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A Multidimensional Approach to the Study of Media Effects
Unformatted Document Text:  6 historical shifts in permanent institutions and social structures. He labeled these types of media effects as (1) immediate, (2) short-term, (3) long-term and (3) institutional change. Furthermore, Lazarsfeld proposed that we consider the nature of the mass communication stimulus. Is the effect due to: (1) a single unit of a medium, (2) a general type of medium, (3) the socioeconomic structure of a medium, or (4) the technological nature of a medium? Thus, he said, one might study the effects of a specific text or communication event, such as the publication of the Communist Manifesto. One might study the effects of a genre or series of communications, such as the regular broadcasting of parliamentary debates. One might study the effects of the general social and economic organization of a mass medium, such as a public broadcasting system. One might study the effects of the general technology of a medium, such as television. Lazarsfeld then constructed a 4-by-4 matrix coordinating each type of media stimulus with each type of audience response. The resulting table produced “sixteen possible combinations within which ‘effects’ can be located.” Lazarsfeld then attempted to fit mass communication studies into the appropriate cells of his matrix. He noted that some cells represented practically impossible occurrences. For example, he considered two cells, the immediate response to the economic and social structure of a medium and the immediate response to the general technological nature of a medium, to be theoretically possible but nonexistent. As he said, “it is quite unlikely that one will have an opportunity to study the immediate reaction to a new social or technological form of communication.” Nonetheless, Lazarsfeld’s work illustrated that some cells contained many studies while others were

Authors: Lasorsa, Dominic.
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historical shifts in permanent institutions and social structures. He labeled these types of
media effects as (1) immediate, (2) short-term, (3) long-term and (3) institutional change.
Furthermore, Lazarsfeld proposed that we consider the nature of the mass
communication stimulus. Is the effect due to: (1) a single unit of a medium, (2) a general
type of medium, (3) the socioeconomic structure of a medium, or (4) the technological
nature of a medium? Thus, he said, one might study the effects of a specific text or
communication event, such as the publication of the Communist Manifesto. One might
study the effects of a genre or series of communications, such as the regular broadcasting
of parliamentary debates. One might study the effects of the general social and economic
organization of a mass medium, such as a public broadcasting system. One might study
the effects of the general technology of a medium, such as television.
Lazarsfeld then constructed a 4-by-4 matrix coordinating each type of media
stimulus with each type of audience response. The resulting table produced “sixteen
possible combinations within which ‘effects’ can be located.”
Lazarsfeld then attempted to fit mass communication studies into the appropriate
cells of his matrix. He noted that some cells represented practically impossible
occurrences. For example, he considered two cells, the immediate response to the
economic and social structure of a medium and the immediate response to the general
technological nature of a medium, to be theoretically possible but nonexistent. As he
said, “it is quite unlikely that one will have an opportunity to study the immediate
reaction to a new social or technological form of communication.” Nonetheless,
Lazarsfeld’s work illustrated that some cells contained many studies while others were


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