UCI Tips for Creating Reading Responses and Concept Map Tips for Creating “Reading” Responses The purpose of these “reading” responses is to help you lear

UCI Tips for Creating Reading Responses and Concept Map Tips for Creating “Reading” Responses

The purpose of these “reading” responses is to help you learn and think about all of the course materials in relation to one another, as well as in relation to your own experiences. If you do these assignments with care, they are one of the best ways to gain a better grasp on the content of the course material.

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Each week you will be tasked with making a conceptual map of the course materials using freely available concept mapping software. Please choose a platform that will allow you to download or otherwise share your concept map with the rest of the class. During or after completing the course readings/videos for the week, you should make a concept map of the interrelationships among the various theories and topics covered in ALL of the course materials.

Next, please provide a reaction to the course materials. Your reaction and “processing” of the material is just as important as your concept map. If you feel like you’re having trouble coming up with something other than a summary for your reaction, try asking yourself some of the questions below to dig deeper.

How does the material relate to you? Can you make it connect to your life?
Do you agree with some/all of the material’s main points? Why or why not? Be specific and really explore those opinions in depth.
Is the author/speaker biased in any way? What could have caused it? Does this unfairly limit the scope of the material or leave out important points of view?

This kind of writing is not just saying whether or not you liked the material (though that can definitely be a part of your response), but why. Critical thinking and analysis (especially in regards to topics you have been covering in class) is important, and hopefully some of the above suggestions for questions to ask yourself will help you get started. 2
Media Effects Theories
An Overview
Patti M. Valkenburg and Mary Beth
Theories and research on the effects of media emerged under the umbrella concept
mass communication. This term arose during the 1920s as a result of the new
opportunities to reach audiences via the mass media (McQuail, 2010). In early mass
communication theories, mass not only refered to the “massness” of the audience
that media could reach but also to homogeneous media use and homogeneous
media effects, notions that are increasingly challenged in the contemporary media
landscape (Valkenburg, Peter & Walther, 2016). In the past two decades, media use
has become progressively individualized, and, with the introduction of Web 2.0,
decidedly more personalized. It is no surprise, therefore, that media effects theories
have undergone important adjustments in the past decades. And it is also no
surprise that the mass has turned increasingly obsolete in contemporary media
effects theories (Chaffee & Metzger, 2001).
The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of the most important media
effects theories that have been coined in the past decades and to chart changes in
these theories. We start by providing a definition of a media effects theory and
explaining the differences between media effects theories and models. In the second
section, we discuss the results of several bibliometric studies that have tried to point
out the most prominent media effects theories in central communication journals,
and, based on these studies we identify “evergreen” and upcoming theories. In the
third section, we discuss the communalities between contemporary media effects
theories along three potential characteristics of such theories: selectivity,
transactionality, and conditionality. We end with a discussion of the future of media
effects research, with a special focus on the necessity of the merger between media
effects and computer-mediated communication theories.
What Is a Media Effects Theory?
As Potter (2011) rightly observes in his review of the media effects literature, few
scholars have attempted to provide a formal definition of a media effect. We can add
to this observation that even fewer scholars have formulated a definition of a media
effects theory. Without such a definition, it is difficult to assess which theories
qualify as media effects theories and which do not. But to be able to document wellcited media effects theories that have been developed over the years, we first and
foremost need a definition of a media effects theory. We define such a theory as one
that attempts to explain the uses and effects of media on individuals, groups, or
societies as a whole. To be labeled a media effects theory, a theory at least needs to
conceptualize media use (or exposure to specific mediated messages or stories) and
the potential changes that this media use can bring about in individuals, groups, or
societies (i.e., the media effect). We define media use broadly as the intended or
incidental use of media channels (e.g., telephone, email), devices (e.g., smartphone,
game console), content/messages (e.g., games, narratives, advertising, news), or all
types of platforms, tools, or apps (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Uber). Media effects are
the deliberate and non-deliberate short and long-term individual or collective
changes in cognitions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior that result from media use
(Valkenburg et al., 2016).
