobley, P. (eds) The Media: An Introduction, pp. 262-274.

2. Holland, P. (1997) “Living for libido; or, Childs Play IV” in Barker, M. and Petley, J. (eds.) Ill Effects. The Media and Violence Debate, pp. 41

3. Kitzinger, J. (2002) “Impacts and Influences” in Briggs, A. And Cobley, P. (eds) The Media: An Introduction, pp. 272
4. Perse, E.M. (2001) “The Presumption of Media Effects” in her book Media, Effects and Society, pp. 3

5. Saltzis, K. (2010). “The Study of Media Audiences –Early Perspectives – The Effects Tradition”, from MS1001. University of Leicester, Attenborough Lecture Theatre 3 on February 2nd. Available from: Blackboard [02/02/10]

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