Behaviourist theory and Cultivation theory
Media study involves a wide range of research techniques like for example social surveys, observations and most importantly the analysis of its content. As stated earlier, media is something we are all exposed to; we know it, and we make use of it that is exactly why it is worth studying.
The idea has been brilliantly put by Karen Ross and Carolyn Byerely in their book Women and Media: International perspectives. They argue aWe live in a mediated world. Even remote geographic areas are infiltrated by advertising newspapers, magazines, radios, televisions, music, films, and other print and broadcast mediaa ( Ross Byerely, 2006, p.l). Media then has become a necessity.
The study of the media involves enormous perspectives and aims which is a good point since it gives researchers the opportunity to tackle such an issue from different angles and hopefully introduce different methodologies and mechanisms by which it can be understood and interpreted in different ways. Harvard and MacDonald defined mass media as follows:
When we talk of the mass media we refer to the means by which messages are conveyed to very large, widely dispersed and socially mixed audiences. These include television, radio, cinema, video, newspapers, magazines, comic, popular books and advertisements. Indeed it is any form of communication that is intended to inform, educate, entertain or persuade a large, diverse audience. (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.29)
Media is also a means by which one can know about the world around him/her, from economy to sport to politics to mane but just a few; in this regard the mass media are an opening eye to the outside world, and this is done through news and documentaries that are designed by media creators. The usefulness of media is perhaps manifested in these media productions that are created for such purpose.
In his book Media Virus, Rashkoof talks about media as a virus since; he claims that once we get used to it, it becomes a necessity. Media has a space that he calls adataspherea, a space where these viruses move. To express such an idea, the writer of the book states aMedia viruses spread through the datasphere the same way biological ones spread through the body or a community.
But instead of travelling along an organic circulatory system, a media virus travels through the networks of the media spacea. (Rushkoff, 1996, pp 9-10). This is to some degree true and the best example is the fact that some people have become addicted to the internet.
Media is a culture that has a way or a means of creating identities. In his book Media Culture: Cultural studies, identity and politics between the modern and the postmodern, Kellner stated that media is a means through which we come to know different things, including our gender roles.
He writes that aRadio, television, him and the other products of culture industries provide the model of what it means to be male or female, successful or a failure, powerful or powerlessa (Kellner, 1995, p.l). It is used, then, to shape peopleas views in terms of class, ethnicity and race.
The focus here will be on the media as a tool before going deep to its relation with women, that is how women are represented in the mass media. This analysis requires a wide range of theories of media to provide different means of learning more deeply about the nature of this medium to understand the way it operates.
A vivid picture about media cannot be required unless the person knows the effective side of the media as to be able to interpret it, and, thus, has a critical thinking by which he/she can judge what is being in presented through such a tool.
2.1 Media effects
A good number of researches have analysed the effects that the mass media have on the audience in various ways. In most cases it has been proved that media has effected people negatively perhaps more than it had helped them.
Media analysis studies believe the existence of a strong tie between the content and the effects of the mass media, or, at least, one aspect of it which is violence. It is not seen as the reason behind behaviour and attitude, but rather enforcing existing manners that might be negative. Media effects are mostly studied in relation to television precisely.
According to Natalie Fenton in her article aFeminism and Popular Culturea, media is very much effective and its effect is irresistible by the audience who just accept it as it is. She says aMedia effects research suggests that mass media texts are very powerful and that their messages are seen to behave like a hypodermic needle, injecting audiences with their messagesa (Fenton, 2001, p.lll).
This shows that media can be dangerous since the audience is weak in front of its messages or images and that what is transformed should be taken into consideration.
In fact, media effect should be studied in relation to the cause, that is, before delving into the study of effects; one has to prove that the more people watch, the more they are affected. If media scholars fail to prove the existence of a direct relation in between the two, it would be hard to prove this equation. There should be a proof that watching television lead to a specific change in peopleas behaviours.
For Tuchman, psychological as well as social theories compete to explain the influence of media on individuals. There are mainly two theories that are stimulus response and limited effects which is more desirable than the previous one.
This latter is explained in what follows aThe theory of limited effects argues that the influence of specific messages is mediated by such social variables as age, social class, religion, ethnicity and educationa (Tuchman, 1979, p.530). This shows that the effects of media are imbedded in numerous elements, not only the nature of media alone.
