History and Orientation
The "hypodermic needle theory" implied mass media had a direct, immediate and powerful effect on its audiences. The mass media in the 1940s and 1950s were perceived as a powerful influence on behavior change. Several factors contributed to this "strong effects" theory of communication, including: - the fast rise and popularization of radio and television
- the emergence of the persuasion industries, such as advertising and propaganda - the Payne Fund studies of the 1930s, which focused on the impact of motion pictures on children, and - Hitler's monopolization of the mass media during WWII to unify the German public behind the Nazi party.
Core Assumptions and Statements
The theory suggests that the mass media could influence a very large group of people directly and uniformly by ‘shooting’ or ‘injecting’ them with appropriate messages designed to trigger a desired response. Both images used to express this theory (a bullet and a needle) suggest a powerful and direct flow of information from the sender to the receiver. The bullet theory graphically suggests that the message is a bullet, fired from the "media gun" into the viewer's "head". With similarly emotive imagery the hypodermic needle model suggests that media messages are injected straight into a passive audience which is immediately influenced by the message. They express the view that the media is a dangerous means of communicating an idea because the receiver or audience is powerless to resist the impact of the message. There is no escape from the effect of the message in these models. The population is seen as a sitting duck. People are seen as passive and are seen as having a lot media material "shot" at them. People end up thinking what they are told because there is no other source of information. New assessments that the Magic Bullet Theory was not accurate came out of election studies in "The People's Choice," (Lazarsfeld, Berelson and...