Recently I read an article in which David Gauntlett discusses Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’. This post summarises just two of those points and adds my own reflection to why the effects model(1) is inconclusive.
Point 1: The effects model tackles social problems ‘backwards’
When trying to explain violence in society, the effects model asks the question; Did media cause the offender to react and behave differently? However the question that should first be asked is; What caused the offender to take those actions? The first question tries to make connections between the media and the crime the offender committed, whereas the second question first addresses any reasons that may have triggered the perpetrators behaviour and tries to make connections between the offender and the crime. Could their identity, background, character or so on give more reason to the cause of the crime?
Point 2: The effects model treats children as inadequate
Many studies that try to prove the truth of the effects model have been done using children. They are used because it is assumed that the true effect mass media can have will be displayed most obviously in children, and that the children won’t fully understand or are easily tricked by the media. Certain projects, however, have shown that in many cases children can understand and even intelligently review the media.
A man named Albert Bandura conducted a study with a media clip, a bobo doll and 36 boys and 36 girls aged 3-6.
The children were shown a clip of a woman beating a bobo doll, punching it, hitting it, picking it up and throwing it, jumping on it and even hitting it with a small hammer. The children were then placed in a room with a whole bunch of toys, including a bobo doll and a small hammer. Left alone, the children ignored most of the toys except for the bobo doll, and you can probably guess what they did to it. They beat it, jumped on it and hit it with a hammer. Bandura’s conclusion on this study was that behaviour can be affected by the media. I don’t find this conclusion accurate at all. Although Bandura argues that the children acted the way they did because of the clip they were shown, he did not ask the question; Why did the children act the way they did? He merely assumed it was because they were imitating the clip. You try watching the clip and honestly ask yourself if you were put in the same room with that bobo doll, wouldn’t you think it might be an entertaining idea to… well beat the living hell out of it?
These points might remind you of a human tendency that I believe the effects model uses and even perhaps abuses. Think about when you used to get in trouble at home. You would pretty much try to think of any excuse that might take some of the blame off you, right? I’m not suggesting that the effects model is childish. In the simplest terms; the effects model was first acknowledged because there was concern that violence and other content in the media could have a negative effect on society. However with such inconclusive studies and proof, people have started using the effects model as an excuse or scapegoat when it comes to explaining certain violent acts in society.
If they start asking the right questions in studies, will more conclusive results be found?
(1) The effects model can be described as the belief that media and in particular television can affect the beliefs and behaviour of the audience, usually for the worse.