Early in communication research, an approach was developed to study the gratifications that attract and hold audiences to the kinds of media and the types of content that satisfy their social and psychological needs. Researchers Jay G. Blumer and Elihu Katz introduced the Uses and Gratification Theory not asking the question of "What do media do to people?" rather asking, “What do people do with media?"
The Uses and Gratification Theory
A theory of Mass Communication that places the needs, motives and gratifications of media users in the center of interest and sees media users playing an active role in the media consumption process. It presents the use of media in terms of gratification of social and psychological needs of an individual.
Categories of the Uses and Gratification Theory
* Cognitive needs
People use media for acquiring knowledge, information and understanding. The audience gains understanding of the world around by consuming media text.
* Personal Integrative needs
People use media to treasure their status, gain credibility and stabilize social condition. Often people identify a part of themselves in media characters or in presented circumstances. There must be value reinforcement or reassurance; self-understanding and reality exploration.
* Social Integrative needs
People create personal relationship with the characters in the media. It encompasses the need to socialize with other individuals.
* Tension release needs
Media allows the user to relieve the tension by offering an escape to reality and creating a break from daily routines and problems.
Consumed purely for entertainment purposes, there are no other gratifications. Assumptions
Uses and gratifications theory attempts to explain the uses and functions of the media for individuals, groups, and society in general. There are three objectives in developing uses and gratifications theory:
1) To explain how individuals use mass communication to gratify their needs. “What do people do with the media”. 2) To discover underlying motives for individuals’ media use. 3) To identify the positive and the negative consequences of individual media use. At the core of uses and gratifications theory lies the assumption that audience members actively seek out the mass media to satisfy individual needs.
James Lull (2002) criticized the main assumption that people seek out media to satisfy a personal need, especially to entertain themselves. Lull suggested that audiences don’t always accept the content of the media and that not all media are meant to prove gratification or satisfy the need for entertainment. Audiences don’t always benefit from the use of the media and don’t take on in media assumption willingly and independently.
Ien Ang criticized that the theory only tends to focus on individual needs and disregarding social content.
***Spiral of Silence
Imagine you and some other people are sitting around at dinner talking about a movie you had just seen. You don't know these people all that well so you've just been listening to the conversation. You loved the movie, but they all keep talking about how much they hated it. You can't understand why, but don't want to express your views in front of all of them. Later you start talking to one of the other people at dinner and learn that they too liked the movie.
History and Orientation
Neumann (1974) introduced the “spiral of silence” as an attempt to explain in part how public opinion is formed. She wondered why the Germans supported wrong political positions that led to national defeat, humiliation and ruin in the 1930s-1940s.
Core Assumptions and Statements
The phrase "spiral of silence" actually refers to how people tend to remain silent when they feel that their views are in the minority. The model is based on three premises: