Unit 4 - Direct Effects

General Purpose:  To understand Direct Effects research and the
early attempts to explain how media affect the way we think, feel,
and behave across a wide variety of contexts.

Unit Outline

I.   In The Beginning . . . the Direct Effects Perspective

     A.   Earliest perspective to address effects - pioneers
     B.   Got involved because of what happened during WWI (British
          propaganda against Germans manipulated public opinion to
          sway the US to get involved.)

     C.   Hitler used the mass media to influence as well -
          incredible impact

II.  Magic Bullet Theory (DeFleur & Ball-Rokeach, 1989)

     A.   Process of the Theory (Drug) - media shoots magic bullets
          into the audience, hits, and changes them.

     B.   Three Assumptions

          1.   Will have a large effect on people
          2.   Effect is direct (can't resist, you're just a
          3.   Uniform effect (doesn't matter whether you are
               young or old, effects equally)

III. Payne Fund Studies - Payne left a fund to investigate the
     impact of film on kids.  10 volumes published by different
     researchers during the 1920's.  These methods are still used
     A.   The Context of the Time 

          1.   1920 - birth of film (silent movies).  People did
               not grasp the new technology; it confused them.
          2.   Birth of social science - looking at human behavior
               to see if there were any consistencies

     B.   Rationale for Study - try to understand the impact of
          movies on kids (8-15 year olds)

     C.   Some General Results

          1.   Audience and Movie Content - Edgar Dale did a
               content analysis of all movies made through 1929
               (1,500 titles).  Conclusion - there are three kinds
               of movies - crime, sex, and love.  Difference
               between sex and love movies - marital status.

          2.   Effects on Thinking 

          3.   Effects on Feeling - measured arousal by skin
               conductivity.  Kids had an emotional response when
               shown sexual or scary movies.

          4.   Effects on Behaving - Kids who watched movies were
               restless when sleeping; therefore, parents felt
               there would be mental and physical consequences.

     D.   Attitudes and Movies (Peterson & Thurstone, 1933)

          1.   Goals - do movies change people's stereotypes?  Are
               kids sensitive to the way men and women behave,
               racial groups, etc.?

          2.   Methods - always used experiments (no surveys),
               randomly selected groups and compared them.  Did
               not bring kids into a lab setting (took place in a
               school setting).  Kids did not know that they were
               being observed.

          3.   Effects of One Film (r = .20; Box = 40/60) - there
               was a small effect even after one film.

          4.   Effects of Several (r = .15; Box = 42/58) - during
               multiple exposures/messages, the effect did not
               change much.  Therefore, the first exposure plays a
               crucial role.

          5.   Persistence of Attitude (r = .22; Box = 39/61; 70%
               retention) - Retested the same group 2 years later
               and found a strong persistence.  Some decrease but
               held onto most of it.

     E.   Overall Conclusions from Payne Fund

          1.   Was the first scientific study of the mass media.
          2.   Was huge in scope (Thurstone did at least 16
          3.   Was strongly interpreted as the magic bullet theory
               but was exaggerated.

IV.  The Invasion From Mars (Cantril, 1940 - case study of mass
     media research)

     A.   Preview

          1.   Describes a radio broadcast (60 minute play) that
               aired in 1938.  Produced by Orson Wells and the
               Mercury Theatre Players.  Wells was 21 years old
               when he produced this program.

     B.   Historical Context

          1.   During 1938, depression in US (25% unemployment). 
               WWI over, WWII started the year after the
               broadcast....crazy time in America!
          2.   Breaking news had just been introduced by radio.

     C.   The Broadcast

          1.   The Plot - based on the novel by H. G. Wells, War
               of the Worlds, that describes the invasion of the
               earth by martians.

          2.   Neat Tricks - Wells made it sound like breaking
               news.  Used names of places that were familiar.

          3.   Timing of Announcements - Announced at the
               beginning, middle, and end that it was a fictional
               play for entertainment.  Messages from sponsors
               were presented throughout the show. 

     D.   The Public Response

          1.   The Panic - millions panicked.  Switchboards were
               tied up.  Lots of gun fire at shadows.  Believed
               the world was at war and it was coming to an end.

         2.   Real Harm

               a.   Guy fell and broke his arm when going to get
                    his gun.
               b.   Guy took his life savings ($3 which he was
                    going to use to purchase shoes) to purchase a
                    bus ticket, found out it was a radio
                    broadcast, wanted a refund but was refused. 
                    He sued the radio station so they mailed him a
                    pair of shoes.