The problem which arises when analysing media is whether what is represented reflects the viewersa believes or whether it is no more than a reflection of what is going on in societies. In other words, do the mass media reflect societies or is it the media itself which is reflected by society? This question has led to what is called mass society and mass culture.
Mass society refers to the fact that our world today is dominated by mass production, according to Doing Sociology: A practical introduction it is defined as aMass production involves large units of production and distribution and national (or international) scale marketing. Changes in technology, transport and communications have made mass production and mass marketing possiblea (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.43).
Therefore, this phenomenon has broken the traditional values. People in such societies have become rather a group of consumers while mass production was in development. The traditional values have been eradicated and replaced by a new concept which is mass culture. The mass production comprises a variety of things including some media elements like for example magazines, music and fiction and the list is very long.
Violence is proved to be one of media effects. Children have been proved to perform violent acts after watching violent cartoons. This is shown by Livingston in her article aMedia audiences, interpreters and usersa where she states: aChildren who watch more violent cartoons (note that there is a debate about what constitutes violence in cartoons) are likely to be more aggressive in the playgrounda (Gillespie, 2005, p.24). This shows that media is much more harmful to children since they are not mature enough to be aware of the danger of media.
Rushkoff (1996) agrees with Livingston when he states that children learn from what they see in television. According to him akids learn from and are entertained by puppets, animation, elaborately costumed characters, special effects, and popular musica (p.99).
This is in fact a learning process that might affect them as they try to imitate what they have been exposed to in television. It worth saying too that not only children learn from the mass media, adult do too and in most cases what they learn is not in their benefit.
Tuchman explained how children get affected by the mass media saying that they pay particular attention to children of their own gender acting gender tasks, and then they imitate what they have seen later.
She furthered saying that girls in particular respond in adopting the traditional roles as it is clear in the following lines aThe more television girls watch, the more traditional are their attitudes and aspirationsa (Tuchman, 1979, p.12). This, again, prove the fact that children are more likely to be effected by media, particularly television.
Based on the above statements, media is very much powerful and effective as it is clearly stated by Ray Chow in her article aViolence in the other Countrya (1990); it can even be used as a weapon because of its high effect.
She writes aNowadays instead of guns, the most effective instrument that aids in the production of the aThird Worlda are the technologies of the mediaa (Chow, 1990, p.86). Hence, mediaas danger is manifested in its manipulation of the masses that was referred to by Chow as agunsa.
2.1.1 Behaviourist theory
Behaviourist theory is one of the theories which are concerned with how media affects peopleas behaviours. It is an approach that sees action as a mechanical response to stimulus. Behaviourists argue that our activities are determined by the environment in which we live.
They argue that awe cannot know what is going on in someoneas mind therefore we cannot attempt to show what effect this has on behavioura (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.34). For them aall mental states including values, beliefs, motives and reasons, can only be defined in terms of observable behavioura ( Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.34). Hence behaviourists are not interested in the mental processes, but rather the various reasons which lead to a certain behaviour.
One of the widespread concepts in media is the relationship between television and violence, or, in other words, the effect of violence offered by televisions on peopleas minds. The notion of violence is a negative concept that threatens not only individuals but also societies.
As a result of its importance, more finding and research efforts have been interested in the study of violence as one aspect of television output. Violence then is one of the most researched areas in the social sciences (Harvard MacDonald, 1993).
In particular, it is believed that children are the most affected by the violent media images and are liable to act in an aggressive way as they try to imitate such scenes. A study has been conducted on such an issue and the result was as follows:
(…) children were shown a video of adults acting aggressively toward larger a than- life dolls. When subsequently given the opportunity to play with the dolls the children imitated the aggressive behaviour of the adults on the video. Similarly, children exposed to violent programmes were shown to be slower in seeking adult help when they witnessed violence among children than were children who had not been exposed to violent programmes. (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.34)
Another effect that might be much interesting is that girls in particular are affected when it comes to sex role cliches. Those who watch much more cartoons are believed to have minimum gender stereotypes compared to those who are not exposed to them.
