“Effects”

Comm 226

Almost everything we, as Americans, know and believe, comes directly from news
sources and advertisements. From our actions it seems as if we no longer need any
evidence to support the media’s claims, for we have turned the media into our new god
and we believe just about everything the media says, with out giving a second thought.
Not only do we believe into everything the media tells us to, we also adapt TV into our
life and many people feel as if the media is largely responsible for the transforming of
cultural ideals and attitudes. On the other hand, many people argue as well, that there has
been no conclusive evidence that support such claims. In the 1960’s many people were
exasperated with the “effects” approach to media research because they felt as if they were
not getting anywhere. There were many loop holes and the effects research model
contained serious problems in terms of measuring and evaluating human response to media
exposure.

Human behavior is very complicated and can not be monitored like rats can in a
laboratory. Humans will act differently in every setting and it is very difficult to get a
natural response in an unnatural environment. If a person is used to viewing TV in their
own home, on their own beaten up couch, their response level will be very different than it
would be in an empty room with a two way mirror. Not only will their awareness level be
raised, they may be more concerned in the changed viewing environment and less on the
television programs. In a person’s home they may watch TV with a high or low awareness
level for the program. Some people choose to watch TV just as a background noise while
others may be quite into the program. Due to these different levels of awareness it is hard
to see what people get out of TV in a controlled setting. It is just very hard to isolate TV
from other variables.

People react in many ways towards television viewing. Often it much easier to
view changes in behavior in younger children. When a small child watches a violent
television show like “Power Rangers,” they often imitate the heroes and begin to punch
and kick pretending to “kill evil villains,” the children may not realize that they are in fact
demonstrating a new violent behavior, however, they in fact are. Other times, violent
television shows can change us very subtlety, perhaps in just the way we think about
things. If a person watches a TV show about gang violence, an individual may not
necessarily go out and join a gang, however they may view gangs differently and their
behavior towards gangs may change. A problem with this second reaction is that a
behaviorist researcher may not see the change, thus concluding that no reaction has taken
place when in fact one has.

Another major problem with the effects research is in the way the media views the
public. The fact is that each individual comes to watch TV already filled with their own
values, morals, and set of beliefs. They are not just “empty vessels”1 waiting to be filled by
the media, people take different things from different shows and a set mold can not be
created for what a person will and will not get out of a program. This is not taken into
consideration by the researchers though, and distortion of “effects” may occur.

Media influence is long term and diffused as well. You sometimes can not even put
a finger on what change the media has caused, but in the long run it may come to surface
more. All throughout my life I have heard “welfare is bad” and “people on welfare have
6.9 children,” etc. However, in reality people on welfare do not abuse it and really need
the funding. The government is not over spending on it either, it is just all about the way
the media has covered the welfare topic over the last ten or so years. The media shapes the
way we think and only a very educated public would be able to understand and think for
themselves about the topics presented.

Looking at different ways of research can help us figure out the best way to go
about television reassert for the future. The “uses and gratification” approach shifts the
power of the media and gives it over to the television viewer. It turns the tables around
and ask “not what the media does to the