Good Functional Theory Report Example

Type of paper: Report

Topic: Media, Theory, Society, Information, Development, Belief, Influence, Effect

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2020/12/05


Media-effect theories conceptualized the effects of media on the society. These empirical theories developed because they were more credible than speculative theories earlier used in media research

The theory paints media as part of several factors defining societal behavior (Schultz, Duane, Sydney & Schultz, 2003). It was founded by Lazarsfeld.


This theory has been said to have many strengths and weaknesess as listed below
• Views media as part of a larger influencing system in society (Baran & Dennis, 2002).
• Views the effect of media in society as a balanced phenomena
• Based on Empirical research (Magazine Publishers of America, 2000)
Unconvincing assumptions that functions can offset dysfunctions
• Not conclusive on the definitive role of media in the society
The use of empirical research makes theory is relatively popular with social scientist. They need to make it easier to quantify the actual contribution of media in the society.

Attitude-Change Theory

The theory was developed by Lazarsfeld (Carter & Weaver, 2003). It was based on the postulation that media influence choices people make. It has been established to have many strengths and weaknesses.

• Pays attention to process of message effect

• Considers individual differences in media influence (Baran & Dennis, 2002).
• Attention to how information is processed by individuals

• Possible manipulation of variables

• No focus on contemporary symbolic media (Yusof, Esmaeil, & Shahizah, 2014)
• Uses attitude change only as measure of media influence
Researches do a lot in establishing how media influence thinking of the society. They, however fail to take into account other factors that may influence the society to think in a particular way other than the media.

Information Flow Theory

The information flow theory was developed by DeFleur (McClure, Tomlin, Cypert, Montague, & Montague, 2004). It is based on the finding that availability of information is important for the safety and well-being of the masses. It has many strengths and weaknesses as indicated bellow

• Realistic in examining concept of mass communication

• Provides basis for public information campaigns
• Isolates information flow barriers
• Aids understanding of information flow in times of crisis

• Too simplistic

• Assumption of an ignorant populace not accurate
• Tend to accept status quo (Baran & Dennis, 2002).
The theory fails to focus on the actual effect of media and instead emphasizes the advantages of media to the society. Researchers need to do more on this

Two-Step flow Theory

The two-step flow theory was developed by Katz and Lazarsfeld and states that environment influences effect of media on society. Below are the strengths and weaknesses of the theory

• Explores hoe environment affect media effect

• Uses opinion leaders in obtaining public opinion
• Inductive reasoning (Baran & Dennis, 2014)
• Challenges assumptions of direct effect

• Don not consider modern forms of media such as Television

• Assume reported behavior is ultimate indication of media effect
• Underestimate media impact due to use of survey methods
Researchers address the critical issue of the how the environment influences interaction with the media. More research needs to be done using modern media forms such as the television

Phenomenistic theory

This theory was developed by Joseph Klapper after an intensive research. It states that there are factors her than media that influence social behavior in the society. A number of key strengths and weaknesses have been attributed to this theory

• Very convincing due to thorough research (Baran & Dennis, 2002)

• Roles of media clearly defined
• Persuasive theory

• Influence of Media factors overestimated

• Accepts status quo (Baran & Dennis)
• Ignores reinforcement as effect of media
• Too time specific
Research adopts s a reasonable approach that takes into account other factors influencing media effect on the society. Needs to be more general in terms of time

Mass Entertainment theory

The mass entertainment theory was formulated by Developed by Harold Mendelsohn. It is based on the finding that media provides relief from tension associated with life. Analysts have been able to isolate some of the strengths and weaknesses of the theory.

• Emphasizes prosaically influence of media

• Gives explanation for entertainment in media

• Accepts status quo

• Paints a bad picture of the average person’s use of media (Baran & Dennis, 2002)
The theory adopts the common belief that entertainment is important to relieve tension associated with stressing life activities. This makes it easy for the audience to connect with it. More focus needed on the actual effect of media on the population.

Systems Theory

This theory was developed by Harold Lowell who did a lot of research on media and the society. The theory is based on the hypothesis that communication systems operate in parts. It thus presents communication as a process that is made up of many components that come together to process information.
Harold makes a lot of progress in his effort to create a better understanding of the interaction between people and information. This theory, however, appears to be dehumanizing.

