I’ll be one of many to admit that, before beginning my BCM course, I had never heard of such a thing as the ‘Media Effects Model‘. Upon delving further into what this ‘effects model’ is all about, I had a bit of an ‘aha’ moment that went something like; “I’ve never heard of the ‘Media Effects Model’ but yes, my mum did always tell me that television makes us fat.” I’m going to say that it’s safe to assume many of my Gen-Y counterparts heard something along these lines from their parents. In saying that… Mum, I love you, but you were wrong.
It’s not your fault, though.
The ‘effects model’ refers to the media within society and theorises that consumption of mass media is directly connected to changes in human behaviour. Thinking about how wary people are of what the media is doing to our behaviour made me consider how heavily society is bombarded with this notion that the effects model perpetrates. It’s almost become second nature to blame ignorance on poorly researched journalism, violence on widely accessible 18+ video games, obesity on endless consumption of television and many more social behaviours on a wide variety of media aspects.
The same old blame game.
Why should we question this causality?
As David Gauntlett explains it, the ‘media effects’ approach “comes at the problem backwards, by starting with the media and then trying to lasso connections from there on to social beings, rather than the other way around.”
The media effects model relies on the simplicity of this chain of command – sender, message, receiver. It does not take into account factors that may (and usually do so) intercept the message. Therefore, the problem with this hypothesis of how the media effects social behaviour, is that it is far too simple and generalises the origins of human behaviour that are subject to infinite factors; the ‘effects model’ essentially purports that the individual takes everything at face value.
Considering that the media is not an elusive entity and that we do possess a large amount of control over it, would it not mean that criticising the media and only the media is, by extension, a critique of human behaviour?
Media is a much simpler notion than the human complex so, as a product of our human nature, we blame whatever is more convenient.
We must consider that portion of our behaviour can be attributed to the media (it’s all relative) but considering other factors will provide a better explanation of why we behave the way we do; a failure to explore these other possibilities is an inherent flaw within the media effects model. We need to start with the individual, and not the product of the individual. As pointless as it may sound, human behaviour perpetuates further human behaviour and perhaps media is just an outlet in this process.
Is it time to take our pointed finger away from the media and stand in front of a mirror instead?
David Gauntlett 1988, Roger Dickinson, Ramaswani Harindranath & Olga Linné, eds (1998), Approaches to Audiences – A Reader, published by Arnold, London. http://www.theory.org.uk/effects.htm