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MAC 111


3.5.5 Media Systems Dependence Theory

This theory assumes that the more an individual depends on having his/her needs gratified by media use, the more important will be the role that media play in the person’s life; and therefore the more influence those media will have on that person.

The basis of media influence lies in the relationship between the larger social system, the media’s role and audience relationships in that system, and audience relationship to the media. Effects occur, not because all-powerful media or omnipotent source wills that occurrence, but because the media operate in a given way in a given social system to meet a given audience wants and needs.

Audience members determine the occurrence and shape of media effect and it is related to how the audience uses the media. Since we make use of the media to make sense of our world, we permit the media to shape our expectation. Thus, the greater the need and consequently the stronger the dependency, the greater the likelihood that the media and their messages will have an effect. Media will equally influence not everyone. Those who have greater needs and thus greater dependency on media will be influenced.


How can the agenda setting theory be applied during political electioneering campaign?

3.6Active Audience Theories

The preceding theories focused on the effects of the media on the audience. As new perspectives emerged, not only was the media regarded as having limited effect, attention was being drawn to what people do with media. Active audience or audience-centred theories explain or focus on what people do with the media as opposed to source–dominated theories which focus on the effects of the media on people.

3.6.1 Uses and Gratification Theory

The Uses and Gratification theory sees the audience as influencing the effect process because they selectively choose, attend to, perceive and retain the media messages. It focuses on the uses to which people put media and the gratifications they seek from that use.


MAC 111


In Herta Herzog’s study of the use of radio soap opera, three (3) major types of gratification were identified:

1.A means of emotional release

2.Opportunities for wishful thinking – commonly recognised form of enjoyment

3.Advice obtained from listening to daytime serials – commonly unsuspected.

Wilbur Schramn provided a concept to answer the question “what determines which offerings of mass communication that will be selected by a given individual? or what determines the media content that an individual pays attention to?” The answer offered is called the fraction of selection:

Expectation of Reward

Effort Required

His point was that people weigh the level of reward (gratification) they expect from a given medium or message against how much effort they must make to secure that reward. We all make decisions about which content we choose based on our expectations of having some needs meet; but the efforts required in meeting the needs will eventually influence the decision we make.

So, individuals select the media that will likely satisfy their needs, they selectively consume the content of those media and there may or may not be any effect.

3.6.2 Reception Studies-Decoding and Sense Making

It focuses on how various types of audience members make sense of specific forms of content. Halls (1980a) argued that media content can be regarded as a text that is made up of signs. These signs are related to one another in specific ways. To make sense of a text –to read a text – you have to be able to interpret the signs and their structure. For example, when you read a sentence you must not only decode the individual words but you also need to interpret the overall structure of the sentence to make sense of the sentence as a whole.

He therefore identified 3 variables:

The first is Preferred or Dominant reading – that is the meaning intended by the producer of a media message, which is meant to have a desired effect


MAC 111


The second is Negotiated or Alternative meaning- that is the audience interpretation of the message that is misinterpreted or that differs from the preferred meaning

The third is the Oppositional decoding- that is the audience interpretation that is in direct opposition to the dominant or preferred reading.

Therefore, though people are susceptible to domination by communication technologies, they are able to exploit contradictions that enable them to resist, recycle and redesign those technologies and people are capable of decoding and appropriating received messages and are not necessarily duped by them.

In other words, though people are exposed to the powerful/pervasive media messages, the individual ways of decoding such messages do not always allow them to be influenced.


According to Toeing Herta Herzog’s line of arguments, what determines the offerings of mass communication that you normally select? Or what determines the media content that you pay attention to.

3.7Media Violence: Children and Effects

We examine here some theories that summarised and offered useful insight into the media’s violence effects.

3.7.1 Catharsis Theory (Sublimation Theory)

Catharsis theory states that viewing violence is sufficient to purge or at least satisfy a person’s aggressive drive and, therefore, reduce the likelihood of aggressive behaviour.

In other words, viewing mediated aggression reduces people’s natural aggressive drives.

Some attentions have been drawn to the weakness of this theory. When you watch couples engage in physical affection on the screen, does it reduce your sexual drive? Do media presentation of families devouring Indomie noodles purge you of your hunger drive? If viewing mediated sexual behaviour does not reduce the sex drive and viewing media presentation of people dining does not reduce our hunger, why should we assume that seeing mediated violence can satisfy an aggressive drive?


MAC 111


Thus, accumulated research clearly demonstrates a correlation between viewing violence and aggressive behaviourthat is, heavy viewers behave more aggressively that light viewers.

3.7.2 Aggressive Cues Theory

It believes that people who see mediated violence show higher levels of subsequent aggression. In other words, exposure to mass-mediated aggression increases people’s level of emotional and psychological stimulation which can in turn lead to aggressive behaviour.

It is also assumed that a person’s response to aggressive cues depends on whether he is experiencing frustration at the time of exposure to mass mediated violence. It also depends on whether the violence is presented as justified or not. That means if the violence is presented as unjustified, it can inhibit the actual expression of aggression through a sense of guilt.

3.7.3 Social Learning (Social Cognitive) Theory

Social learning theory encompasses both identification and imitation to explain how people learn through observation of others in their environment. Identification is a form of imitation in which copying a model, generalised beyond specific acts, springs from wanting to be and trying to be like the model with respect to some broader quality. In other words, it involves the tendency, especially by children, to identify with admired aggressive heroes and copy their behaviour whenever a relevant situation arises. Imitation is the direct, mechanical reproduction of behaviour.

This theory assumes that people, children especially, tend to learn aggression from the mass media and to model their behaviour after the ones displayed. When people observe media violence, they learn and imitate what is seen. The possibility of actualising what is seen is enhanced when:

1.The subject expects to be rewarded for such behaviour.

2.There is close similarity between the dramatized violence and real – life situation the subject subsequently encounters.

3.7.4 Reinforcement Theory

It states that massmediated violence simply reinforce the existing aggressive inclinations that people bring to media exposure. It is not that the media make people to be violent but they simply reinforce people’s existing aggressive attitudes and behaviours.


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