The Media-Effects Trend

Over the years, social scientists have developed numerous theories to help in the study of media. These theories were developed from the media-effect trend, which was a conceptualization of the media based on the effects it had on the society. From as early as nineteen twenty eight, sociologists and educationists, concerned that the media was going to have massive negative influences on the society, embarked on an empirical study to show these negative effects. Research was conducted to show how movies affected the thinking of children molding them into violent and irresponsible people. It is these early research projects that laid ground for the theories commonly used in media studies today. Early theories in media research were based on post positivist approaches to research (Baran & Dennis, 2002). The main reason for these theories was that they were considered more superior than speculative approaches that did not have clearly defined data on causes and effects. Some of the early post positivist theorists were Campbell, DeFleur, Larsen, Katz and Lazarsfeld.

Functionalist Theory

The functionalist theory was one of the most common theories advanced to explain the media effects in the society. The theory had been used in various other research works as and was fast gaining popularity when media concerns began to capture the attention of social science researchers. The functional theory was based on the postulation that the media is part of a larger system that determines how the society behaves. The media operated together with other forces to define the society. It had just as much influence on the society as these other forces and, therefore, could not function in isolation to determine the destiny of a society (Schultz, Duane, Sydney & Schultz, 2003). According to the theory, the media had both positive and negative impacts on the society. It was therefore highly likely that the destructive effects of the media would be offset by its numerous benefits to the society.
Functionalism was often demonstrated by use of the success America had shown in World War II as a result of its advanced technology. It was often argued that America had emerged from World War II a more powerful nation. They had an edge over other countries in terms of technology development (Magazine Publishers of America, 2000). The same had influenced industrialization and information technology raising the living standards of Americans to greater heights. But this perceived success in technology also brought with it myriad problems. It led to population explosion as the American success attracted more immigrants. Social problems began to emerge in the American society with crime rates sky rocketing.
The proponents of this theory are right by adopting the reasonable position that there are many factors influencing the thinking of the society. The theory, however, fails to give the definitive role of the media in the society. It has thus been dismissed as conclusive by some scholars.

Attitude Change Theory

The popularity of empirical research among theorists and social scientists in the early 20th century transformed various social theories. Lazarsfeld was one of the theorists who contributed to the development of the attitude change theory. Others were Joseph Klapper and Frank Stanton. They advanced the theory of attitude change by conducting research on how the media influenced presidential voting. Lararsfield determined that media influence the choices people made. This depended mostly on the amount of publicity the subject matter in question received (Carter & Weaver, 2003). Another researcher that made unprecedented contributions to this theory was Hovland.
The Attitude-Change theory was established out of an empirical process that was based on a number of factors. It mainly concerned itself with the processes that made information from the media effective (Yusof, Esmaeil, & Shahizah, 2014). It looked at how the media influenced the attitude of people on the basis of how it was delivered. The Attitude-Change theory sought to explain how different people processed information and how they use the information to make decisions. This was important in determining the overall effects of media on the social behavior of individuals (Harriger, Calogero, & Witherington, 2010). The research to establish the Attitude-change theory was based on different aspects of media.
However, there has been a lot of transformation in terms of media coverage and content over the years (Robinson, Borzekowsi, Matheson, & Kraemer, 2007). Today the scenario is completely different. The existence of many media outlets makes it possible for individuals to get more accurate information and to vet and question such materials from the media as they find incredible. The type of movies shown has also change and so is the news content. Such content is less restricted today. This means that media influence could be more grounded today than it was when the theory was developed.
This theory has been known to have numerous weaknesses. One such weakness is that when researching on the media, the environments in which consumers of the media operate may have immense influence on the variables used in the research. This could have led to inaccurate findings affecting the credibility of the results upon which this theory was founded. Secondly, the research ignored the contemporary symbolic media and focused on information obtained through media messages. Lastly, the researcher relied too much on attitude change as the ultimate determinant of media influence. This ignores the more subtle effects of media on individuals, some of which could define the overall effects of media on attitude change.
This theory has been praised for its important findings on how the media influences the thinking of the society. The theory however ignores how other factors in the community, other than the media may influence attitude change.

