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Hypodermic Syringe Model Essay English Book

Before it is possible to start an analysis of these two models, it is first essential to define them. The Hypodermic needle model, or the media effects model, is the earliest explanation of the way in which the mass media affects audiences. The basic premise is that whatever message the media (TV, radio or print) is giving, the audience will absorb it entirely and without question. This model views the media as a drug that is injected directly into the consciousness of the media consumer. According to Mick Underwood (The Hypodermic Needle Model)

“The folk belief in the Hypodermic Needle Model was fuelled initially by the rapid growth of advertising from the late nineteenth century on, coupled with the practice of political propaganda and psychological warfare during World War I.”

The Hypodermic Needle Model treats the audience as passive; the couch potato is a product of the Hypodermic Model. The audience are a mass and do not have the capability of free thought, rather the audience tunes into the media and is transfixed by whatever is represented. This model gives rise to the Neo-Marxist quote “TV is the new opiate of the masses”.

The Uses and Gratifications model is more sophisticated in that it credits the audience with slightly more involvement. Uses and Gratifications model basically states that rather than passively absorbing media content, the audience actively decides what to watch because of what they get out of it. The Uses and Gratifications Model treats the audience as a group of individuals, all with different needs and wants, who therefore all take different things from the media.

Although the Hypodermic model is severely dated, and has no academic support, it is still widely accepted by the public. The emphasis is placed on the effect that the media can have on ‘innocent children’. The Bulger killings are a prime example of the way in which this theory is generally accepted. The newspapers made great play on the fact that the two children convicted of the murder (aged 10 and 11 at the time) had watched one of the Childsplay films and that the method they used for killing Jamie Bulger was similar to some of the scenes from the film (Hanes, P The Advantages and Limitations of a Focus on Audience in Media Studies).

Very little sticks in the memory about the media coverage of the murderers up-bringing or past behavioural records. The fact that the two killers were convicted of murder shows that the film they watched was not accepted as mitigating circumstances, ie. as far as the court was concerned, it had little or no effect on the minds of the two killers.

It is this same mindset, however, which resulted in the ‘video nasties’ campaign of the early 80’s. The concern centred over the new opportunities presented by the home video player. The video nasty frenzy started in February 1982 “with a letter of complaint concerning an advert for SS Experiment Camp that featured in a trade magazine” (Morris, M and Wingrove, N. Bizarre 17 – 60). The 1983 Conservative election manifesto contained the pledge:

“We will also respond to the increasing public concern over obscenity and offences against public decency, which often have links with serious crime… such as the spread of violent and obscene video cassettes” (Morris, M and Wingrove, N. Bizarre 17 – 61).

By May 1984, the video recordings act was set up and many videos banned. The fact that many of the videos that were banned under the action weren’t obscene or explicit in any way escaped the censors. Some of the films didn’t even contain anything even connected with their title or artwork, for example, one banned film The Cannibal Man, is a study of a nervous breakdown. The filmmakers had obviously realised what the censors hadn’t – that they fact that the film was banned increased interest in what is otherwise a very un-remarkable piece of cinema.

A question as to the effectiveness of the Hypodermic Needle approach is also raised from this action. If these films contained the power to deprave and corrupt the viewer, how were the censors immune to this? This question is raised again and again; in the obscenity trial concerning the publication of Lady Chatterly’s Lover the prosecution asked the Jury whether it was the sort of thing “they would want their servants to read?” (Underwood, M. The Hypodermic Needle Model).

The inference here is that the servants would be affected by the ‘obscenity’ and the intellectually superior jury (presumably middle class) would be immune. This position treats the working class in the same way that children are treated in the pro-censorship argument, that they must be protected, that they don’t have the mental capacity to differentiate for themselves what is media and what is real life.

This attitude of protection has been around for a lot longer than we imagine. In approximately 470BC Plato wanted to ban poetry and allegorical tales because:

“children cannot distinguish between what is allegory and what isn’t, and opinions formed at that age are usually difficult to eradicate of change.” (Gormley, T. Media Effects)

There are have been similar outcry’s about theatre, easy access to books, and the cinema. No one would seriously argue the corrupting effects of poetry now; this suggests that Plato’s reaction was groundless and based on little or no fact. Logic would dictate, therefore, that similar arguments regarding television and video are equally as unfounded.

There have been studies into the effects of media portrayed violence. The most famous of which being the ‘Bobo Doll’ study conducted by Bandura, Ross and Ross. The study had children viewing television and ‘media’ portrayals of violence towards a Bobo doll. When the children were observed playing there was positive correlation between the action of the children and the action they had witnessed. However, the question arises, what else is there for a child playing with a Bobo doll to do with it, the whole concept of the toy is that it stays standing however often it is knocked down. The whole experiment is voided by a comment made by one of the subjects to her parent “look mummy, there’s the doll we have to hit” (Guantlett, D Moving Experience, 18). The participants were acting on the expectations placed on them by the experimenters, rather than the influence of the media.

