Psychological effect of media
Manoj Pushpakumara Jinadasa, Mass Communication lecturer at the
University of Kelaniya, experiments on how media could affect the
psychological status of the modern audience.
What is your view of the status of today’s media in our country with
relation to the international context?
Media cannot be defined in a one-dimensional capacity. It is
intrinsically broader as it consists of various disciplines. Media plays
a very important role in society because it can have a huge influence on
the general public. At the University of Kelaniya, the Department of
Mass Communication has been educating students for thirty years.
Compared to the rest of the world we still have a lot to learn when it
comes to educating our students to bring them up to world standards.
So for that, we have to amalgamate various perspectives; but not only
based on sociology. For an example though Wilbur Schramm, an eminent
sociologist in American traditions and Harold Lasswell, a political
scientist, functioned as great pillars of the discipline of
communication, but later on more and more the psychologists became the
ones who tried to expose the influence of media on society. They
analyzed it in the capacity of psychology.
Therefore media has a great deal of capacity to be analyzed with
reference to the themes and the basic concepts of psychology.
Today, media has become a vital subject in our lives, as most
communication is conveyed via media. When referring to media we always
call it the ‘fourth state’ in the context of political science, but
media is not only a perspective of politics or political science.
According to my conception, today media is more related to our psyche.
This means how we think, how we interpret, how we perceive and finally
how we are going to make decisions on the basis of media.
Therefore our behavior patterns, our perceptions and our emotions are
being shaped by the media. For example: consider the love between a girl
and a boy. It has already been given a form or a format by the media and
established it in society, through the means of film, tele-drama and
advertisement. It is shown how the young girls and boys build their
relationships and when the spectators grasp it as the fashion or
tradition as a guideline to their lives and then they (especially youth)
begin to follow it. Thus, media has to be learned with a broad
perspective when considering its influence on our psyche.
My view is, during the past thirty years of teaching media in our
country we have been taught the maximum part of sociology of media and
communication and a little bit of political communication. Within the
world sense now it is time for us to think about the psychological
aspect of media and Communication.
When media considers psychological aspects to influence the people,
does it become a plus point?
We cannot think it is as plus point or negative. But the program
makers or such persons in media should consider the psyche of the
audience before broadcasting or publishing any out put.
One of the biggest problems in our country is the lack of paying
attention to the psychological behavior of the media. We need to learn
more about this subject, ‘media psychology’ from the international media
and apply it to our local media. Is there a significantly successful
study on this particular subject at international level?
Yes, David Giles, Professor of Media Psychology in Fielding Graduate
J A Richard Harris, a pioneer on Cognitive Psychology on Mass
Communication has each published a book with the same title “Media
Psychology”. As far back as 1911 a scholar tried to analyze the effects
of visual films. Since then many studies have been carried out on this
subject especially on the effects of the media and cognitive psychology.
The study of Media psychology covers behaviour, cognition, emotion,
perception and relationship. Sexuality, violence, addiction and suicide
are some of the issues analyzed with reference to media psychology. If
the media is to function successfully there needs to be a full
understanding of psychology.
Are our county’s media consumers conscious of this interrelation of
media and psychology?
We talk about ‘Media Literacy’ which means the proper understanding
of the media text and its process. Thus there should have both
competencies and skills in producing/texturing any media text and in
grasping any media text in a critical sense. Today in our country the
people do not have pertinent media literacy.
Many spectators have fallen into psychological traumas by using media
mainly because of the lack of media literacy to understand the texts.
Professor Wilbur Schramm has defined communication as “understanding
between two persons”. Thus communication is not mainly a physical
process; it is totally a psychological process.
I have recently researched the effect of media and psychiatric
disorders. My findings show here are certain kinds of psychological
problems which are produced by the media effects. There is a
relationship between the reporting of suicide and murder and copycat
behaviour. Producers and editors need to be fully aware of their
responsibility to the general public and report truthfully, without
sensation thus discouraging the unstable mind from copying the shocking
behaviour of others.
We are very good at using media deliberately; an example of this can
be seen with politics. Media is a powerful tool to use during an
election. Passions are heightened and propaganda is spread through news
articles and advertisements. Both the media and the general public need
to be fully aware of the dangers and misuse by the media
A thirty year Canadian research study was carried out on the effects
of how television viewing influences the behaviour of children.
The findings were published in 2008 and the researchers had found
that people who had more than 5-7 hours of TV viewing each day during
their childhood are more likely to display a higher degree of aggression
when they became an adult.