The Information-Flow Theory

This theory took shape in the nineteen fifties when scientists developed interest in the concept of information flow. It was established as a result of numerous research studies by DeFleur. The research was based on how fast people got to know about new information communicated through the media. The research was also based on empirical methods advanced Lazarsfeld in his earlier studies. The social scientists who undertook studies on the information flow theory submitted that the survival of a country depended on how conveniently information was disseminated to its citizens (McClure, Tomlin, Cypert, Montague, & Montague, 2004).
During the cold war, it was believed that accessibility to information was critical to the average American as they needed to be updated on the potential dangers and attacks associated with the cold war. This theory was also based on the basic democratic ideal that people need to make informed political decisions and this depended mainly on the information they had about the individuals they elected to office. This study indicated that poor use of the media due to illiteracy could hinder access to vital information that would otherwise be available to everyone.
This theory was held as important because it helped researchers identify various barriers to information. It also enables authorities concerned with information to launch successful public awareness campaigns on the need for information. This theory has also been used to enable social scientists understand the challenges of information flow during crises such as disasters and terrorism activities.
But the theory had its weaknesses too. One was that its simplistic nature made it susceptible to errors bringing its credibility to question. The theory also assumed that the masses were ignorant and uneducated.
The research on the genera effect of information on the society was a milestone. The researches succeed in drawing a nexus between information and societal success. Still, they fail to quantify the effect of information flow on the society.

The two-Step Flow Theory

This theory focused on the environment in which media operated. The theory was formulated by Katz and Lazarsfeld (Baran & Dennis, 2014). It sought to determine the environment that enabled media effects to take root in the society and those that did not. Its major weakness was that it focused only on the television as a media outlet and ignored other forms of media.
The Two-Step theory has been faulted for a number of reasons. The hypothesis that information in the society flows from the more active members of the society, the opinion leaders, to the rest of the members has been challenged. Recent studies have indicated that in most cases, information would flow directly from its source, the media, to the people.

Phenomenistic Theory

This theory was developed by Joseph Klapper. According to the theory, media does not have any direct effect on the society. Other factors such as education and social status affect the society more. Some of the strengths of this theory are that it is very convincing. It discredits the society’s notions about propaganda and other negative media campaigns (Baran & Dennis, 2014).
The theory has, however, been criticized for failing to take into account other media outlets. It was based on a period when the television had not become popular. This theory has also been criticized for downplaying some important media effects and for being too specific in time.

Mass Entertainment Theory

This theory was invented by Harold Mendelsohn. He argued that television offered people relief from other boring activities. He states that if this form of entertainment did not exist, people would not have a good way to relieve tension. This theory has been hailed for putting emphasis on the prosocial influence of the media. But it has also been criticized for painting a negative and misleading picture about how the average people use media.

The Systems Theory

Harold Laswell was one of the social scientists who contributed to the development of the Systems Theory. The theory is based on the belief that communication systems function in parts. The Systems theory is considered strong because it can be conceptualized at different levels (Baran & Dennis). It also represents communication as a process. It, however, makes it difficult to assess casual relationships. It is also perceived by many people as overly dehumanizing.


Baran, J. & Dennis, K. D. (2002)Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future, 7th Edition
Carter, C., & Weaver, C. K., eds (2003), Violence and the Media, Maidenhead: Open University Press
Harriger, J.A., R.M. Calogero, D.C. Witherington et al. 2010. Body size stereotyping and the internalization of the thin ideal in preschool girls. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 63: 1-5
Magazine Publishers of America, (2000) Market Profile: Teenagers! (NY: Magazine Publishers of America)
McClure, S. M., Li, J., Tomlin, D., Cypert, K. S., Montague, L. M., & Montague, P. R. (2004). Neural correlates of behavioral preference for culturally familiar drinks, Neuron, 44, 379–387.
Robinson, T. N., Borzekowsi, D. L., Matheson, D. M., & Kraemer, H. C. (2007). Effects of fast food branding on young children’s taste preferences. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 161, 792–797
Schultz, Duane P., & Sydney E. Schultz (2003). Theories of Personality. 9th ed. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole Pub., 1976. Print.
Yusof, N., Esmaeil, Z. J. & Shahizah, I. H. (2014). "Continued Visual Objectification: The Image of the Fair Sex in Occidental Advertisements." Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences 5.20: n. pag. Web.

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