Some media effects theories that fit within this definition have previously been
labeled as media effects models, oftentimes (but not always) because they are
accompanied by a pictorial model to explain the processes or relationships between
media use, media outcomes, and other relevant concepts, such as individual
differences or social-context variables (e.g., the Elaboration Likelihood Model, Petty
& Cacioppo, 1986; the Reinforcing Spiral Model; Slater, 2007). In other scholarly
publications, the labels theory and model are used interchangeably. For example, in
the previous edition of this book, some authors referred to the agenda setting model
(Tewksbury & Scheufele, 2009, p. 21), whereas others referred to agenda setting
theory (McCombs & Reynolds, 2009, p. 13). Although there are many conceptions
about the differences between theories and models within and beyond the
communication discipline, these conceptions do not seem to be helpful in
distinguishing media effects theories from models. In fact, all media effects models
that will be discussed in this chapter fit within our definition of media effects
theories. Therefore, although we will use the original labels of existing
models/theories (e.g., the Elaboration Likelihood Model versus cultivation theory),
we will use these labels without distinction.
Prominent Media Effects Theories
In the past 20 years, five bibliometric studies have tried to single out the most
prominent media effects theories in scholarly communication work (Bryant &
Miron, 2004; Chung, Barnett, Kim & Lackaff, 2013; Kamhawi & Weaver, 2003;
Potter, 2012; Walter, Cody & Ball-Rokeach, 2018). These bibliometric studies have
content-analyzed a varying number of communication journals to document, within
a certain time frame, which theories are most often cited in these journals. For
example, Bryant and Miron (2004) analyzed one issue per year from three
communication journals (Journal of Communication, Journal of Broadcasting and
Electronic Media, and Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly) from 1956 to
2000, Chung et al. (2013) analyzed all issues from four communication journals
from 2000 to 2009 (Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Human
Communication Research, and Communication Monographs), and Walter et al.
(2018) analyzed all issues from one communication journal (Journal of
Communication) from 1951 to 2016.
The bibliometric studies all focused on the prevalence of mass communication
theories rather than media effects theories specifically. Although both types of
theories are sometimes used interchangeably, the focus of mass communication
theories is decidedly broader than that of media effects theories. Generally, mass
communication theories do not only conceptualize the effects of mass
communication, but also its production, consumption, and distribution, as well as
the (changes in) policies surrounding mass communication. For example, in Bryant
and Miron’s (2004) analysis, mass communication was defined as “any scholarship
that examined processes, effects, production, distribution, or consumption of media
messages” (p. 663). In addition, whereas mass communication theories have
traditionally embraced both postpositivist and critical or cultural approaches
(Chaffee & Metzger, 2001), media effects theories are primarily associated with
postpositivist approaches. Postpositivists derive their quantitative research
methods from those developed in the physical sciences, but they do recognize that
humans and human behavior are not as constant and homogeneous as elements in
the physical world (Baran & Davis, 2010). Indeed, most chapters in this book rely on
theories or discuss research that stem from postpositivist approaches.
Some bibliometric studies did not only analyze (mass) communication theories, but
all theories, including those that originated in cognate disciplines. For example,
Bryant and Miron identified 604 theories in their analyzed journals, including
theories such as feminist theory, attribution theory, and Marxism. Likewise, Potter
(2012) found 144 different theories from within and beyond the communication
discipline, including theories like the availability heuristic, cognitive dissonance, and
self-perception (see also Potter & Riddle, 2007; Walter et al., 2018). According to
Potter, these theories all described “some aspect of the media effects phenomenon”
(p. 69). However, although all these theories may be helpful to explain media effects,
in themselves they cannot be considered media effects theories as defined in this
chapter. As discussed, a media effects theory at least needs to conceptualize media
use and the individual or collective changes that this media use brings about.
