Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

A Social Cognitive Theory of Internet Uses and Gratifications: Toward a New Model of Media Attendance

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

A Social Cognitive Theory of Internet Uses and Gratifications: Toward a New Model of Media Attendance

Article excerpt

The addition of the Internet to the electronic media environment has renewed interest in the question of media attendance: the factors that explain and predict individual exposure to the media. Much of the research has been carried out by followers of the uses and gratifications tradition, who anticipated the medium as an exemplar of active media selection that could further validate the core tenets of that paradigm (Morris & Ogan, 1996; Newhagen & Rafaeli, 1996; Ruggerio, 2000). Instead, Internet research has introduced new conceptual and operational approaches and new variables that now challenge some of the basic assumptions, procedures, and findings of uses and gratifications. However, these findings have yet to be integrated into a comprehensive model of media attendance. Moreover, these relationships have been explored among college student samples and must now be extended to the general online population. The present research proposes and tests a model of media attendance inspired by Bandura's (1986) Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) that builds upon the conventional uses and gratifications approach by clarifying important explanatory constructs and identifying new ones.

Uses and Gratifications Meet the Internet

Numerous studies (e.g. Charney & Greenberg, 2001; Chou & Hsiao, 2000; Dimmick, Kline & Stafford, 2000; Eighmey & McCord, 1998; Ferguson & Perse, 2000; Flanagin & Metzger, 2001; Kaye, 1998; Korgaonkar & Wolin, 1999; LaRose, Mastro & Eastin, 2001; Lin, 1999; Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000; Parker & Plank, 2000; Perse & Greenberg-Dunn, 1998; Song, LaRose, Eastin & Lin, 2004; Stafford & Stafford, 2001) have applied uses and gratifications to the Internet. Collectively, these studies upheld one of the model's basic propositions (Palmgreen, Wenner & Rosengren, 1985), that gratifications sought explain individual media exposure. However, many Internet-related studies have also reconfirmed a basic weakness of uses and gratifications: They did not explain media exposure very well. Consistent with uses and gratifications studies of other media (cf. Palmgreen, Wenner, & Rosengren, 1985), the Internet studies that hewed most closely to the uses and gratifications tradition have explained less than 10% of the variance in Internet usage from gratifications (e.g., Ferguson & Perse, 2000; Kaye, 1998; Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000; Parker & Plank, 2000).

That the Internet is in many ways a unique medium has not escaped the attention of researchers. The time-honored list of gratifications derived from early television studies (notably, Greenberg, 1974; Rubin, 1983) has been expanded to explore unique facets of the Internet medium. For example, Papacharissi and Rubin (2000) proposed interpersonal communication gratifications, recognizing that communication functions like e-mail and chatrooms are common modes of Internet usage. Korgaonkar and Wolin (1999) found dimensions of information, interactive, and economic control. Other new gratification dimensions have included: problem solving, persuading others, relationship maintenance, status seeking, and personal insight (Flanagin & Metzger, 2001); Song et al.'s (2004) virtual community gratification; Charney and Greenberg's (2001) coolness, sights and sounds, career, and peer identity factors; and Stafford and Stafford's (2001) search and cognitive factors. Stafford and Stafford (2001) achieved a modest increase (to 21%) in the variance explained in Internet usage, mostly from the addition of a search factor (i.e., that accessing search engines was an important motivation for using the Internet) to more conventional information seeking and entertainment gratifications.

Others innovated with conceptual and operational definitions, creating what might be called prospective, or expected, gratifications. These ask respondents what they expect from the Internet in the future as opposed to those that they seek in the present or have obtained in the past. …

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