Mass Communication

Lasswell’s Model


In 1948 Harold Lasswell presented a simple yet brilliant model of communication. Often quoted, the model look like this:


Says what

In which channel

To whom

With what effects

The model takes the basics of communication ans explains step by step what occurs. Harold Lasswell went on to create a three-step explanation of the function of media. First, surveillance or providing information about the environment. Second, correlation or presenting solutions to solve problems, and third, transmission, which is educating and socializing.

Charles Wright later developed a fourth purpose, which is entertainment. He also created a 12-category model that completes Lasswell’s model. (see below)



Agenda-Setting is neither a model of communication nor a theory. It seems to be more of an explanation for how the mass media and public opinion effect one another.

One of the first authors of this idea was Walter Lippman. He believed that society responded to the pseudo environment, or what their perception of the environment around them is. Other authors include Donald Shaw, Maxwell McCombs and their colleagues. Their perspective was that "agenda-setting establishes the silent issues or images in the minds of the public."

Agenda setting occurs because the press is responsible for what we as a people are aloud to hear. For example, in Fresno, the agenda was a focus on Crime, which is all our news showed for years, fear of downtown, fear of crime.

In order for an agenda to be set, there is a three-part linear process that must occur. First, the media agenda must be set; next, the public agenda; then, finally, in response, the policy makers, our political leaders, must make a policy agenda. In the simplest model, the media agenda directly affects the public agenda which directly affects the policy agenda.

There are other theorists who suggest that perhaps media doesn’t affect the public as much as the public affects the media. There are three different agenda-setting affects: First, in the representational agenda, the media represents the public agenda; second, in the persistent public agenda, the public agenda never changes regardless of the media influence; third, in the persuasive agenda, the media affects the public agenda.

So where did the original agenda begin? Who decided what the media would portray? Researchers suggest that agenda can come from many different places, most often from people with power and money. There are four different power relations that may affect agenda. The first is high-power source and high-power media; within this relationship, both can be happy or both can be miserable. The second is high-power source and low-power media; this relationship results in the politician or power source uses media to his or her own ends, an example being Hitler and his use of the broadcast media. The third is low-power source and high-power media; this relationship is one in which the media decides what the agenda will be and how it will be portrayed. The fourth and final power relationship is the low-power source and low-power media; within this relationship, neither the media nor the powers that be will set the agenda: The agenda will be set in reaction to events rather than by human decisions.

Agenda-setting is one hypothesis which doesn’t totally explain how, why, or by whom agendas are set. All we know is that they are set and we can only theorize about the rest.


Harold Innis & Marshall McLuhan: Communication, Technology, and Culture


Media is one of the most powerful influences on earth. With just a few publications it has the power to send information across the world or destroy a person's character. But what role does this force play on us historically. Harold Adams was the first to explore this concept. Then this bizarre concept was later take up and further developed by Marshall McLuhan. In my report I will discuss both of these individuals' points of views.

 Harold Innis:

Harold Innis was the first to see communication media as the essence of civilization. He felt that history is directed by the predominant media of each age. Harold suggested that media and its ability to facilitate information decides what is history. What I think he is trying to say is that media has the power to determine what is important, to print it, and to distribute. Thus, having the ability to decide what is considered historical.

He then talks about the transport of media. First, there is time-binding. This is heavy media such as parchment, clay, or stone that are long lasting. Because of this they have the ability to facilitate communication from one generation to another. Innis suggest that this media is based toward tradition. Then he goes on to talk about space-binding media. This is media that is transported on paper and is easy and light (Littlejohn, 1997). These make facilitation of communication from one location to another more simple. An example of this would be current newspapers and magazines.


Marshall McLuhan:

Marshall McLuhan then took on the early work of Harold Innis and expanded it. He too followed the notion that history is directed by predominant media. Marshall also hypothesized that people adapt to their environment through a certain balance or ratio of the senses, and the primary medium of the age brings out a particular sense ratio, thereby affecting perception. He gives the example of, "the wheel is an extension of the foot. A book is an expansion of the eye, and clothing an extension of the skin." He later suggests that media resonates with or reflects the perceptual categories of individuals instead of envisioning a casual link between media and personal perception. McLuhan then states seeing a simultaneous out pouring of certain kinds of thought on the part of the media and the population. Later Marshall changes his mind and determined that media forms do not cause, but, bring out modes of thought that are already present in the individual (McLuhan, 1978).


In conclusion Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan both brought forth thought provoking ideas that were beyond their time. Though many might question the validity of their ideas, they are still non the less worthy of further exploration.



Littlejohn, Stephen W. Theories Of Human Communication (Fifth Ed). Humboldt State University: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1996.

McLuhan, Marshall. "The Brain and the Media: The ‘Western’ Hemisphere." Journal of Communication 28 (1978): 54-60.