Despite the fact that the bibliometric studies used different classifications of
communication theories and analyzed different communication journals, together
they provide an indispensable picture of the use and development of media effects
theories in the past decades. Because media effects theories did play such a
dominant role in all bibliometric studies (Chung et al., 2013), we were able to
reanalyze the results of these studies with an exclusive focus on the media effects
theories that they identified. For example, of the 144 theories that Potter (2012)
identified, about one-fifth qualify as media effects theories according to our
Table 2.1 lists the media effects theories that have been identified as most prevalent
in the bibliometric studies. In ranking these theories, we opted to include the 1956–
2000 period reported by Bryant and Miron (2004) and the most recent years
(2010–2016) from Walter et al.’s (2018) study so as to provide a picture of changes
and trends within the discipline. However, in listing these theories, it is important to
note that their ranking should be understood in general terms rather than as
necessarily representing stark or significant differences. First, some of the theories
listed were “tied” in terms of their frequencies. For example, in Bryant and Miron’s
(2004) analysis, agenda setting and uses and gratifications had 61 citations each,
and medium dependency and linear theory had 16 citations each; in Kamhawi and
Weaver’s (2003) analysis, priming and knowledge gap theory were mentioned in
fewer than 1.5% of the articles sampled. Second, even when theories differed in
terms of their prevalence, some of these differences are so small as to warrant
caution in their interpretation. For example, in Chung et al.’s (2013) analysis,
cultivation theory was associated with 68 mentions, and agenda setting was
associated with 65 mentions. Finally, in some analyses, different theories were
sometimes grouped together with similar theories in a common category, thereby
increasing their prominence in the rankings. For example, in Walter et al.’s (2018)
study, the “narrative theory” was employed to refer to articles that employed
theories or concepts such as transportation, entertainment education, and character
Table 2.1 Prominent Media Effect Theories Listed in Five Bibliometric Studies to
Document Communication Theories
Evergreen Media Effects Theories
As Table 2.1 reveals, six media effects theories have held up fairly well over the past
decades, and so they can rightly be named “evergreen theories.” These theories
showed up as top-cited theories in both the earliest bibliometric study (time frame
1956–2000; Bryant & Miron, 2004), and in two to four bibliometric studies that
covered subsequent periods: cultivation theory (Gerbner, 1969), agenda setting
theory (McCombs & Shaw, 1972), diffusion of innovations theory (Rogers, 1962),
uses and gratifications theory (Katz, Blumler & Gurevitch, 1973; Rosengren, 1974),
social learning/social cognitive theory (1986), and media system dependency
theory (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976).
Other theories that were identified as well-cited theories in the bibliometric studies
are two-step flow theory (Lazarsfeld, Berelson & Gaudet, 1948), knowledge gap
theory (Tichenor, Donohue & Olien, 1970), spiral of silence theory (NoelleNeumann, 1974), priming theory (Berkowitz, 1984), third-person effects (Davison,
1983), the Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986), framing theory
(Entman, 1993), and the limited capacity model (Lang, 2000). Table 2.2 gives a short
description of the well-cited media effects theories identified in the bibliometric
studies, listed according to the dates in which they were originally coined.
Table 2.2 Prominent Media Effects Theories and Their Google Citations
Changes in the Prominence of Theories over Time
When comparing the results of the five bibliometric studies summarized in Table
2.1, some theories appear to have lost their appeal over the years. One such theory
is Lasswell’s (1948) model of communication that was listed as one of the top-cited
theories in Bryant and Miron’s (2004) analysis but lost that status in the more
recent bibliometric studies. The same holds for other classic, linear media effects
models, such as Shannon and Weaver’s (1949) mathematical model of
communication. Another theory that was present in Bryant and Miron, but which
lost its influence after the 1970s, is McLuhan’s medium (or sense-extension) theory
(McLuhan, 1964). By means of his aphorism, “the medium is the message,” McLuhan
theorized that media exert their influence primarily by their modalities (e.g., text,
aural, audiovisual) and not so much by the content they deliver. His theory probably
lost its appeal among media effects researchers because research inspired by his
theory often failed to produce convincing results (Clark, 2012; Valkenburg et al.,
2016). Although no one can deny that modality is an essential feature of media and
technologies (Sundar & Limperos, 2013), media effects are often a result of a
combination of features, among which content plays a prominent role. It is probably
no surprise that “Content is King” is still one of the more popular adages in modern
Another change over time suggested by the bibliometric studies is the “cognitive
turn” in media effects theories coined in the 1980s and 1990s. This increased
attention to internal cognitive processes of media users is at least in part a result of
the cognitive revolution in psychology that started in the 1950s in reaction to
behaviorism (Gardner, 1985). Behaviorism (or stimulus-response theory) is a
learning theory that argues that all human behaviors are involuntary responses to
rewarding and punishing stimuli in the environment. What happens in the mind
during exposure to these stimuli is a “black box” and is irrelevant to study.
In the 1980s and 1990s, several media effects theories have tried to open the black
box between media use and media outcomes (e.g., priming theory, Berkowitz, 1984;
the limited capacity model, Lang et al., 1995; the Elaboration Likelihood Model,
Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). At the time, scholars started to acknowledge that in order
to validly assess whether (or not) media can influence individuals, they need to
know why and how this happens. This new generation of theories acknowledged
that media effects are indirect (rather than direct). More specifically, they argued
that the cognitive mental states of the viewer act as a mediating (or intervening)
variable between media use and media outcomes. Indeed, these new theories
recognized that the mental states of the media user play a crucial role in explaining
media effects.
