Commercial studies and media uses and gratifications

Structural functionalism and
Structural functionalism
• Heavy use of analogy
– Organic
– Mechanistic
Concepts from systems theory
Social system
Social structure
Social processes
Unique concepts
Manifest (function/dysfunction)
Latent (function/dysfunction)
Functional alternatives
Functional requisites
Structural functionalism
• A form of systems theory
– Looks at systems and subsystems
– Interrelations among parts
– Processes
• Maintenance, equilibrium
• Adaptation and change
Structural functionalism
• Structures
– Repetitive behaviors
• Functions
– Implications for system maintenance
• Early, conservative S—F assumed
maintenance was the main (positive) goal
Structural functionalism
• Functions taken as the explanation for
the existence of structures
– “end explains (justifies?) the means”
• Reverses our general model of
theoretical explanation
Structural functional analysis
• Identifies the structures of a system
• Defines the part played by such
• Examines the consequences of social
phenomena for the systems of which
they are a part, and
• Examines how new structures emerge
Methodological assumptions
• Assumptions: The conceptual assumptions
underlying the approach can be divided into two
basic areas:
– the social system is the prior causal reality and the
system parts are functionally interrelated,
– all social phenomena have functions for the larger
social system. Concerning these functions:
• they may be functional for the whole system or only part of it,
• there may be functional alternatives,
• there may be multiple consequences from particular
phenomena, and finally,
• dysfunctions account for tension and change in the system.
• The approach assumes that systems can be
identified and specified, that the boundaries are
Structural functional explanation
• Recurring behaviors (structures) are thought to exist
because they in some way contribute to system
maintenance (function)
• The identification of structures and the ways that
they contribute are major goals
• Society is thought to maintain an equilibrium state
(organic analogy) and if forced out of that state will
adjust in ways that tend to reinstate equilibrium
(though not necessarily the original equilibrium)
Structural functional explanation
• Certain functions are required for the
existence of the system (society)
– Functional prerequisites
• In some cases, more than one structure can
provide the same function
– Functional alternatives
Structural functional explanation
• Change is generated mainly from outside
the system, as the system acts to maintain
its status quo
• A second source of change is the existence
of dysfunctions (actions that break down
the system)
– Implications of a structure for different
subsystems may conflict
Manifest v. latent (Merton)
• Manifest functions are commonly recognized
• Latent functions are not commonly recognized
– Often they are still the reason for structures to
• May be the “real” reason
• Basis for consensus
– Main means of integration of parts (communication)
• Consensus brings pressure to bear on “deviates”
in order to maintain equilibrium
– Deviation considered a problem to be dealt with
– The role of social control is to maintain system
• (in the interest of the population overall)
– Source of deviance unclear
• Socialization through a wide array of social
institutions, including the media
Lasswell’s functions
“The communication process in society
performs three functions: (a) surveillance of
the environment, disclosing threats and
opportunities affecting the value position of
the community and of the component parts
within it; (b) correlation of the components of
society in making a response to the
environment; (c) transmission of the social
Lazarsfeld and Merton
• “Increasingly, the chief power groups, among which
organized business occupies the most spectacular
place, have come to adopt techniques for
manipulating mass publics through propaganda in
place of more direct means of control.”
• “these media have taken on the job of rendering
mass publics conformative to the social and
economic status quo”
• Fear that mass media lower the ‘esthetic tastes’ of
their audiences
Status conferral function
• “The mass media confer status on public
issues, persons, organizations and social
“Recognition by the press or radio or magazines or
newsreels testifies that one has arrived, that one
is important enough to have been singled out
from the large anonymous masses, that one’s
behavior and opinions are significant enough to
require public notice.”
Enforcement of social norms
• “The mass media may initiate organized social
action by “exposing” conditions which are at
variance with public moralities.”
– Publicity closes the gap between “private
attitudes” and “public morality.”
Narcotizing dysfunction
• “this vast supply of communications may elicit only a
superficial concern with the problems of society, and this
superficiality often cloaks mass apathy.”
• “As an increasing meed of time is devoted to reading and
listening, a decreasing share is available for organized action.
The individual reads accounts of issues and problems and may
even discuss alternative lines of action. But this rather
intellectualized, rather remote connection with organized
social action is not activated. The interested and informed
citizen can congratulate himself on his lofty state of interest
and information and neglect to see that he has abstained
from decision and action.
• “In short, he takes his secondary contact with the world of
political reality, his reading and listening and thinking, as a
vicarious performance. He comes to mistake knowing about
problems of the day for doing something about them. His
social conscience remains spotlessly clean. He is concerned.
He is informed. And he has all sorts of ideas as to what
should be done. But, after he has gotten through his dinner
and after he has listened to his favored radio programs and
after he has read his second newspaper of the day, it is really
time for bed.
Social conformism
• “Since the mass media are supported by great
business concerned geared into the current social
and economic system, the media contribute to the
maintenance of the system.”
– Advertisement of products
– Stories contain some element of approval of current
structure of society
– Fail to raise essential questions about the structure of
Esthetic tastes
• Hard to determine overall effect
• Widening of audience for higher arts
– Accessibility vastly increased
Conditions for media effects
• Monopolization
– Little or no opposition in media to the diffusion of values,
policies or public images
• Canalization
– Rather than attempting to change or create attitudes or
behavior, directing pre-existing behaviors and attitudes in
the direction you want
• Supplementation of media presentation with
interpersonal communication
Obstacles to media effects
Limited exposure
The Field
• Lasswell’s classic definition of the field:
– Who Says
– What
– In Which Channel
– To Whom
– With What Effect?