Much of the research into media affects on children concentrates on correlations between representation and behaviour and “correlation is generally taken as evidence of causality.” (Buckingham, D Children Talking Television, 15)

As already discussed, the Uses and Gratifications approach has significant differences in the way it looks at media affects. Rather than concentrating on what the media does to it’s audience, this approach try’s to work out how the audience use the media. The emphasis “is placed on members of the audience actively processing media materials in accordance with their own needs.” (Gurevitch, M (ed.) Culture, Society and the Media, 241).

McQuail, identified four main uses and gratifications which audiences claimed from television – information, personal identity, integration and social interaction, and entertainment (Lodziak, C The Power of Television, 131). The idea of watching television for information and entertainment is fairly easy to comprehend; if a programme has neither of the above qualities it will have scant viewing figures. However, the issues of personal identity and social interaction are slightly more problematical.

The issue of personal identity, is more a psychological aspect than a sociological one. The viewer re-enforces their personal values by viewing other people with the same or similar values. This theory could also be reversed to say that viewers like to see characters with values which are completely opposite to their own, in this way they can criticise and discard these values. Thus representations of violence on television, rather than encouraging violent activity, would re-enforce social norms of non-violent behaviour.

“antisocial acts shown in drama series and films…are almost always ultimately punished or have other negative consequences for the perpetrator.” (Guantlett, G Ten Things Wrong With The Effects Model)

The final function – integration and social interaction are also problematic in their reasoning. Social integration could be necessitated in the same way in which personal identity is re-enforced, with television acting as an advocate of social norms – the television acts as a textbook for successful social inter-action and re-enforces what behaviour is necessary from successful social interaction. The second explanation of this function is that although, watching television (attentively) is essentially a private past-time, for people who live alone or have a limited social life it provides some form of companionship. This would explain the personally loaded letters film and television actors receive from fans, the fan counts the inter-action they perceive they have with an on-screen character as personal friendship and respond accordingly.

Finally, television viewing could provide a basis for social interaction, conversations about what was on television are common place, and are even encouraged by the television companies. A string of trailers for Eastenders had the slogan “Eastenders, Everyone’s talking about it” and featured groups of people holding conversations about the characters and the storylines. In this instance, a social connection is also being encouraged, the conversations were dealing with the feelings, emotions and qualities of the characters as though they were real people, if the soap character is a real person, then it is possible to interact with that person.

The above uses and gratifications indicate that the viewer is a discerning creature. That if the viewer feels insecure about their social position of the self-identity they will watch certain programme types to gain confidence about themselves and their world. Also, the watching of television can, as far as uses and gratifications theory is concerned be for reasons as simplistic as to gain information or to be entertained, an increase in “television consumption…has been largely at the expense of household chores, ‘resting’ ‘sitting’ and ‘doing nothing in particular'” (Lodziak, C The Power of Television, 131). This would indicate, that the viewer is just avoiding doing less entertaining things that were once part of everyday life.

Another gratification of watching the television is wish fulfilment. A viewer could decide to watch a certain programme in order to make up for dissatisfactions with their life. This relates to the social interaction explanation offered above, however it goes deeper than this

“two major groups using television for diversionary purposes were ‘women professing an instrumental rather than an expressive orientation to their work and older people who felt dissatisfied with their jobs'” (Lodziak, C The Power of Television, 132)

The compensation for features of everyday life which are unsatisfactory is a natural human trait. One of Jung’s theories as to the origin of dreams was “compensations for things which one lacks in waking life, such as a hidden wish or conflict” (Berry, R Jung a Beginner’s Guide, 44). It would therefore be natural for humankind to use television, a different sort of fantasy world, in the same compensatory manner.

To draw these two assessments together, one of the main differences between the hypodermic needle approach and uses and gratifications theory is the treatment of the audience. Hypodermic needle theory treats the audience as “blank sheets of paper on which media messages can be written” (Hanes, P The Advantages and Limitations of a focus on Audience in Media Studies). It treats the audience as an amorphous mass which the media can mould in any way they wish, the audience has no capacity for reason and no pre-conceptions with which to compare the media message.

However, uses and gratifications theory states that “members of an audience will have prior attitudes and beliefs which will determine how effective media messages are” (Hanes, P The Advantages and Limitations of a focus on Audience in Media Studies). This does not refute the fact that the media attempts to influence its audience, one only has to consider the huge amount of advertising the public is subjected too to realise this. However, the crucial difference being that uses and gratification theory recognises that a mass audience is made up of individuals all with the capacity for independent thought.

