• Media are no longer the tool of
manipulation and oppression or fear. Only
few people are open to psychological
manipulation of media. Media are
relatively powerless in shaping public
opinion due to individual and group
differences among people.
• The study of Paul Lazarsfeld claims that media effect is limited or
minimal in changing or shaping people’s thoughts, attitudes and
• Carl Hovland study indicated that, in parallel with Lazarsfeld, even in
laboratory atmosphere media influence is found limited. Media may
affect our lives if we allow them to do.
• Lazarsfeld and Hovland who are methodologists rather than
theorists work on objective empirical media effect measurement
• They both worked on how methodology in social sciences and
humanities can be implemented to media studies.
• Between 1940s and 50s they both conducted researches in
laboratories over thousands of people.
• They actually were testing the common assumption that gives media
very powerful role in shaping people’s opinion. They demonstrate
that education and social status are more influent over people.
The Two-Step Flow of
Lazarsfeld believed that social theory must be strongly based on empirical
• Lazarsfeld conducted a survey in Ohio between May and November in
1940, before presidential elections. Reached 3000 people and made groups
based on the changes of decisions of voters such as early deciders (53%),
waverers (15%), converts (8%) and crystallizers (28%).
• Waverers and converts were media users but they did not say they were
influenced by media but the people. They made their choice in line with their
political opinion rather than with the influence of media messages. Media
helped with existing party loyalties.
• Lazarsfeld divided those voters according to their media use into three:
-Gate Keepers: people who screen media messages and pass on those
messages that help others share their views.
-Opinion Leaders: those who pass on information to opinion followers.
-Opinion followers: those who receive information from opinion leaders.
• Two-step flow theory is the idea that messages pass from the media,
through opinion leaders to opinion followers. Info flows horizontal way.
Lazarsfeld’s methods limitations
-Survey in fact cannot measure the media consumption patterns on a
daily basis. The measurement of media effects is based on what
and how people report it.
-It is quite expensive survey and it ignores media content and studies
the way of overall using media rather than the effect of certain news
stories or specific TV programs.
-Overall pattern of media use tend to be strongly associated with social
and demographic variables like age, sex, social status and
-recent research on two step flow model found out contradictory results.
-They cannot be used for studying over time.
-The period of the research might have been very critical.
Limited Effects Theory and
Indirect effect theory
-Media rarely influence individual decision. Direct propaganda comes
from other people like, colleagues, family etc.
-First opinion leader influence people then media could be influential.
-Audience as adult have already developed political opinion
independent from media.
-Only socially isolated people might be directly affected by media.
• Indirect effect theory: When media do seem to have an effect, that
effect is filtered through other parts of the society.
• Limited Effect theory: Media have minimal and limited effect
because those effects are mitigated by a variety of mediating or
intervening variables.
The Experimental Section
• This section headed by psychologist Carl Hovland in the army and
made documentaries like ‘Why we fight’.
• Hovland used controlled variation technique (isolating some
elements in an experiment).
• It was found that soldiers had been easily manipulated by the
documentary. Military propaganda was not successful as it had been
assumed. Time was a key variable in attitude change, slow shifts in
• He found that one sided presentation (the war would be a long one)
is more effective for those who are already in favor of the message.
• Two sided presentation (the war would be long, but alternative view
was addressed) is more effective for those who hold divergent
perspectives and those who have higher level of education.
The Communication Research
• The Communication Research Program was
funded by Rockefeller foundation after the war.
The research had resulted with a bunch of
books and articles on persuasion. They looked
at the communicators, content of
communication, fear-arousing appeals,
organization of the argument (if it straightforward
or implicit):
• In conclusion the persuasive power of the
message is depending on set of factors like
trustworthiness of communicator, intelligent level
of audience.
Persuasion Researches
• In persuasion researches individual differences
are influential in results.
• Limitation of the experimental Persuasion
-They are conducted in laboratory atmosphere in
where some variable are under control.
-They search immediate effects different than
-They are not appropriate to be used in over time.
-Real life conditions cannot be explored in
experimental studies.
Emergence of the Media Effects
Why do media effect us in a limited way
• because of individual differences,
psychology or perception: personality
characteristics of audiences.
• because of group membership or
relationship-social categories: people
different backgrounds: age, sex, class,
Attitude Change Theories
Three motivations for these type of research
• Success of Nazi propaganda, necessity of counter strategies
• Young people in the army are needed to be bind together around a
common target.
• It was a great opportunity to have such a large people coming from
variety of backgrounds.
• Attitude change theories which is named as cognitive consistency
comes from Lazarsfeld, Klapper to DeFleur.
cognitive consistency: People tend to preserve their existing view.
Cognitive dissonance-discomfort by Festinger proposes inconsistency
(in media messages) would create psychological discomfort. People
tend to keep their view or make them consistent.Therefore they
become selective either by defending existing protective mechanism
or using routinised mechanism.
• Three notions in attitude change researches
-Selective exposure: In selecting, people expose the media
messages that are already –heald attitudes i.e. seeing or
reading their political party propaganda messages but
not oppositions.
-Selective Retention: People remember the best and longer
info. The rest they forget easily.
-Selective Perception: altering the messages according to
existing attitudes and beliefs.
(Remember the media in 1940-50s were different than the
one we use today.)
Attitude Change Theory
• Strengths
-Pays deep attention to process which messages can and can’t have
-Provides insight into influence of individual differences and group
affiliations in shaping media influence.
-Pays attention to selective processes helps clarify how individuals
process information.
• Weakness
-experimental manipulation of variables their power; it underestimates
-focuses on information in media messages, not on more contemporary
symbolic media.
-Uses attitude change as only measure of effects, ignoring
reinforcement and more subtle forms of media influence.