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A Multidimensional Approach to the Study of Media Effects
Unformatted Document Text:  1 A MULTIDIMENSIONAL APPROACH TO THE STUDY OF MEDIA EFFECTS One reason it is so challenging to study media effects is the sheer number of possible effects. McLeod and Reeves (1980) noted that there are “literally hundreds” of possible media effects. For all we know, there may be thousands. How can we make sense of such an overwhelming array of possibilities? What strategies exist for bringing greater order to the study of media effects? How can we use these strategies to better understand media effects and to build theory? These questions are explored here. One strategy for making sense of such a great variety of potential media effects is to organize them according to a few important characteristics along which they may vary, or “dimensions.” We can envision each of the ways in which a media effect might vary as a line with a low and high end. Any possible media effect can be located somewhere along each dimension. For example, some media effects occur quickly whereas others take time to develop. Time, then, is an important dimension of media effects. When a 1930s radio broadcast caused people to panic, the effect was immediate. On the other hand, some media effects may occur only after an accumulation of exposure. Such effects would be positioned at opposite poles of the time dimension. The identification of dimensions of media effects has contributed greatly to our understanding of how mass communication works. Often the recognition of an important dimension leads to “reconceptualizations” and “reconsiderations” of media effects. Among the major works that have identified dimensions of media effects have been Weiss, 1969; Chaffee, 1977; McLeod and Reeves, 1980; Roberts and Maccoby, 1985;

Authors: Lasorsa, Dominic.
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1
A MULTIDIMENSIONAL APPROACH TO THE STUDY OF MEDIA EFFECTS
One reason it is so challenging to study media effects is the sheer number of
possible effects. McLeod and Reeves (1980) noted that there are “literally hundreds” of
possible media effects. For all we know, there may be thousands. How can we make
sense of such an overwhelming array of possibilities? What strategies exist for bringing
greater order to the study of media effects? How can we use these strategies to better
understand media effects and to build theory? These questions are explored here.
One strategy for making sense of such a great variety of potential media effects is
to organize them according to a few important characteristics along which they may vary,
or “dimensions.” We can envision each of the ways in which a media effect might vary
as a line with a low and high end. Any possible media effect can be located somewhere
along each dimension.
For example, some media effects occur quickly whereas others take time to
develop. Time, then, is an important dimension of media effects. When a 1930s radio
broadcast caused people to panic, the effect was immediate. On the other hand, some
media effects may occur only after an accumulation of exposure. Such effects would be
positioned at opposite poles of the time dimension.
The identification of dimensions of media effects has contributed greatly to our
understanding of how mass communication works. Often the recognition of an important
dimension leads to “reconceptualizations” and “reconsiderations” of media effects.
Among the major works that have identified dimensions of media effects have been
Weiss, 1969; Chaffee, 1977; McLeod and Reeves, 1980; Roberts and Maccoby, 1985;


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