Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mass Media Models... Save Lives?

Every day, we go through great lengths to save a life. Doctors work around the clock, performing surgeries in life or death situations. Soldiers put their lives on the line to protect our country. Firefighters leap into burning buildings to save a small child. Police walk into dangerous situations to save a small family from armed robbers.

You see the efforts that people go through to save lives. If people saw this on television, presented by a major celebrity, we would run with full support to defend the police, the firefighters, the doctors, and the soldiers.

Yet, when placed in the opposite light, our support disappears. The soldiers are shooting at innocents and enemies alike. The doctors make a fatal mistake. The firefighter fails to make it to the child but makes it out alive. The police cause the robbers to shoot the family.

Do we still support them after their failures? Some do, some don’t. People believe what they see.

Mass media models change our perception of life. If they were to change the way things are presented, they could effectively make change to the world. Instead of showing violent conflicts, they could show peace rallies. Instead of showing the innocents who are accidentally killed in war and blaming our soldiers, they could show the hardships and mental fatigue that our soldiers go through.

If we were to look at any recent war, there is so much mass media coverage that promotes patriotism and defending our country and working to save our soldiers. The Vietnam War had tons of mass media devoted to getting more troops out into the battlefield, and of course, since we believe what we see, we could do nothing but support or refuse to support, depending upon what side of the war we saw first. If we had seen the pictures and heard of the horrible events that happen to our soldiers, we probably would refuse to support more troops. If we had only seen the many people we were sending troops to try to save, we would probably support this action. These mass media models change everything.

These mass media models could save lives. If only we could put safety and goodness into the media, instead of violence and corruption, more people would fall into the lure of safety and goodness. This could save countless lives. Instead of showing teenagers that if they choose to be involved in gang violence that they’ll have family, show them that they can create family through friendships and to foster whatever relationships they already have at home. Instead of showing teen suicides on television, show teenagers dealing with their problems and coping in healthy ways.

According to the social impact theory, the likelihood that a person will respond to social influence will increase with strength, immediacy, and number. (changingminds.org, pg. 1). People often follow these mass media models because of the importance of the model, how close the problem is, and how many people are throwing the same message at a person. Bibb Latané has an article called the “Psychology of Social Impact” in which he describes some of the effects and the workings of the Social Impact Theory. In this article, he describes a study in which they set up psychology students to play campus newspaper editors and cover catastrophic events and decide how much coverage to give each event. (Latané, 348). The results showed that the three pieces of the social impact theory can cause strong effects upon people. The more the story was covered and made important, the closer the problem was to people, and how many people were involved with the problem increased the effects of the article.

To save a life, we need to change the way people see life. Using mass media models to change the way people see the world, we could potentially save lives. Less violence, less anger, and greater safety could help save many lives. I propose that mass media models be used by the government to promote safety, health, and general well-being.

Works Cited

Latané (1981), Latané and Wolf (1981), Tanford and Penrod (1984). "Social Impact Theory." Changing Minds. Web. 12 Oct. 2009. <http://changingminds.org>.

Latané, Bibb. "The Psychology of Social Impact." 36.4 (1981): 343-56. American Psychological Association, Inc. Web. 8 Dec. 2009. <http://dionysus.psych.wisc.edu/Lit/Articles/LataneB1981a.pdf>.

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