Communication Free Study Material (UGC NET Paper 1 Updated Notes 2020)

The sociological approach to communication theory is based on assumption that there exists a definite relationship between mass communication and social change. Some of the relevant theories which are going to be discussed here are :

1. The cultivation theory
The cultivation theory was proposed by George Gerbner. It is one of the core theories of media effects. The theory tried to understand how media affects people’s perception. According to the research, media cultivates and shapes viewers perception of social reality. According to the theory, people who watch television frequently are more likely to be influenced by the messages from the world of television. The influence goes to such an extent that their world view and perceptions start reflecting what they repeatedly see and hear on television.

2. Social Learning Theory
The theory originated as part of a psychological study and analysis of social behavior in criminology, Albert Bandura has been its chief proponent. It is one of the most widely used theories in mass communication. According to this theory the media are active but subtle educators in teaching readers, viewers, listeners about the world. An important component of this theory is that it explains how people can learn from observations alone.

3. Agenda Setting Theory
The term was coined by Maxwell McCombs and Donald L Shaw in 1972 in the context of election campaign where the politicians seek to convince the voters about the party’s most important issues. In its most basic sense, agenda setting is the creation of public awareness and concern of salient issues by the news media.
The two most basic assumptions of agenda setting are:
i. the press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it;
ii. media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues. The time frame for this is one of the most critical aspects of the agenda setting role in mass communications.
Mass communication creates mass culture. Agenda setting is the ability of media to determine salience of issues with news, through a cognitive process called “accessibility”, which is the process of retrieving an issue in the memory.
Setting an agenda is also influenced by a person’s perception to certain beliefs. For example, a person who is highly sensitive to political issues would regard political news as important.

4. Play Theory
In this theory of mass communication William Stephenson counters those who speak of the harmful effects of the mass media by arguing that first and foremost the media serve audiences as play experiences. Even newspapers, says Stephenson are read for pleasure rather than information or enlightenment. He sees media as buffer against conditions which would otherwise be anxiety producing. The media provides “Communication-pleasure”

5. Uses and Gratification Theory
This theory has emerged out of the studies which shifted their focus from what media do to the people to what people do with media. The uses and gratification theory suggests that audience members actively pursue particular media to satisfy their own needs. “Researchers focus their attention, then, on how audiences use the media rather than how the media affect audiences”.

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