Further crucial differences are also evident. The majority of research and discussion into the hypodermic needle model is concerned with “violence, often bundled incongruously with sex” (Guantlett, D Moving Experiences, 60) and the negative effects thereof. The theory as a whole seems to be very pessimistic in outlook, advocating censorship and the protection of innocence. This seems to be a knee-jerk reaction in the same league as Plato’s comments of over two thousand years ago. The uses and gratifications approach has a more positive outlook, crediting television with re-enforcing social norms that help facilitate the smooth running of modern society.

This is a learning module for the class Contemporary Social / Mass Media Theory taught at Purdue University by Sorin Adam Matei

Cultivation theory suggests that heavy television exposure generates a world of ideas and mental content that is homogeneous and biased toward “reality” as is depicted in media content. Heavier television users are more like to be anomic, to believe in the “meanness” of the world, to accept specific gender stereotypes, and to fear possible crime victimization. The theory acts at mental content and attitudinal level. It assumes that our attitudes are forged in the hours we watch TV in the direction in which the content flows ideologically. As the content changes over time, our attitudes change. It is not a behaviorist theory, but rather a passive learning theory. We are what we eat, we are what we watch. In this respect, the theory can skew right or left, depending on what we thing media serves us: liberal or conservative content. This learning module includes two schools of thought, the traditional, launched by Gerbner and his colleagues, which take a liberal, leftist slant, and a more recent one, generated by Rothman and his more conservative colleagues.


A summary of cultivation theory by Daniel Chandler – Online

Cultivation research looks at the mass media as a socializing agent and investigates whether television viewers come to believe the television version of reality the more they watch it. Gerbner and his colleagues contend that television drama has a small but significant influence on the attitudes, beliefs and judgements of viewers concerning the social world. The focus is on “heavy viewers”. People who watch a lot of television are likely to be more influenced by the ways in which the world is framed by television programmes than are individuals who watch less, especially regarding topics of which the viewer has little first-hand experience. Light viewers may have more sources of information than heavy viewers.

The The “Mainstreaming” of America: Violence Profile No. 11, George Gerbner, Larry Gross, Michael Morgan, Nancy Signorielli, DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1980.tb01987.x, Journal of Communication,Volume 30, Issue 3, pages 10–29, September 1980

Television makes specific and measurable contributions to viewers’ conceptions of reality. These contributions relate both to the synthetic world television presents and to viewers’ real life circumstances. These are the basic findings of our long-range research project called Cultural Indicators, and they have been supported, extended, and refined in a series of studies. Here we shall report new findings and introduce theoretical developments dealing with the dynamics of the cultivation of general concepts of social reality (which we shall call “mainstreaming”) and of the amplification of issues particularly salient to certain groups of viewers (which we shall call “resonance”).

Given our premise that television’s images cultivate the dominant tendencies of our culture’s beliefs, ideologies, and world views, the observable independent contributions of television can only be relatively small. But just as an average temperature shift of a few degrees can lead to an ice age or the outcomes of elections can be determined by slight margins, so too can a relatively small but pervasive influence make a crucial difference. The “size” of an “effect” is far less critical than the direction of  its steady contribution.

We have found that amount of exposure to television is an important indicator of the strength of its contributions to ways of thinking and acting. For heavy viewers, television virtually monopolizes and subsumes other sources of  information, ideas, and consciousness. Thus, we have suggested that the more  time one spends “living” in the world of television, the more likely one is to report perceptions of social reality which can be traced to (or are congruent with) television’s most persistent representations of life and society. Accordingly, we  have examined the difference that amount of viewing makes in people’s images, expectations, assumptions, and behaviors.‘

The heart of the argument: Many differences between group of viewers can be explained in terms of one of two systematic processes which we call “mainstreaming” and “resonance.” Heavy use trumps all other behaviors.

Television’s cultivation of conceptions and behaviors is a consistent process but is integrated in different ways and with different results into different patterns of life. Therefore, a fuller understanding of television’s contribution may be achieved by paying particular attention to differences across different subgroups.

The “mainstream” can be thought of as a relative commonality of outlooks that television tends to cultivate. By “mainstreaming” we mean the sharing of that commonality among heavy viewers in those demographic groups whose light viewers hold divergent views. In other words, differences deriving from other factors and social forces may be diminished or even absent among heavy
viewers. Thus, in some cases we should only find evidence for cultivation within those groups who are “out” of the mainstream. In other cases, we may find that viewing “moderates” attitudes in groups whose light viewers tend to hold extreme views. But in all cases, more viewing appears to signal a convergence of outlooks rather than absolute, across-the-board increments in all groups.

