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A Social Cognitive Explanation of Internet Uses and Gratifications: Toward a New Theory of Media Attendance
Unformatted Document Text:  Unsuccessful attempts by Uses and gratifications researchers (Babrow & Swanson, 1988) to distinguish the predictive power of outcome expectations (derived from a related theory, the Theory of Planned Behavior, Ajzen, 1985) from gratifications perhaps indicated that the two are related constructs. However, the distinction between outcome expectations and gratifications is potentially consequential. Gratifications obtained (e.g. “I use the Internet to have fun”) fail to distinguish the likelihood of encountering the desired outcomes in the future. If we say we use the Internet for fun but seldom have any, then that belief is unlikely to influence our usage. Gratifications sought (e.g. “I use the Internet because I want fun”) neglect the possibility that we may be looking for something that just is not available. So, in some instances, the gratifications sought could be a negative predictor of exposure, in others a positive one, but in the aggregate are just possibly a confounded one. Comparing gratifications obtained with those sought may produce confounding instances (e.g. gratifications that are obtained but not sought) that may have no reliable relationship to exposure. Outcome expectations cut through the ambiguity because they “reflect current beliefs about the outcomes of prospective future behavior but are predicated upon comparisons between incentives expected and incentives attained in the past.” (LaRose et al., 2001, p. 399) SCT is familiar to many media scholars in its earlier incarnation as Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977), as a theory of media effects. Specifically, the vicarious learning mechanism is recognized as a determinant of the effects of the media, television in particular. However, SCT is a broad theory of human behavior that may be applied to media attendance as well as to the effects on behavior that result from that exposure. SCT posits reciprocal causation among individuals, their behavior, and their environment,

Authors: Eastin, Matthew. and Larose, Robert.
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Unsuccessful attempts by Uses and gratifications researchers (Babrow &
Swanson, 1988) to distinguish the predictive power of outcome expectations (derived
from a related theory, the Theory of Planned Behavior, Ajzen, 1985) from gratifications
perhaps indicated that the two are related constructs. However, the distinction between
outcome expectations and gratifications is potentially consequential. Gratifications
obtained (e.g. “I use the Internet to have fun”) fail to distinguish the likelihood of
encountering the desired outcomes in the future. If we say we use the Internet for fun but
seldom have any, then that belief is unlikely to influence our usage. Gratifications sought
(e.g. “I use the Internet because I want fun”) neglect the possibility that we may be
looking for something that just is not available. So, in some instances, the gratifications
sought could be a negative predictor of exposure, in others a positive one, but in the
aggregate are just possibly a confounded one. Comparing gratifications obtained with
those sought may produce confounding instances (e.g. gratifications that are obtained but
not sought) that may have no reliable relationship to exposure. Outcome expectations cut
through the ambiguity because they “reflect current beliefs about the outcomes of
prospective future behavior but are predicated upon comparisons between incentives
expected and incentives attained in the past.” (LaRose et al., 2001, p. 399)
SCT is familiar to many media scholars in its earlier incarnation as Social
Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977), as a theory of media effects. Specifically, the vicarious
learning mechanism is recognized as a determinant of the effects of the media, television
in particular. However, SCT is a broad theory of human behavior that may be applied to
media attendance as well as to the effects on behavior that result from that exposure. SCT
posits reciprocal causation among individuals, their behavior, and their environment,


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