Selective Exposure to Communication

Selective Exposure to Communication

Selective Exposure to Communication

Selective Exposure to Communication

Excerpt

Research into what is usually referred to as "mass communication" has concentrated on the societal impact of the media. The ways in which these media influence people and affect their behavior have been at issue. For the most part, undesirable effects were pondered and documented. Only a few desirable effects received similar attention and scrutiny. The research preoccupation with impact has been so pronounced that, comparatively speaking, next to no attention has been paid to questions such as why people enjoy whatever they elect to watch or hear, and more fundamentally, why they elect to watch or hear, in the first place, whatever it is that they elect to watch or hear.

The commercial media institutions have in all probability collected a considerable amount of data in grappling with these "money questions." But the findings are, for the most part, not available to the academic community, and it is doubtful whether they would appreciably contribute to a general understanding of the principles that govern exposure behavior. Basic research on these questions seems to have been hampered by a number of factors, but mainly by academic prejudice. First and foremost, empirical-minded investigators have been most reluctant to tackle an issue as "frivolous" as entertainment. The news and persuasion of any kind were bona fide research topics. Research on the appeal of drama, sitcoms, soaps, and sporting events apparently lacked a sufficient degree of dignity. The fact that those in the humanities who generated proposals pertaining to the enjoyment of entertainment often failed to articulate them in such a way that they could be subjected to empirical verification -- whereas specific, testable hypotheses were advanced in persuasion research -- did not help matters. Additionally, techniques to study impact and even selective exposure to informative messages were fully developed, but procedures to deal . . .

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