bullet theory

Topics: Mass media, Marshall McLuhan, Media influence Pages: 20 (7349 words) Published: January 21, 2014
Bullet Theory
The magic bullet perspective, also called the hypodermic needle model, is a model for communications. Magic bullet theory has been around since the 1920s to explain “how mass audiences might react to mass media,” reports Media Know All. According to University of Twent in the Netherlands, the theory states that mass media has a “direct, immediate and powerful effect on its audiences. History

Several factors, including widespread popularity of radio and television, led to this “strong effects” theory of media influence. Also important were the new “persuasion industries” of advertising and propaganda being utilized by industries and governments alike. In the 1930s, the Payne Fund, developed by the Motion Picture Research Council, studied the impact of motion pictures on children to see if the magic bullet effect was controllable. Even Hitler monopolized the mass media in the belief that he could use it unify the German public behind the Nazis in the 1940s. Function

The theory “suggests that the message is a bullet, fired from the ‘media gun’ into the viewer's head,’” states the University of Twente. In this model, the audience is passive. Viewers are sitting ducks with no chance to avoid or resist the impact of the message. Mass media, in this view, is dangerous because people believe the message since there is no other source of information. It is a "crude model," adds Media Know All, since it leaves out any attempt by the audience to consider or challenge the data. Theory

Information, the theory claims, passes into the audience members’ consciousness as a mass or single entity, without regard for individual opinions, experiences or intelligence. In this theory, the creators of mass media strictly manipulate the audience as a single unit and the media-makers find it easy to direct viewer’s thoughts and actions. Magic bullet theory assumes that the audience is singular and passive. Application

This theory, based on assumptions about human nature rather than on empirical evidence, was not as widely accepted as mass-media experts of the era indicated. The most famous magic bullet incident was the 1938 radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” and the mass reaction of the American audience that thought it was real. In reality, this incident sparked research into the phenomenon and eventually showed that reactions depended on situational and attitudinal aspects of the various individual listeners. Misconceptions

In the 1940 presidential election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a study called “The People’s Choice” tested the theory. The study, conducted by Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson and Hazel Gaudet used a modification of the magic bullet theory called the Two Step Flow theory. Instead of proving the theory, it showed that the majority of viewers did not respond to the propaganda. The results actually showed that interpersonal relationships influenced people more often by the media. Significance

The magic bullet theory is considered too cumbersome to test and offers inaccurate results. Modern researchers wanted more empirical explanations for the relationship between media and audience. Since media obviously did not turn the audience into unthinking drones, those studying the field sought a more definable reaction. Some groups still quote the theory to explain why certain audiences should not be exposed to certain media such as youth to comics in the 1950s or rap in the 2000s, reports Media Know All, “for fear that they will watch or read sexual or violent behavior[s] and will then act them out themselves. Reception theory

Reception theory provides a means of understanding media texts by understanding how these texts are read by audiences. Theorists who analyze media through...
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