Uses and gratifications theory

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Information about Uses and gratifications theory

Published on March 8, 2014

Author: brkbrlk



WHAT IS THE USES AND GRATIFICATION THEORY? • Uses and gratifications theory (UGT) is an approach to understanding why and how people actively seek out specific media to satisfy specific needs. UGT is an audience-centered approach to understanding mass communication.Diverging from other media effect theories that question "what do media do to people?", UGT focuses on "what do people do with media?"

ASSUMPTIONS OF USES AND GRATIFICATIONS THEORY • • • • • The audience is active and its media use is goal oriented The initiative in linking need gratification to a specific medium choice rests with the audience member The media compete with other resources for need satisfaction People have enough self-awareness of their media use, interests, and motives to be able to provide researchers with an accurate picture of that use. Value judgements of media content can only be assessed by the audience.

STAGES OF THE THEORY • In 1944 Herta Herzog began to look at the earliest forms of uses and gratifications with her work classifying the reasons why people chose specific types of media. For her study, Herzog interviewed soap opera fans and was able to identify three types of gratifications. The three gratifications categories, based on why people listened to soap operas, were emotional, wishful thinking, and learning. • In 1970 Abraham Maslow suggested that uses and gratifications theory was an extension of the Needs and Motivation Theory. The basis for his argument was that people actively looked to satisfy their needs based on a hierarchy. These needs are organized as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in the form of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental needs at the base and the need for self-actualization at the tip. From the bottom-up the pyramid contains Biological/Physical, Security/Safety, Social/Belonging, Ego/Self-Respect and Self-actualization at the top.


STAGES OF THE THEORY • • In 1969 Jay Blumler and Denis McQuail studied the 1964 election in the United Kingdom by examining people's motives for watching certain political programs on television. By categorizing the audience's motives for viewing a certain program, they aimed to classify viewers according to their needs in order to understand any potential mass-media effects.The audience motivations they were able to identify helped lay the groundwork for their research in 1972 and eventually uses and gratifications theory. In 1972 Denis McQuail, Jay Blumler and Joseph Brown suggested that the uses of different types of media could be grouped into 4 categories. The four categories were: diversion, personal relationships, personal identity and surveillance.

4 BASIC NEEDS • • • • 1. Diversion - escape from everyday issues 2. Personal relationships - using the media for interaction e.g. substituting family for soap operas 3.Personal identity - learn behavior and values from texts. Identify with characters. 4. Surveillance - useful information e.g. weather reports, news etc

THE ACTIVE AUDIENCE • Jay Blumler presented a number of interesting points, as to why Uses and Gratifications cannot measure an active audience. He stated, "The issue to be considered here is whether what has been thought about Uses and Gratifications Theory has been an article of faith and if it could now be converted into an empirical question such as: How to measure an active audience?" (Blumler, 1979). Blumler then offered suggestions about the kinds of activity the audiences were engaging with in the different types of media.

THE ACTIVE AUDIENCE • • • • Utility : "Using the media to accomplish specific tasks" Intentionality: "Occurs when people's prior motive determine use of media" Selectivity: "Audience members' use of media reflect their existing interests" Imperviousness to Influence: "Refers to audience members' constructing their own meaning from media content"

MEDIA EFFECTS Uses and gratifications Theory was developed in part to help solve a fairly important problem for mass communication theorists. Sven Windahl calls for the combinations of the Uses and gratifications theory andthe effects traditions into what he labels the uses and effects model.

MEDIA EFFECTS • • Lucas, L., & Sherry, J. L. (2004). Sex differences in video game play: A communication-based explanation. In this study Lucas and Sherry investigated gender differences in video game use. They focused on “interpersonal needs for inclusion, affection, and control, as well as socially constructed perceptions of gendered game play”. The authors used a Uses and Gratifications framework to examine these gender differences and posed the following hypotheses:

• • • • • 1. Young women will be less likely to be video game players than young men. 2. Young women will play video games for fewer hours than young men. 3. Young women will be less motivated by the gratification of social interaction than young men. 4. Young men and young women will be highly motivated to play video games by the ability to beat or control the game. 5. Young women will enjoy nonmental games more than mental games.

MEDIA EFFECTS • • • These Uses and Gratifications theorists point to a second set of premises that make clear their belief that people’s use of media and the gratifications they seek from it are inextricably intertwined with the world in which they live. Katz and his colleagues (1974) originally wrote that “social situations” in which people find themselves can be “involved in the generation of media-related needs” in five ways. First, social situations can produce tensions and conflicts, leading to pressure for their easement through the consumption of media. Second, social situations can create an awareness of problems that demand attention, information about which may be sought in the media.

MEDIA EFFECTS • • • Third, social situations can impoverish real-life opportunities to satisfy certain needs, and the media can serve as substitutes or supplements. In other words, sometimes the situations in which you find yourself make the media the best, if not the only, source possible. Fourth, social situations often elicit specific values, and their affirmation and reinforcement can be facilitated by the consumption of related media materials. Finally, social situations demand familiarity with media; these demands must be met to sustain membership in specific social groups.

USES AND GRATIFICATIONS AND NEW MEDIA Many researchers (and mass media consumers) believe we will change the way we watch television and use media in general in the future. According to the research, goals for media use can be grouped into five uses. The audience wants to: 1. be informed or educated 2. identify with characters of the situation in the media environment 3. simple entertainment 4. enhance social interaction 5. escape from the stresses of daily life

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