14.1 Getting Started
- Please list three things that you recently purchased, preferably in the last twenty-four hours—the things can be items or services. Decide which purchase on your list stands out as most important to you and consider why you made that purchase decision. See if you can list three reasons. Now pretend you are going to sell that same item or service to a friend—would the three reasons remain the same, or would you try additional points for them to consider? Compare your results with a classmate.
- Please think of one major purchase you made in the past year. It should be significant to you, and not a daily or monthly purchase. Once you made the purchase decision and received the item (e.g., a car), did you notice similar cars on the roads? Did you pay attention to details like color, modifications, or reports in the popular press about quality? Did you talk to your friends about it? What kind of information did you pay attention to—information that reinforced your purchase decision, or information that detracted from your appreciation of your newly acquired possession? Discuss your responses with classmates.
No doubt there has been a time when you wanted something from your parents, your supervisor, or your friends, and you thought about how you were going to present your request. But do you think about how often people—including people you have never met and never will meet—want something from you? When you watch television, advertisements reach out for your attention, whether you watch them or not. When you use the Internet, pop-up advertisements often appear. Living in the United States, and many parts of the world, means that you have been surrounded, even inundated, by persuasive messages. Mass media in general and television in particular make a significant impact you will certainly recognize.
Consider these facts:
- The average person sees between four hundred and six hundred ads per day—that is forty million to fifty million by the time he or she is sixty years old. One of every eleven commercials has a direct message about beauty.Raimondo, M. (2010). About-face facts on the media. About-face. Retrieved from http://www.about-face.org/r/facts/media.shtml
- By age eighteen, the average American teenager will have spent more time watching television—25,000 hours—than learning in a classroom.Ship, J. (2005, December). Entertain. Inspire. Empower. How to speak a teen’s language, even if you’re not one. ChangeThis. Retrieved from http://www.changethis.com/pdf/20.02.TeensLanguage.pdf
- An analysis of music videos found that nearly one-fourth of all MTV videos portray overt violence, with attractive role models being aggressors in more than 80 percent of the violent videos.DuRant, R. H. (1997). Tobacco and alcohol use behaviors portrayed in music videos: Content analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 87, 1131–1135.
- Forty percent of nine- and ten-year-old girls have tried to lose weight, according to an ongoing study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.Body image and nutrition: Fast facts. (2009). Teen Health and the Media. Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=bodyimage&page=fastfacts
- A 1996 study found that the amount of time an adolescent watches soaps, movies, and music videos is associated with their degree of body dissatisfaction and desire to be thin.Tiggemann, M., & Pickering, A. S. (1996). Role of television in adolescent women’s body: Dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 20, 199–203.
- Identification with television stars (for girls and boys), models (girls), or athletes (boys) positively correlated with body dissatisfaction.Hofschire, L. J., & Greenberg, B. S. (2002). Media’s impact on adolescent’s body dissatisfaction. In D. Brown, J. R. Steele, & K. Walsh-Childers (Eds.), Sexual Teens, Sexual Media. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
- At age thirteen, 53 percent of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to 78 percent by the time they reach seventeen.Brumberg, J. J. (1997). The body project: An intimate history of American girls. New York, NY: Random House.
- By age eighteen, the average American teenager will witness on television 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders.Huston, A. C., et al. (1992). Big world, small screen: The role of television in American society. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Mass communication contains persuasive messages, often called propaganda, in narrative form, in stories and even in presidential speeches. When President Bush made his case for invading Iraq, his speeches incorporated many of the techniques we’ll cover in this chapter. Your local city council often involves dialogue, and persuasive speeches, to determine zoning issues, resource allocation, and even spending priorities. You yourself have learned many of the techniques by trial and error and through imitation. If you ever wanted the keys to your parents’ car for a special occasion, you used the principles of persuasion to reach your goal.