of scholarly concern about television effects studies have been
both tendentious and critical. Their relative importance is reflected
in the following from a 1948 paper by Harold Laswell: "A convenient
way to describe an act of communication is to answer the following
questions: Who Says What In Which Channel
To Whom With What Effect?"
as it is applied to television typically becomes either how is society
different because television is part of it?, or how are individuals
or specific groups of people different because they live in a world
where television has been provided? The first of these questions
may be thought of as a matter of media effect upon society; the
second, a matter of media effect upon the development or status
of individual people.
Effects of television
then may be social or psychological and developmental. They may
also be short-term and long term. Walter Weiss, writing in the second
edition (1969) of the Handbook of Social Psychology, discussed
effects literature under ten headings: (1)cognition, (2) comprehension,
(3) emotional arousal, (4) identification, (5) attitude, (6) overt
behavior, (7) interests and interest-related behavior, (8) public
taste, (9) outlook and values, (10) family life.
For the most
part, such effects, however they are characterized, have been studied
in the haphazard fashion characterized by the funding priorities
of governments and non-profit foundations. For example, there have
been many efforts to assess the effect of the availability of television
upon the developmental processes in children. In 1963, for instance,
the British Home Office established its Television Research Committee
with sociologist J. D. Halloran as its secretary. The effects of
television were to be studied as both immediate and cumulative,
with separate attention paid to perceptions of TV, its content and
its function for viewers.
One area that
has been heavily studied and produced an extensive research literature
addresses the specific issue of violence, especially the connection
between television treatment of violence and its manifestation in
society. This work addresses the issue: will portrayals of violent
behaviors result in members of the viewing audience becoming more
violent in their relationships with others? This issue is often
related to other presumed connections between the models projected
by television and various modes of perception and behavior. Thus
the way that women and minorities are presented in various television
programs may be connected by some researchers to the ways these
groups are perceived by viewers in other groups and by the group
Just as the
presence or absence of a medium or some particular of program content
(e.g. violence) can be considered capable of producing effects in
an audience, so can such technological innovations as pay-per-view,
satellite delivery, three dimensional presentation, stereo sound,
interactive television, etc. Any of these technological innovations
may be linked in a research question with special viewing populations
and special samples of program materials in attempts to determine
whether or not the shift in technology has an effect on subsequent
behavior or attitude.
Effects research is grounded in various forms of social scientific
analysis and often depends on such techniques as controlled experiments,
surveys, and observations. As a result, findings are often in dispute.
Challenges to methods or design or sample size are used to call
results into question and clear, incontrovertible conclusions are
difficult to establish. Particularly with regard to research focused
on children, or on the role of televised violence, these philosophical
and scientific difficulties have made it almost impossible to develop
broadcasting policies based on research findings.
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James E., editor. Handbook of Radio and TV Broadcasting: Research
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