2) The Two-Step Flow of Communication Theory
This is a more modern communication theory.
This hypothesis was first introduced by Paul Lazarsfeld, Bernard Berelson and Hazel Gaudet in a 1944 study which focused on the process of making decisions around the time of a Presidential election campaign called ‘The People’s Choice’. The expected result was that the mass media’s messages would have a direct influence of people’s votes however the researchers were surprised to find out this was infact not the case at all. It was the personal and informal contact that had more of an impact on voting behaviour as apposed to exposure to radio or newspapers. With the results of the research, they developed the two-step flow theory of mass communication.
The Two-Step Flow Theory claims that the information we receive from the mass media moves in two stages.
- Firstly, individuals:- the opinion leaders, who take into account the media and the messages and receives the information it is outputting. There are opinion leaders in all groups, whether that be occupational, social, community or otherwise. The leadership may change from time to time and are dependant on the issue but they are the most influential when interest is shared by the group. There are two types of opinion leaders. The first being monomorphic, meaning they are only influential on one topic and the other, polymorphic which means the leader is influential on a variety of topics.
- These opinion leader will then pass their own interpretations of the information as well as the actual content the media put out, to opinion receivers/seekers.
The theory has helped with our understanding of how the media influences our decisions as well as refining our ability to predict the effects of the media’s messages on audience behaviour.