 Cultivation Analysis

Cultivation analysis is a program dealing with the total impacts of mass communication on cultures over time. It maintains that television, through commercials, the news, drama and comedy, send common images to the viewing masses. Gerbner explains television as a "homogenizing" or "mainstreaming" agent, because it sends general images and presents a common way of viewing things. He also maintains that t.v. has "become the primary common source of socialization" (pg. 340). Cultivation analysis is concerned with the total, not individual, impacts of communication through television. Where people used to learn socialization and cultivate their predisposition’s from experience, they now obtain through television. The danger lies in the fact that television does not generally present a realistic view of the world. To illustrate this phenomena, Gerbner has researched prime-time television and noted four important deviations from reality:

a. there are three times more men on t.v. than there are women

b. there are few Hispanics represented - when presented, they are minor characters

c. middle-class people are almost exclusively portrayed

d. there are three times more law enforcement personnel portrayed than blue collar workers.

How people view reality depends on how much television they watch. Heavy viewers tend to view reality more like it is portrayed on television than light viewers do.

One aspect of cultivation is the "mean-world syndrome". This term describes negative viewpoints through television’s portrayal of violence. Gerbner noted that although less than 1% of the population are actually victims of violent crimes, television would have one believe otherwise, because it bombards viewers with constant violent images and situations. Violent images send messages that people are not trustworthy, are looking out for themselves even at the expense of others, and that everyone is potentially at risk to violence.

Cultivation analysis is not a universal effect, despite the mainstreaming effect. Different groups interpret messages differently depending on the interaction of others. For instance, adolescents who discuss t.v. with their parents are more likely to have more realistic views of reality than those who don’t. People who watch more cable television.

The Diffusion of Information and Influence

Lazarsfield and his colleagues found that the effects of media were influenced by Interpersonal communication. It later came to be known as the "Two-Step Flow Hypothesis". This hypothesis had a major impact on our understanding of the mass media’s’ role. It focuses on how information and influence are distributed in society. Lazarsfield stated that, information flows from the mass media to opinion leaders in society, to their peers. There is much evidence that voters listen much more to their peers than to the media. Most recently studies conducted show that a two -step process is not enough, this gave rise to the Multiple -Step Model. Research shows that the number of relays between the media and receivers is variable.

Everett Rogers: The diffusion of an innovation occurs when an idea spreads from the creator to surrounding areas or peers. This line of evidence has come from American and foreign researchers in fields such as agriculture, rural studies, national development, and organizational communication.

The broadest and most communication-oriented theory of diffusion came from Everett Rogers and his colleagues. Rogesr relates dissemination to the process of social change. This social change he is talking about includes invention, diffusion, and consequences. This change can occur internally and externally of the group.

Shifting back to the idea that interpersonal networks are most important, the ways individuals understand ideas and the degree to which ideas are accepted and modified depends greatly on the interaction along the network. Diffusion appears to be a transaction rather than a simple transmission of information to someone. Communication can lead to convergence, the shared meaning of an innovation.

The media and the use of interpersonal communication work together in the development of public opinion. What is called the "spiral of silence" is when individuals voice their opinion because they perceive it to be popular. This voicing of their opinion creates a spiral because the side that doesn’t get heard falls to the waist side. We as humans are more likely to voice our opinions if we believe our opinions are shared. When we don’t feel our opinion to be liked we remain quiet and our voice is never heard.

Uses, Gratification, and Dependency

Before the 1980’s the original idea about uses and gratifications focused on the audience versus the message. They assume the audience to be active in choosing how to satisfy their needs. As a result of this approach the media are only one option to gratify needs.

Philip Palmgreen created a theory of uses and gratification which states that people orient themselves to the world according to their beliefs and evaluations, this is called the expectancy-value theory. This theory about the media is basically an extension of the former, our attitude of the media is dependent upon our beliefs and evaluations of it.

If we watch the news on channel six every day and we like the newscasters and the information they provide, this means we seek gratification of the news by watching channel six. As we gain experience with this segment of the media we feed this back to our beliefs about this segment of the media and create a cyclical process that reverts us back to watching the news every day on the same channel.

Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin Defleur proposed the Dependency Theory. In this theory they take a broad systems approach by proposing a strong relationship among audiences, media, and the larger social system. There are two sources of variation in the amount of dependency a person might have. One is the number and centrality of information functions being served. The media have many functions they serve and people place a different level of importance on each function. The second source of dependency is social stability, when social change and conflict are high reliance on the media is high. For example how many of us were more tuned to the t.v. during the riots in L.A. after the Rodney King beatings? Rubin and Windahl created a model which illustrates how institutions and the media work together to create needs and motivations to be in tune with the media.