In the same period, some classic media effects theories were adjusted to better
acknowledge cognitions in the media effects process, sometimes by the author him
or herself and sometimes by others. For example, in Bryant and Miron’s bibliometric
study, Bandura’s theory was still named social learning theory (Bandura, 1977).
This early version of his theory had its roots in behaviorism, which is evident, for
example, from its unconditional emphasis on rewarding and punishing stimuli to
realize behavioral change. In the 1980s, Bandura modified his theory and renamed
it social cognitive theory to better describe how internal cognitive processes can
increase or decrease learning (Bandura, 1986). In addition, although cultivation
theory is an all-time favorite and its name is still current, over the past few decades
researchers have proposed numerous adaptations to the theory to better
understand how, why, and when cultivation effects occur. For example, Shrum
(1995) has argued for the integration of cultivation theory in a cognitive
information processing framework. According to Potter (2014), the adaptations of
cultivation theory are so numerous and extensive that its original set of
propositions may have gotten glossed over. Indeed, there appears to be only
minimal overlap between the macro-level, sociological cultivation theory that
Gerbner (1969) proposed and the more recent micro-level, psychological
interpretations of the same theory (Ewoldsen, 2017; Potter, 2014).
Upcoming Media Effects Theories
Although highly informative, together the five bibliometric studies either do not
(Bryant & Miron, 2004; Kamhawi & Weaver, 2003; Potter, 2012) or only partly
cover the past decade of media effects research (Chung et al., 2013; Walter et al.,
2018). The most recent study by Walter et al. (2018) does cover publications that
appeared up to 2016. But due to their study’s broader scope, they only focused on
research papers and omitted theoretical papers from their analysis, whereas these
latter papers typically are the ones in which new media effects theories are coined.
Given the rapid changes in media technologies in the past decade, it is highly
relevant to investigate whether this recent period has witnessed an upsurge in
novel or adjusted media effects theories. After all, as media technologies change,
“new theories may be needed with which to understand the communication
dynamics that these technologies involve” (Walther, Van Der Heide, Hamel &
Shulman, 2009, p. 230).
To identify upcoming media effects theories, we conducted an additional
bibliometric analysis, in which we included the same 14 communication journals as
the most extensive earlier analysis did (Potter, 2012; see Potter & Riddle, 2007). To
capture theories and research that are particularly relevant to newer
communication technologies, we included an additional communication journal: the
Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. To identify highly cited articles in
these 15 journals, we used the “highly cited paper” option provided by the citation
indexing service Web of Science (WoS). Highly cited papers in WoS reflect articles in
the last ten years that were ranked in the top 1% within the same field of research
(e.g., communication) and published in the same year (Clarivate Analytics, 2017). An
advantage of this analysis is that, within the designated ten-year period, older and
recent papers are treated equally. Whereas in regular citation analyses older papers
typically outperform more recent ones, the algorithm of WoS controls for this
“seniority bias.”
Our analysis yielded 93 highly cited papers in these 15 journals.2 Of these papers,
about half involved media effects papers, which underscores the relevance of media
effects research in the communication discipline. Most of these effects papers were
empirical papers that used one or more existing theories to guide their research.
However, a small percentage (about 10%) either introduced a new media effects
theory or extended one or more existing theories. Some of these theoretical papers
focused on media use in general (e.g., the reinforcing spiral model, Slater, 2007; the
Differential Susceptibility Model of Media Effects, Valkenburg & Peter, 2013). Others
dealt with specific types of media use, such as exposure to news (e.g., framing
theory, Entman, 2007; the communication mediation model, Shah et al., 2017),
persuasive messages (e.g., the model of psychological reactance to persuasive
messages, Rains, 2013), or communication technology (extensions of spiral of
silence theory and two-step flow theory, Neubaum & Krämer, 2017; the uses and
gratifications theory 2.0, Sundar & Limperos, 2013).
A first noticeable trend revealed by the highly cited media effects papers is the
emergence of theories that attempt to explain the uses and effects of media
entertainment (for a similar observation, see Walter et al., 2018; Table 2.1). Some of
these th…
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