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What is “Two-step Flow”? What Implications Does It Have for Our Understanding of Mass Communication? Essay

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Updated: Apr 9th, 2020

Introduction

The two-step flow theory of communication revolves around a study that was conducted on the social influence of the media. It should be known that it was introduced in 1994 by Paul Lazarsfeld (Berger 1995, p. 14). In this case, it tries to explain that the effects of the mass media are indirectly portrayed through the impact of different opinion leaders.

This is done through their influence that cannot be underestimated because they are looked upon by the public (Casmir 1994, p. 34). As much as different people might get information through the media, it should be known they might trust what opinion leaders say. This means that most people are entirely influenced by the media second hand as time goes by.

As a matter of fact, this influence is attributable to these people who are respectable in the society. Opinion leaders influence the media and that is why they are looked upon. We can describe opinion leaders as people who are privy of information or content that will be relayed by the media.

Later on, they are able to interpret this content based on the own opinions. As time goes by, they will be able to give out this information to the public through infiltration thereby influencing them.

In the long run, the public that has been infiltrated by different opinions becomes opinion followers. The influence that these opinion leaders might have comes from the elite media that is not accessible to the general public (Hoynes 1007, p. 19). Therefore, the elite media creates some social influence that can later on be adjusted by different opinions and ideals.

There might be opposing ideals and opinions but proper combination leads to a popular mass media that can appeal to everyone. All this aspects can be described as social persuasion because there are different people who might form a decision and opinion based on this (DeFleur 1989, p. 26).

In conclusion, it can be said that information gets to the masses through influential figures and leaders. This can explain why some media campaigns and initiatives do not achieve their goals and objectives because leaders might diffuse the content in a manner that was not desired.

Discussion

Overview

The two steps flow has had different implications on our general understanding of mass communication in various ways. This means that such implications can be understood from different perspectives. As far as the two-step flow of communication is concerned, it stressed the human agency that therefore brings a different understanding on what we knew initially (Tankard 1979, p. 43).

We have been forced to look upon the human agency because of the role that it plays in trying to ensure that information reaches to the masses. In fact, it has tried to give us a better understanding that information flows from the mass media to opinion leaders who later on relay it to us.

For example, there are other people who have always relied on what their leader says based on the trust and respect that they might be having for him (DeFleur 1983, p. 29). This has therefore made us to understand why there might be different versions of information as a result of various interpretations which is guided by what a given opinion leader believes in.

Implications

We should understand that the two-step flow of communication has made us to understand the influence that the mass media has had on decision making. In this case, it has improved our understanding because it is quite obvious that decisions are made from information that we get (Underwood 1994, p. 78).

As much as this information might be from opinion leaders, it plays a big role in the final and ultimate decision that we might settle on. There are various theories behind decision making in our society and this is what two-step flow theory has tried to make us understand as time goes by.

All in all, this has tried to explain why certain decisions are made in different occasions and circumstances (Baran 2011, p. 58). There is a certain process that is followed as far as decision making is concerned and this is what the theory has tried to elaborate.

It should be known that there has been an implication of our understanding of mass communication as a result of this theory based on the fact that it has redefined our predictions on the influence of the media on different behaviors. This can be explained with practical examples where we might find different people changing their behavior to be in tandem with what they have been seeing from the media (Staubhaar 2009, p. 56).

For instance, some culture and form of dressing has been borrowed and copied as a result of the media. This has therefore changed our understanding of mass media because some media messages can ultimately change our behavior. In this case, it is mostly the audience that has been targeted by the media through opinion leaders who can access elite media before the masses.

As a matter of fact, the two-step flow of communication has enabled us to understand why some media initiatives and campaigns have not been able to alter the behavior of different audiences (Mehrabian 1971, p. 61).

This aspect implies that we should always understand when some media campaigns and initiatives fail to change different behaviors because the message might not be relayed or received as it was intended. In most occasions, this is because opinion leaders are the ones who transmit and give the masses information based on their own opinions and ideas (Bruce 2008, p. 36).

It should therefore be understood that some opinion leaders might want information to conform to their beliefs and opinions which might not achieve its initial and intended purpose. This is based on the diffusion of innovation theory that has come about as a result of this aspect of information flowing from the elite media to opinion leaders who access it to the mainstream media that is relied on by the masses.