     E.   How Many Panicked?

          1.   Size of Audience - Hadley study estimated that
               between 6-12 million people tuned in.  Americans
               were not equipped to perform this study - could
               only use interview.

          2.   Proportion Panicked - estimated that 1-2 million

     F.   Why this Broadcast?

          1.   Dramatic Excellence - quality, well done, piece of
               fiction, skilled actors, well written

          2.   Status of Radio - radio is new and wonderful but
               people did not understand it.

          3.   Credibility of Fictional Characters - fictional
               characters appeared to be real (used real names).  

     G.   Why People Panicked

          1.   Tuning In Late (r = .40; Box = 30/70) 

          2.   Critical Thinking (r = .10; Box = 45/55) - slight
               effect.  Compared those less educated to better
               educated and found that the less educated panicked.

          3.   Religious Beliefs and Personality - found a strong
               religious element.  Evangelical Christians were
               more like to believe in the broadcast since they
               believe in the Old Testament.  

     H.   Conclusions

          1.   Seen as Support for Magic Theory - direct, large,
               and uniform.  Media is dangerous and powerful.

          2.   Cross-cultural Invasions - there have been two
               attempts to broadcast the War of the Worlds and
               panic ensued.  Mobs then burned down the radio

V.   A Bit of Whimsy or Tipper Gore's Inspiration?

     A.   America in the late 40's and early 50's - paranoid state,
          mistrust.  Families would save to build a bomb shelter. 
          People used to believe the Communists were putting
          fluoride in our drinking water so we would be submissive. 
     B.   Dr. Wertham and Comics (Wertham, 1954) - claimed that
          comic books were a dangerous threat.  During the 1950's,
          60 million copies were sold monthly.  Wertham would take
          in juvenile delinquents to study brain disorders.  He
          noted that most were reading Batman comic books.

     C.   Methods of Study

          1.   Clinical Interviews - requires training on how to
               conduct clinical interviews.  After interview, you
               can compare your responses to reference books. 
               Kids admitted that after reading a comic book on
               crime, they went out and committed the crime.

          2.   Projective Testing - Wertham saw aggression and
               hostility in these kids when performing projective
               testing.  Example - ink blot tests.

          3.   Content Analysis of Comics - Wertham read the comic
               books the kids brought in and analyzed the content. 
     D.   Content of Comic Books - Wertham found 4 major types. 
          Constant theme in all - violence and sex

          1.   Crime

               a.   graphic violence - comics showed more than the
                    movies in the 40's.
               b.   crime scripts - showed you how to engage in
                    this behavior.
               c.   sexual contents - did not show nudity but
                    women in revealing clothing, etc.

          2.   Jungle - same as crime ones but moved from city to
               jungle.  One reason, people could wear less
               clothing.  Introduced foreigners (example - Nazis)

          3.   Superman - super guys (white) were going after
               foreigners.  Batman was recruiting guys to the gay
               lifestyle (never saw him with women).

          4.   Love - targeted to young girls (other themes
               targeted young boys).  Good girl falls in love with
               bad guy. 

     E.   Effects of Comics

          1.   Modeling - Wertham clearly could see modeling
               effects from clinical interviews.

          2.   Cultivation - Kids would report that they believed
               it was okay to do what they read in the comics.

          3.   Illiteracy - Wertham was concerned that good kids
               would read bad grammar (ugh, etc.) and result in

     F.   Understanding Wertham's Research

          1.   Clinically Interesting - only worked with kids that
               came to the clinic and the comics they brought with

          2.   Supported by Other Research - novel ideas of
               modeling and cultivation.

          3.   Not Scientific - Wertham did not publish in
               scientific journals but wrote books.

          4.   Sensationalism versus Truth - Wertham got a Senate
               investigation of comic book publishers. As a
               result, comic books disappeared except for Casper,

VI.  Summary of Direct Effects

     A.   First Perspective - was the first attempt to understand
          from a social science perspective - pioneers

     B.   Hindsight Criticism - easy to criticize since it was
          brand new.

     C.   Popular Theory Today (Tipper's Song) - evidence that the
          magic bullet theory does not work, only a slight effect.

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Notes prepared by Teresa Jones, Spring, 1996. Page created April 21, 1996; updated on October 5, 1999. Edited by Mike Lowry Copyright © Teresa Jones and Steve Booth-Butterfield, 1996.