The “Media Effects Model” and Scepticism Towards New Media

The media effects model are the ideas of the effects that mass media has on the audience that sees it. Two main ideas are the ‘magic bullet’ and the ‘hypodermic needle’ theories. Both see media as an ‘injection’ of ideas, morals and influences directly into the persona of an individual who is watching any form of media. It is usually done by starting with the messages sent by the form of media and how the audience receives and decodes the message and how we ‘absorb’ it into our psyche. The main victim of these analyses is television and how its effects on the minds of viewers, specifically the youth, and how this leads to an increase of violence in society.

One of the main analyses on its effects was done by George Gerbner. His study on the effects of media on the minds of its viewers led to ideas that violence on the screen cultivates violence in society. This eventually led to blaming major media forms on assassinations, murders and general increases in violence around the world in the mid to late 19th century. Key examples could be the assassinations of John Lennon (1980), the murder of Jamie Dulger (1993) and the Port Arthur Massacre (1996). From each of these events, people became more and more convinced that the media effects model was accurate and that the forms of media were to blame for the increase in violence.

However, this model can be seen as flawed as in each of these cases showed that each was influenced by insanity, family dysfunctions and social ostracism. Taking the murder of Jamie Dulger for example; his killers, two twelve-year-old boys, killed him in the same matter as the movie “Child’s Play 3” leading to speculation that media was the reason for this act of violence and that it cultivated the bad morals that enabled them to kill the boy. But on closer inspection it was shown that they had a history of abuse such as a broken family, poverty, neglect and bullying was the main causes for them to do the act.

From this we can see that the model is flawed. It starts looking at the wrong end of the communication process, the sender, instead of the viewer’s past and the real influences behind their acts of violence. Today’s newest form of media videogames, is under the same scrutiny and is been studied in the same way, causing more scepticism about the effects of mass media. Hopefully, in these newer studies, they will help to prove that the effects of mass media is not the sole cause of the cultivation of violence and bad morals


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