Why media have so little impact on us

By Péter Bajomi-Lázár, Budapest Business School. Media effects research and reception studies affirm that, contrary to popular belief, and even though we are permanently exposed to media content, legacy media have relatively little impact upon public opinion and voting behaviour in pluralist societies such as the United Kingdom and the United States. For example, Stuart Hall, of the Birmingham School, argues that media users are free to either subscribe to, or reject, or negotiate the dominant meaning encoded in media messages. But what explains the limited impact of media? Here are three explanations for your consideration. Early research refers to Leon Festinger’s influential cognitive dissonance theory. For example, Josepf Klapper argues that we use media selectively: we primarily read, listen to and watch outlets that reinforce our pre-existing attitudes and opinions so that we do not need to reconsider our position on issues that construct the very bases of our identity. The ritual theory of communication makes a similar argument. James Carey suggests that media establish a domain “for the creation, representation and celebration of shared … beliefs…

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