Accumulation Theory (of minimal effects)

The view that the impact of any one message on any specific person may be minimal, but consistent, persistent, and corroborated (between media) messages result in minor changes among audiences that gradually add up over time to produce significant changes in society or culture.


1. The mass media begin to focus their attention on and transmit messages about a specific topic (some problem, situation, or issue).

2. Over an extended period, they continue to do so in a relatively consistent and persistent way and their presentations corroborate each other.

3. Individual members of the public increasingly become aware of these messages and, on a person-by-person basis, a growing comprehension develops of the interpretations of the topic presented by the media.

4. Increasing comprehension of the messages regarding the topic supplied by the media begins to form (or modify) the meanings, beliefs, and attitudes that serve as guides to behavior for members of the audience.

5. Thus, minor individual-by-individual changes accumulate and new beliefs and attitudes slowly emerge to provide significant changes in orms of appropriate behavior related to the topic.

Stereotype Theory

The view that the mass media reinforce the dominant segment of society's existing patterns of attitudes and behavior toward minorities by perpetuating rigid and usually negatvie portrayals, which can have the result of keeping minorities in subordinate positions.


1. In entertainment content, and in other messages, the media repeatedly present portrayals of various categories of people, such as the aged, women, and major racial and ethnic groups.

2. Those portrayals tend to be consistently negative, showing people as having more undesireable attributes and few postivie characteristics than members of the dominant groups.

3. Such portrayals are similar among the various media--providing corroboration.

4. These portrayals provide constructions of meaning for members of the audience, particularly for those who have only limited contact with actual people of the relevant categories.

5. Thus, members of the audience incorporate those meanings nto their memories as relatively inflexible schemata--stereotypic interpretations-that they use when thinking about or responding to any individual of a portrayed category, regardless of his or her actual personal characteristics.

Media Dependency Theory

An explanation of the relationship between the content of mass media, the nature of society, and the communication behavior of audiences. It states that people in urban industrial societies are dependent on mass communication for the information they need to make many kinds of decisions.


1. People in all societies need information in order to make decisions about such matters as food, shelter, employment, transportation, political issues, entertainment, and other aspects of family life.

2. In traditional societies, people tend to pursue similar ways of life and are linked by word-of-mouth networks of extended families, deeply established friendships, long-term neigbhors, and other social ties from which they obtain the information that they need.

3. In urban-industrial societies, populations are composed of unlike people brought together through internal migrations and immigrations from outside. They are greatly differentiated by such factors as race, ethnicity, occupational specialization, and economic class.

4. Because of their far greater social differentiation, people in urban-industrial societies have fewer effective word-of-mouth channels based on deeply established networks of social ties through which they can obtain the information they need in daily life.

5. Thus, people in urban-industrial societies are dependent on mass communication for information needed to make many kinds of decisions. From the media they obtain a flow of information, advice, and role models in the news, entertainment, and advertising that they use as a basis for those decisions.

Modeling Theory

The view that one way in which people aquire new modes of acting is by observing behavior portrayed by other people or in the mass media. Such behavior is adopted if the individual identifies with those portraying the behavior and receives positive reinforcement for trying out the behavior. Modeling theory is an application of more general social learning theory.


1. An individual encounters a form of action portrayed by a person (model) in a media presentation.

2. The individual identifies with the model, that is, believes that he or she is like (or wants to be like) the model.

3. The individual remembers and reproduces (imitates) the actions of the model in some later situation.

4. Performing the reproduced activity results in some reward (positive reinforcement) for the individual.

5. Thus, positive reinforcement increases the probability that the person will use the reproduced activity again as a means of responding to a similar situation.