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An ecological psychology approach to the study of audiences
Unformatted Document Text:  ecological theory...13 understand is the narrative; the fantasy-reality distinction (whatever this may be) is irrelevant. One of the weaknesses inherent in much developmental theory regarding media is that it so often assumes that children’s understanding of media is significantly different from that of adults (Giles, 2002b). Ecological psychology and narrative theory create a framework for challenging this assumption. Through the concept of parasocial relationships, it can be argued that child and adult interaction with media share important similarities. Parasocial relationships – at all levels – depend on the primacy of the narrative overriding logical or rational inhibitions about responding to electronic ‘stimuli’. This suspension of disbelief allows us to generalise our everyday understanding of human behaviour to the cast of figures, both ‘real’, and imaginary, that populate the texts of the media. Conclusion In this paper I have outlined an ecological model for understanding the psychological impact of media. I have drawn on two central ideas: the importance of the encounter between audience and medium as the primary site of activity; and the importance of narrative for determining the outcome of those encounters and, in particular, the parameters of parasocial relationships. I will finish by briefly discussing potential uses of this model for both mass communication in general. Firstly, the ecological model should be capable of tackling a great many questions that are of interest for anyone studying the psychology of the media, or audiences in

Authors: Giles, David.
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ecological theory...13
understand is the narrative; the fantasy-reality distinction (whatever this may be) is
irrelevant.
One of the weaknesses inherent in much developmental theory regarding media is that
it so often assumes that children’s understanding of media is significantly different
from that of adults (Giles, 2002b). Ecological psychology and narrative theory create
a framework for challenging this assumption. Through the concept of parasocial
relationships, it can be argued that child and adult interaction with media share
important similarities. Parasocial relationships – at all levels – depend on the primacy
of the narrative overriding logical or rational inhibitions about responding to
electronic ‘stimuli’. This suspension of disbelief allows us to generalise our everyday
understanding of human behaviour to the cast of figures, both ‘real’, and imaginary,
that populate the texts of the media.
Conclusion
In this paper I have outlined an ecological model for understanding the psychological
impact of media. I have drawn on two central ideas: the importance of the encounter
between audience and medium as the primary site of activity; and the importance of
narrative for determining the outcome of those encounters and, in particular, the
parameters of parasocial relationships. I will finish by briefly discussing potential uses
of this model for both mass communication in general.
Firstly, the ecological model should be capable of tackling a great many questions that
are of interest for anyone studying the psychology of the media, or audiences in


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