Society tends to blame others for its problems and quite commonly the media falls victim to this blame. ‘TV makes you fat’ and ‘violent video games equals violent children’ are basic examples of statements, often used to explain the ‘unethical’ or ‘unhealthy’ behaviour of individuals. This idea that ‘the media has a direct effect on audiences, causing them to act a certain way’ has been proved by many studies; however some claim this ‘effects model’ is clearly flawed, challenging the legitimacy and authenticity of these conclusions.
The article, “10 things wrong with the effects model” by David Gauntlett, argues “the media effects research has quite consistently taken the wrong approach to the mass media, its audiences, and society in general”. Instead it treats children as inadequate, follows conservative ideology, assumes superiority over minorities and makes no attempt to understand the meanings of the media, rather bases theories on artificial studies.
Gauntlett refers to Bandura’s ‘bobo doll’ experiment whereby a group of young children witnessed adults acting aggressively towards a bobo doll and were then given the opportunity to play with the same doll after. Majority of the children similarly attacked the doll, concluding that ‘children learn social behaviour such as aggression through the process of observation learning’. Nevertheless, it was not considered by Bandura that these children knew they were being watched, therefore possibly altered their actions. This study also, did not acknowledge that the children faced no repercussions for ‘hurting’ the doll. Not only does this study fail to consider major factors that may alter the outcomes, but assumes children will automatically act violently when exposed to violence. How can such tests be therefore used as evidence against the media and its effect on people?
Gauntlett’s ideology effectively argues the media should not be the initial starting point in investigating the particular behaviour of individuals. Society cannot successfully blame the media without understanding its true causality; that is the relationship between cause and effect. So can the ‘effects model’ be truly used against the media? I believe this is a question that can only be answered by looking at all the factors of the problem.