The science behind the “Media Effects” model.

A model is defined in the Collins dictionary as “a simplified representation or description of a system or complex entity, esp one designed to facilitate calculations and predictions.”(2014) Being a scientist at heart, in trying to understand the ground work research which has led to the development of this model, I find myself somewhat disappointed.
The very use of the word “model” is confusing, in that it seems that researcher haven’t yet properly described the effects of the media on the behaviour on the masses, and for the most part can’t even define at what point an act becomes violent. Most attempts to apply the concept of the “media effects” model have come up with conflicting results (Gauntlett 1998) and, as scientific research goes, most of the “research attempts” have been made completely invalid by their poor design and failure to account for variables. For starter, their attempts to define what is the cause and what is the effect is in the most part shallow, most often twisted to the results they hope to produce. Never has any study conclusively proven that it is in fact the exposure to violence in the media that causes a affinity for violence, rather than an affinity for violence causing viewers to choose more violent programs, which lies at the heart of the issue. The model also fails to take into account the complex and variable nature of the individual, choosing rather to attempt to make generalizations for the cohort as a whole.
In any good scientific experiment or act of research, for it to be valid and reproducible, all variables must be carefully controlled (McCloughan 2001). Due to the nature of the human experience, any experiment or attempt to control all the variables of humans’ reaction to something such as violence in the media, such as their age, gender, social status, family life, economic and emotional welfare becomes somewhat of an exercise in futility. Any attempts to take a generalized approach to society as a whole by testing all the different individuals and coming up with an average result will lead to the creation of a model that works of the large scale, but fails to accurately predict the response to media violence of any one individual. Which raises the question, if no one individual will react as the model indicates, what purpose does the model serve?
Even the act of collecting the data when conducting research into “media effect” changes the accuracy of the results. For example, a young male might answer differently to a female interviewer than if it were and older male doing the interview. Even if the results are collected via the simple, non-obtrusive manners such as observation, several studies have reported inconsistent relationships between personality variables and such responses to violent or anti-social scenes.(Zillmann 1994)
To sum it up in so many words, the main flaw with the “media effects” is that it aims to put the science into something, for the most part, scientifically undefinable.

(2014). model. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition, HarperCollins Publishers.

Gauntlett, D. (1998). Ten Things Wrong With the ‘Effects Model’, in Approaches to Audiences Approaches to Audiences – A Reader. London, Arnold.

McCloughan, G. (2001). “Reliability and validity – what do they mean?” Curriculum Support 6(3).

Zillmann, J. B. a. D. (1994). The Question of Media Violence. Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research. Hillsdale, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


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