Communications Theory





Pain Fund Studies (1930's) - First research to determine how media impacts peoples attitudes and beliefs. Four significant studies emerged.

1. Holaday & Stoddard (1933) investigated how adults and children acquired knowledge after viewing films. They found that both adults and children obtained considerable general information from movie viewing, specifically in the areas of English, history and geography. The results supported that movies could be used in the classroom for academic subjects.

2. Peterson & Thurstone (1933) investigated the attitudes of children after exposure to movies that focused on nationality, race, prohibition, war and capital punishment. Compared "heavy" viewers and "light" viewers to determine the cumulative effect of the media. They concluded that motion pictures had long lasting effects on the social attitudes of children.

3. Shuttle & May (1933) also studied the cumulative affect of movies on the attitudes of children. Their results challenged some of those posed by Peterson & Thurstone, but they confirmed that movies reinforced existing behavior patterns and types of attitudes among children who frequently attended movies. They supported that learning did occur when viewing films, but they also recognized that learning from a mass medium could occur in different ways among different audiences.

4. Cressey (1934) studied the impact of film on learning in children and youth, and concluded that film could be used as an informal learning instrument, especially in the areas associated with social deviance. He stated that film offered a broader appeal than traditional classrooms. He also indicated, however. that a variety of factors including situational, social background and personality could impact learning from film.

Shannon and Weaver - Mathematical Model of Communication - technical perspective -a one-way linear model of the transmission of messages. Information viewed as a mathematical constant or a fixed element of communication. Information source transmitted messages into a signal, then the sender fed the signal through a channel to the receiver, who changed the signal into understandable content for the destination of the message. This model indicates that there is a difference between information (bits of message) and meaning (making sense of the information bits).



Bandura (1960's, 1970's) - Developed Social Learning Theory, which explains how children develop personality and learn behaviors by observing models in society that they perceive as desirable.. Using this theory as basis, Bandura conducted studies of the effect of television on aggression in children, and found television, or mediated role models, affect children's personality the same as live role models - aggression increased after view violent programming.

Hovland et. al. (1950's) - Psychological view - American Soldier Studies -used film with new recruits to provide factual information about the war, change attitudes toward war and motivate recruits to fight. Results showed that the films has significant impact on knowledge of factual material; had some effect on the recruits opinions and attitudes; and no effect on motivating the recruits to fight.

Newcomb (1953) - ABX Model of Social Psychology - basis of psychological view of communication. Saw communication as a way in which people orient to their environment and to each other. Base on the concept of balance between one's attitudes and beliefs and those that are important to an individual. If the balance is disturbed, communication is used to restore it.

Schramm & Osgood (1954) Model of Communication - psychological perspective - Saw each person as an entire communicative system with both sending and receiving abilities. Meanings of symbols in message (verbal and nonverbal) were determined by the participants' experiences - so words only had meaning if one's experience enabled them to interpret the words used. Thus, in order for communication to occur effectively, both participants need to have similar experiences.

Schranun, Lyle and Parker (1961) - psychological view - first to study effects of television on children. Developed concept of incidental learning: learning takes place whether or not the television program were intended to be educational. Incidental learning is linked to a child's age, television habits, and learning abilities.

Westley and MacLean (1957) - psychological view - added to Newcomb's ABX model of social psychology. Indicated that a specific event was the starting point when communication was needed to restore balance. Placed mass media organizations between the source and destination of messages. Their model also formalized feedback loops in communication.

Social Cultural

Katz & Lazarsfeld (1955) - Two-Step Flow Model of Mass Communications - Landmark study that examined results of 1940 Erie County, Ohio election. Looked at 6-month panel survey of voting behavior and decision making. Found that people who changed mind most often did after speaking to others - opinion leaders - who obtained their information from the media. Later studies on everyday issues produced similar results.

Soloman (1980's) - Developed a model where the amount of learning that took place from a particular media was determined by three factors - perceived demand characteristics of an activity, perceived self-efficacy for using that medium, and amount of mental effort invested in processing the presentation. Predicted that students perceive printed materials as difficult and would invest more time in processing these materials, resulting in increased learning. He also predicted that students would perceive media as easy and make less effort to process the materials, resulting in decreased learning. Later studies determined that context of the material also was a variable in predicting learning, and that culture played a role in individual's expectations of the media.


Systems Inquiry
Post Modernism
Critical Theory