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A Multidimensional Approach to the Study of Media Effects
Unformatted Document Text:  5 dimensions (e.g., Klapper, 1960; Wilhoit and de Bock, 1980, 1981; Whitney and Wartella, 1982; Wartella and Whitney, 1983; Gurevitch and Levy, 1985, 1987; Perse, 2001). However, media effects dimensions can be used in another valuable way to organize mass communication studies. By combining two or more dimensions into a matrix of media effects, a higher-level organization can be created that allows one to compare and contrast related studies multidimensionally. A few leading communication scholars have taken this approach, including Lazarsfeld (1948), Chaffee (1977), McLeod and Reeves (1980), Windahl (1992), McQuail (1994) and Katz (2001). These multidimensional matrices tell us much about how theorists conceptualize media effects, what dimensions they consider particularly important, and what combinations of dimensions they believe are most worthy of exploration. At the midpoint of the 20th Century and for years thereafter, mass communication research consisted almost entirely of studies of the direct effects of specific content on the attitudes of individual persons. In 1948, however, Lazarsfeld began his analysis of the effects of mass communication by reminding us that the media can have other important consequences. He said, “Mass media can affect knowledge, attitudes, opinions, and behavior.” He also noted, “These effects can be immediate or delayed, of short duration or long-lasting.” Furthermore, he said, “Effects upon individuals might slowly become transformed into institutional changes” and that “institutional changes produced by the media [can] in turn affect individuals.” Lazarsfeld identified four possible audience responses to a media stimulus: media can produce immediate impacts, reactions of short duration, long-lasting changes, and

Authors: Lasorsa, Dominic.
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dimensions (e.g., Klapper, 1960; Wilhoit and de Bock, 1980, 1981; Whitney and
Wartella, 1982; Wartella and Whitney, 1983; Gurevitch and Levy, 1985, 1987; Perse,
2001).
However, media effects dimensions can be used in another valuable way to
organize mass communication studies. By combining two or more dimensions into a
matrix of media effects, a higher-level organization can be created that allows one to
compare and contrast related studies multidimensionally. A few leading communication
scholars have taken this approach, including Lazarsfeld (1948), Chaffee (1977), McLeod
and Reeves (1980), Windahl (1992), McQuail (1994) and Katz (2001). These
multidimensional matrices tell us much about how theorists conceptualize media effects,
what dimensions they consider particularly important, and what combinations of
dimensions they believe are most worthy of exploration.
At the midpoint of the 20th Century and for years thereafter, mass communication
research consisted almost entirely of studies of the direct effects of specific content on the
attitudes of individual persons. In 1948, however, Lazarsfeld began his analysis of the
effects of mass communication by reminding us that the media can have other important
consequences. He said, “Mass media can affect knowledge, attitudes, opinions, and
behavior.” He also noted, “These effects can be immediate or delayed, of short duration
or long-lasting.” Furthermore, he said, “Effects upon individuals might slowly become
transformed into institutional changes” and that “institutional changes produced by the
media [can] in turn affect individuals.”
Lazarsfeld identified four possible audience responses to a media stimulus: media
can produce immediate impacts, reactions of short duration, long-lasting changes, and


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