According to the same study ayoung girls, aged 5 and 6 years old, were shown to hold less gender- stereotyped attitudes after watching a low stereotyped cartoon, compared to those who saw neutral or high- stereotyped cartoonsa ( Harvard MacDonald, 1993,p.35). This means that the effect of the mass media is apparent even when it comes to gender roles; they teach us how to be a male or a female.
For Gauntlett (2002), researchers should study aggressive people in order to study how violence affects their behaviours and then they should try to figure out the roots of these behaviours. He believes that this is not what they have done; they have rather gone into other directions:
Media effect research, however have typically started at the wrong end of this question: informed only by speculation (and often, it seems, a grimly unsympathetic attitude to young culture, they start with the idea that the media is to blame, and then they try to make the link back to the world of actual violence. (Gauntlett, 2002, pp.29-30)
What Gauntlett is advocating is to prove scientifically that there is a strong and a direct connection between what is transmitted by the mass media, in this case violence, and peopleas behaviours instead of just theorizing. This statement is very much critic of what researchers are used to in this area which is blaming the mass media without real proves. This might be the appropriate way that would provide researchers with the authenticity needed in the field of research.
This strong effect can be also linked to the way women are portrayed in media, especially in television since it is the focus of the paper. One can say that their negative portrayal affects their status within their societies. In other words, because people have been used for centuries to the degrading images of women through the mass mediated messages, their behaviour toward them has been negative as well.
Hence, it can been deduced from these studies that media has a highly effective side, either negative one which is mostly the case or positive .It is based on a behaviourist view which sees actions in terms of a stimulus response model. Thus the media offers a stimulus to which the reader, the listener and the viewer directly responds.
2.1.2 Cultivation theory
Cultivation theory is an approach that deals with how people are affected by the mass media and whether this effect is direct or indirect. It states that whoever watches television a lot, he or she is going to be effected and this effect is gradual and indirect:
Cultivation theory of the media argues that the media effects are indirect, gradual, generalized and symbolic. That is, the media does not have a direct effect on peopleas behaviour but it does effect how people perceive the world and their attitudes towards it. (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p. 35)
Since this effect is gradual, people would slowly build up a certain image about the world they live in, which is reflected in the media they are exposed to more than what they encounter in their daily lives. In his study, Gerbner made a link between crimes and watching television.
According to him, in an environment where people are afraid of being violated; they stay at home, as a consequence they watch televisions more than those who have nothing to be afraid of and thus they are outgoing.
Harvard and MacDonald (1993) introduced such a study saying: aThe relationship between fear and crime and heavy viewing is explained by the neighbourhood in which viewers live. People who live in high crime areas have a higher fear of being a victim of crime but also stay at home and watch more televisiona (p.35).
In this respect, people who live in the areas where there is high rate of crimes are doubly harmed, by the possibility of being victims of crimes and by the media they are exposed to as a result of the long time they spend at home. This implies another fact, that poor people are more affected by media than rich people. Then the social class and media effect can intersect.
Another study on the same subject have been conducted by Alexis Tan about the effects of advertisements which have nowadays relied on the concept of beauty and sexuality in order to sell their products. For her awhat is being cultivated by the media is the desirability of various beauty characteristicsa (Harvard MacDonald, 1993, p.35).
This has affected the attitudes of young women who started to believe that these models are the standard of beauty, and, as a result, they consider themselves to be ugly. In other words, this has contributed to womenas low self-esteem.
Milium sees that the strategy of advertisement is to create new images in the vieweras mind and this is exactly how it affects. These images that are created by the advertisements serve sometimes as a model of beauty and elegance which made people eager to acquire such characteristics and more precisely girls and women who suffer and loose their money in order to look like a certain mannequin. This idea is well illustrated by Gauntlet in his book Media, Gender and Identity:
Every woman knows that, regardless of her achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful. The UK beauty industry takes A£8.9 billion a year out of womenas pockets. Magazines financed by the beauty industry teach little girls that they need make up and train them to use it. (Gauntlett, 2002, p.77)
Though this theory has proved the effective nature of media; it can be criticized as being unable to provide ways to control the environment from such threats. If examined critically, this theory is more about showing correlations than providing real and clear solutions. Hence, the effect of the mass media is not only in the area of violence but also in the area of beauty as well and in both cases media remain negatively effective.