Why is it that we are being bombarded with the idea that the media is rotting our brains…?
…That it is making us fat…?
A significant part of this can be related back to the Media Effects Model. What is the Media Effects Model? The Media Effects Model outlines how being subject to media can alter a person’s behaviour. However, as David Gauntlett explains, in “Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’“, there are at least 10 significant issues in regards to its integrity.
To compress this lengthy list into something more digestible, we can say that the Effects Model usually simply doesn’t prove its findings in a way that is accurate. To draw from the list of ten, some of the problems include that it generally treats mass media viewers as weak and highly persuadable, studies are often conducted in artificial, unrealistic environments, and children are often, as, Gauntlett said: “negatively defined as non-adults“. An example of an effects model study can be found in this extract of a Supernanny UK episode.
So what are the questions we should be asking?
The key here is not to start with the MEDIA, but to start with the INDIVIDUAL. If we want to understand what the effects of the media really are, we need to ask ourselves different questions: i.e. “Why is this person violent?” rather than: “Does the media make people violent?” There are infinite reasons for a person to be violent, not just violent video games. For example, upbringing, mental health. Causality, the relationship between primary and secondary effects, seems to be mostly muddied by prejudice and ineffectual methodology, rather than being based on provable, logical fact.
The effects model, for the most part, appears based on superstition. Asking the right questions is the beginning to finding out how or if media really does affect media consumers.