For example, it is well documented that more educated, higher income groups have the most diversified patterns of cultural opportunities and activities; therefore, they tend to be lighter viewers. We found that, when they are light viewers, they also tend to be the least imbued with the television view of the world. But the heavy viewers in the higher educationhigh income groups
respond differently. Their responses to our questions are more like those of other heavy viewers, most of whom have less education and income. It is the college-educated, higher income light viewers who diverge from the “mainstream” cultivated by television; heavy viewers of all groups tend to share a relatively homogeneous outlook.

But the relationship of real life experience to television’s cultivation of conceptions of reality entails not only this generalized notion of “mainstreaming” but also special cases of particular salience to specific issues. This is what we call resonance.” When what people see on television is most congruent with everyday reality (or even perceived reality), the combination may result in a coherent
and powerful “double dose” of the television message and significantly boost cultivation. Thus, the congruence of the television world and real-life circumstances may “resonate” and lead to markedly amplified cultivation patterns.

Even more revealing than this small overall correlation is the relationship between television viewing and mistrust for specific groups of the population. The relationship is strongcst for respondents who have had some college education-those who are also least likely to express interpersonal mistrust. (The correlaticin between education and the Mean World Index is -.28, p < .001.) The most striking specifications emerge for whites and non-whites. As a group, non whites score higher on the Mean World Index (r = 23, p < .001). Yet, there is a significant negative association among non-whites between television and this index (r = -.10, p < .05). The relationship for whites, however, remains positive. Thus, those groups who in general are least likely to hold a television-related attitude are most likely to be influenced toward the “mainstream” television view; and those who are most likely to hold a view w e extreme than the TV view may be “coaxed back” to the “mainstream” position.

The Man Who Counts the Killings

George Gerbner, who thirty years ago founded the Cultural Indicators project, which is best known for its estimate that the average American child will have watched 8,000 murders on television by the age of twelve, is so alarmed about the baneful effects of TV that he describes them in terms of “fascism”

Does Hollywood hate business or money? SR Lichter, LS Lichter, D Amundson, DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1997.tb02693.x, Journal of Communication, Volume 47, Issue 1, pages 68–84, March 1997

Challenging earlier findings that television entertainment depicts business negatively, Thomas and Le Shay (1992) recently argued that television stigmatizes wealth rather than business. In this article we test that argument through a content analysis of television characters in all occupations across 30 seasons. The findings reaffirm that television stigmatizes the occupation of business, independently of economic factors. These results pose a challenge to mass communications theory that interprets popular culture as a source of social control.


Out of 20,000 prime time fictional series spanning 30-years of television history found in the Library of Congress broadcast archives, 620 episodes were randomly chosen.  To randomly choose these files, Lichter, Lichter, and Amundson (1997) looked at each season from 1955 to 1986, chose 20 series from each season, and then randomly selected one episode from each series.  Coders were trained using 200 additional episodes found in the archive.  The episodes were coded for character-level issues, such as plot function, as well as episode level-issues, such as social relations or social controversy themes.  The coding scheme was used to determine occupation, socioeconomic status of the characters, and plot function (positive/negative portrayal).  Out of these episodes, over 4,700 characters were able to be organized into census-determined occupational category and over 70% were able to be judged as portraying a positive or negative function.  All other characters were determined to be neutral.

Charts that illustrate the Lichter and Lichter study

Business Characters are consistently more negatively portrayed, regardless of income/wealth

THE MEDIA, IDENTITY AND PERSONALITY, Stanley Rothman, International Journal on World Peace , Vol. 14, No. 4 (DECEMBER 1997), pp. 49-80

My goal in this essay is to understand the impact of the media on identity and character in the modern world. Before I begin, I assert that there is considerable evidence that the human psyche is embedded in a biological structure which sets the parameters of identity and personality and which is defied with difficulty. We are not simply the work of nature, but if we stray too far from its mandates we do so at our own peril. In this essay I discuss how our characters have changed in the past 500 years and how they are changing now under the impact of affluence and new technologies. While I stress the role of the mass media, these changes are the result of a confluence of factors, no one of which is fully determinative. Thus, other issues will inevitably be brought in as part of my narrative.

 In depth

Shrum, L. J., & Lee, J.  (2012). Multiple processes underlying cultivation effects:  How cultivation works depends on the types of ideas being cultivated.  In M. Morgan, J. Shanahan, & N. Signorielli (Eds.),  Living with television now:  Advances in cultivation theory and research (pp. 147-167).  New York, NY:  Peter Lang.

Shrum, L. J., Lee, J., Burroughs, J. E., & Rindfleisch, A.  (2011).  An online process model of second-order cultivation effects:  How television cultivates materialism and its consequences for life satisfaction.  Human Communication Research, 27, 34-57.

Morgan, Michael, and James Shanahan. “The state of cultivation.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 54.2 (2010): 337-355.

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