Friday, October 2, 2009

The Hypodermic Needle Theory

Communication is a vast concept which has been naturally founded with human. In its simple definition, it means the process of transforming a message and information from the source to the receiver or its better to define it as “it is the process of creating shared meaning.”(J.Baran, Introduction to mass communication). With the technological development, many media inventions have been founded and then it pushed the media researchers and specialists to find another term for this process which it is mass media. Mass communication is the process of transforming a message created by a person is a group to large audience or market through a transforming device which it is the medium. Mass media has become a part of human life and it also strongly affecting it. Therefore, there are many theories and approaches done by researchers and philosophers to understand and describe these effects. The hypodermic needle theory of media influence is one of these theories. This theory suggests simple concepts about media and audiences and I will describe these suggestions and I will apply this theory on news.

In addition, if we want to discuss a media theory, we have firstly to start with the main point of media studies tasks which it is the audience. Audiences are the receivers of the message and also they are responders. It is very important for media producers to understand the process of receiving the message by the audiences and how those audiences react and respond to that message. Actually, they have to understand what is happing in the audience’s minds when they receive the message. Media producers should also be aware of their audience’s ages, classes, gender and location. Understanding these elements leads for better responding and results. Following the demographic method in studying audience, makes media producers able to shape their message to appeal for their audiences. They will be able to know what kind of message will be more effective for those audiences. Through the time, media researchers have developed several effects models. They found explanations for media influence on people and how they react for the messages. They analyzed how these different messages effects the behaviour of the audience. They came out with many theories about this field which are still hotly debated.

The hypodermic needle theory is one of the most famous theories that analyzed the relationship between audience and media. This theory has been developed in the early 1920s with the beginning of mass media, radio and cinema. In its simple description, this theory suggests that mass media can easily influence a large group of people without any challenge and opposition from those people. “It views audience as the passive receptors of virulent viruses produce by the media” (Starker, Evil influences: crusades against the mass media). Actually, it suggests that mass media inject massages and information directly and uniformly into audiences’ minds who immediately will be influenced. This theory did not agree with those who are saying that the audiences are using their experience, intelligence and opinion to analyze the message. Therefore, media producers and creators can manipulate the audience and inject the information and the messages that they want. According to this theory, if the person watches a violent movie, he\she will do violence. Although it doesn't take any account of people's individuality, it is still very popular. A good example about this theory is the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. This professional murder was watching a movie before every crime to make him excited.

The governments understood the power of this theory. They used it to influence people and pass their decisions which might their people do not like and support. The magic is done by news. Media producers know that people are spending most of their time using media and they taking their information from it. By applying the hypodermic needle theory and controlling the content of the news, manipulating people will be easy. The most common and effective medium to deliver this kink of messages is TV, the main source of news. As for the theory, whatever kind of news content is shown on the TV, it will be injected on people’s minds and it will influence them. They will not challenge it because there is no other source. They will accept it and believe it specially if it came from famous media such as BBC, FOX or CNN or even New Yourk Times. A good example of the power of news is the “war of the worlds”. On the eve of Halloween, there was breaking news on radio saying that Martians had begun an invasion of Earth in a place called Grover's Mill, New Jersey. About one million out of 12 millions in the US who heard this news actually believed it. A wave of mass hysteria disrupted households, interrupted religious services, caused traffic jams and clogged communication systems. This example is a good one about the power of news and it proved the theory.

All in all, the hypodermic needle theory is still hotly debated while many similar theories are keep showing up. All of these theories are focusing on the effects of mass media on the audiences. In addition, this theory helped people to understand the way that mass media work by and how they are affecting our minds and changing our behaviors. Also more, this theory is jeep getting more attention with the development of media and its applications.