Welcome to Media in Minutes’ where I talk
you through important concepts in media and communication. Today we’re talking about the Hypodermic
Needle Theory which was one of the earliest ways of
thinking about how the mass media influences audiences. It was developed in the 1920s
and 1930s after researchers observed the effect of
propaganda during World War I and events like the Orson Welles ‘War of the
Worlds’ broadcast. The hypodermic needle theory is a
linear communication theory which suggests that media messages are
injected directly into the brains of a passive audience. It suggests that we’re all the same and we all respond to media messages in
the same way. This way of thinking about communication
and media influences is no longer really accepted. In the 1930s many
researchers realized the limitations of this idea and some dispute with early media theorists
gave the idea any serious attention at all. Nevertheless, the Hypodermic Needle Theory continues
to influence the way we talk about the media. People believe that the mass media has a
powerful effect. Parents worry about the influence of
television in violent video games. News outlets run headlines like ‘Is Google
making a stupid?’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto led teen to kill.’ So how did this way of thinking about
the mass media develop? Back in 1927, Harold Lasswell
an American political scientist and communication theorist published a book
called ‘Propaganda Technique in the World War’ Writing about the effect of Allied
propaganda during World War I, Lasswell wrote: “From a propaganda point-of-view it
was matchless performance for Wilson brewed the subtle poison
which industrious men injected into the veins of a staggering people until the
smashing powers of the Allied armies knocked them into submission.” The Payne Fund Studies which were
conducted between 1929 and 1932 and looked at the effect movies have on
children also contributed to this idea that the mass media has a powerful and direct influence on the audiences. Although these studies have been
criticized for the lack of scientific rigour, they were really one of the first and
most comprehensive examinations of how the media works Writing about the influence of movies
the project chairman W.W Charters wrote that they have the potential to
profoundly affect the way children behave. Even in the 1930s, however,
researches were starting to realize that this way of thinking about media
influence was kind of inadequate. Then, in 1938 Orson Welles and
the Mercury Theatre broadcast a dramatisation of HG Wells’ ‘War of
the Worlds.’ Ladies and gentlemen, I have a grave
announcement to make. Incredible as it may seem, both the
observations of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to the inescapable assumption
that those strange beings who landed in the Jersey farmlands tonight of the vanguard of an invading army from
the planet Mars. The battle which took place tonight at
Grovers Mill has ended in one of the most startling military defeats ever
suffered by an army in modern times; seven thousand men armed with rifles
and machine guns pitted against a single fighting machine
of the invaders from Mars. One hundred and twenty known survivors. The rest strewn over the battle area from
Grovers Mill to Plainsboro crushed and trampled to death under the
metal feet of the monster, or burned to cinders by its heat ray. The program, which was presented in the
format of a news bulletin, caused some listeners to believe that the
Earth was being invited by martians. The New York Times claimed that thousands
of people were gripped by mass hysteria. While thousands of people may have been
panic-stricken, they were only a small proportion of the six million people who
enjoy a quiet night around the radio. On the surface, events like they seem
to suggest that the media can have a powerful influence on audiences. Nevertheless, The Hypodermic Needle Theory is kind of
inadequate to describe the process of communication immediate influence It just doesn’t work.

53 thoughts on “The Hypodermic Needle Theory | Media in Minutes | Episode 1”

  1. Thanks so much, Brett. My students are already envious of yours. This might tip them into total mutiny. Seriously, thank you.

  2. Very nice sir, this video adds a touch of class to YouTube. Glad to see some people using the medium for good, rather than just your run of the mill evil.

  3. Cheers! I used Adobe After Effects to animate. It's mostly simple key framing of the rotation and scale attributes of objects.

  4. i have almost seen all the lectures by you sir.. and ur lectures are very refreshing and informative.. thank you a million times.. my exams are approaching and im now clear about the concepts 🙂

  5. I have English subtitles for the video if you'd be interested in translating that file. That way your friends can watch the video with Spanish subtitles! Message me if you'd like me to email you the subtitle file! Thanks for watching!

  6. Thanks for the feedback, too. I wish I was a professor, I'd look good in tweed and elbow patches.

  7. thanks a lot for these videos :)! My media exam is tomorrow and I'm cramming in some information! Wish I found your videos earlier, they're extremely helpful

  8. After studying multimedia for over 10 years this still works in my eyes and instead of it being an ejection of one medium as one shot as indicated. It's now a collection of controlled media over time that influences society's way of thinking.

  9. I am studying mass communication in MSA university in Egypt , i didnt except to find video demostrating explainnation about massmedia theories , thank you so much 

  10. Guys, I love you!!! there's no material like this in Spanish! 
    So i´m trying to put subtitles on this for my classmates. Greetings from Pamplona Colombia 😀

  11. Reasons why the theory is inadequate didn't really hold. Toward the end, it seemed that you were going to defend the theory with your example of War of the Worlds.

  12. Well duh.
    Obviously reality won't be as ideal as the theory suggest, and neither is the point of the use of the theory.

    To creating a phenomenon which simulates the said theory, certain variables and factors are needed to be considered in the process of distributing certain information ( aka injecting information to the audience with a needle) with guarantee that it will be wholly accepted by the receiver.

    You can't penetrate a skin with a dull needle, just as you can't expect someone to accept an information from a communication with bad delivery.

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