Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Possible Explanation for the "Effects Method"

As Graber points out, the impact of the media on adult and child behavior is, though certainly existent, oddly vague. In his Ten Things Wrong with the Media Effects Model, David Gauntlett here describes his reasoning behind why this is the case. Though this is not his first theory on the issue – before this article he published an argument that there is simply no effect to be found – Gauntlett here suggests that researchers are just doing things wrong. Though Gauntlett is a British professor (of media and communications) and therefore is probably most closely addressing British media, his argument may be a fair explanation (or at least theory) for Graber’s issue of elusiveness in what Gauntlett is calling the “effects method.”

Briefly summarized, Gauntlett’s ten major points suggest that:

1) Researchers are studying backwards; instead of looking to the media first and seeing how it impacts people (most notably children), they ought to look to people who have acted out and study their media-influenced backgrounds. He uses the example of violent teens to drive home the point that this is a more effective method of research.

2) Children and adults ought to be tested similarly so as to prove or disprove similarities in test results; regardless of developmental stages, children can be used as a tool to better measure media impact.

3) A conservative tone is being cast over “the more contemporary and challenging aspects of the mass media” as the sources of negative media influence.

4) Effects model has allowed itself to define its own terms and, in doing so has created guidelines that lead to easily misinterpreted or understated data.

5) Real, in-depth studies are expensive and time consuming. As a result, researchers have taken shortcuts in their studies so much that the results are now difficult to trust.

6) Methodology in this field has been known to be faulty or inaccurately interpreted. Oftentimes steps are performed but difficult to prove and thus suggest that something important has been skipped or overlooked.

7) Violence is generally only criticized when posed in a fictional setting. For some reason, real violence shown in news broadcast is not included in study evaluation and criticism.

8) Those conducting effects method research tend to deny that they, like their study participants, have been impacted by the media. This is ironic because these researchers are exposed to the media more than most.

9) The effects model suggests that the media has one singular message and that, judging from their data, researchers can identify this message clearly.

10) “The effects model is not grounded in theory.” No one has ever tried to answer the question of “why” the media influences us; instead the focus has always been on “how.”

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