In a broad perspective, this implies that opinions that different people might be holding will always differ in a broad way because opinion leaders cannot read from the same script in any way (Berlo 1960, p. 56).

Another implication should revolve around misunderstandings that will be witnessed amongst different individuals who happen to be the masses as a result of their affiliation to a given opinion leader. This implies that contrary to our expectations and understanding, there is bound to be misrepresentation of ideas and information by the masses who are supposed to be reached by the mainstream media (Schramm 1987, p. 38).

Our understanding of mass media has been built on the hypodermic needle theory that revolves around a stimulus response. In this case, people believe that once information has been given out by the media, all the masses are supposed to get it once and relay it to others (Weaver 1975, p. 59).

This is different from the two-step flow of communication that emphasizes that information, ideas and opinions are given out by opinion leaders. Such an issue therefore implies that as far as our understanding on information is concerned, we should seek to evaluate what we get before forming an opinion or decision on different aspects.

Filtering of messages has had a very big implication on our general understanding of mass communication. This has had a different impact from our knowledge on the functions of mass communication. A perfect example that can be used in this case is political leaders. Political leaders have different ideals and beliefs that they stand for meaning that they are never ready to lose out on anything (Barnlund 2008, p. 92).

In the process, they end up filtering the messages that they will give to the masses because of their ability to access the elite media that is later on received by mainstream media. Most of these aspects happen during political campaigns so that politicians can be able to influence voting preferences (Berko 2010, p. 55).

All in all, these developments have made it difficult for people to understand the workings of the mass media as time goes by. This is because there is a big difference between theoretical issues and the way they are practiced as far as the two-step flow of information is concerned.

The implication of how the mass media mediates between our social relationships has also been an issue because this can ultimately be confusing. In this case, the understanding that people had about social relationships in relation to the messages that they receive has had to be re-evaluated because this is not the way things ought to be (Chandler 1998, p. 71).

Social relationships cannot be said to be uniform and well guarded yet there is screening of messages by different opinion leaders before it is released to the masses with different intentions. Such an issue has helped to reinforce the belief that the media is owned by certain individuals who can do whatever they like without any problem.

This gives mixed reactions in different perspectives because it should occur that there are people who will not rely on what they are being relayed for because opinion leaders have screened he messages (Heyman 1994, p. 83).

Conclusion

The impact of personal influence on mass communication has now been understood as a result of this theory. This therefore implies that people will always try to understand messages because it is generated by a network of interconnected individuals (Potter 2008, p. 44). On either side of opinion leaders, there is always a network of connected individuals who share in specific ideals that they would wish to put forward.

This can therefore seek to explain why we have different views based on the information and messages that we have received as a result of mass communication. A wide variety of effects can be seen in our society based on what the two-step theory is trying to explain.

Interpersonal communication at community levels has been reevaluated in different ways through mass communication that is influenced by opinion leaders which is set to continue as people advance their interests in the society (Burke 2010, p. 93).

Our media has occasionally been relied on for messages and information for a long time but this varies in different societies based on what leaders want. This is a fact that we are supposed to live with because it is a reality. Notwithstanding, we should know that the messages that we receive might be intended for various purposes which calls for vigilance and proper interpretation.

Reference list

Baran, S., 2011. Theories of Mass Communication: Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: McGraw Hill.

Berger, A., 1995. Essentials of Mass Communication Theory. London: SAGE Publications.

Barnlund, D., 2008. A transactional model of communication: Communication theory. New Jersey: Transaction.

Berlo, D., 1960. The process of communication. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

Berko, R., 2010. Communicating. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Bruce, H., 2008. Management. New York. Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

Burke, P., 2010. Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet. Chicago: Polity Press.

Casmir, F., 1994. Building Communication Theories. New Jersey: Laurence Erlbaum Associates.

Chandler, D., 1998. The Transmission Model of Communication. New York: Routledge.

DeFleur, M., 1983. Milestones in Mass Communication Research: Media Effects. New York: Longman Inc.

DeFleur, M., 1989.Theories of Mass Communication. New York: Longman Inc.

Heyman, R., 1994. Why Didn’t You Say That in the First Place? How to Be Understood at Work. San Francesco, Ca: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Hoynes, W., 1997. Media/Society: Industries, Images and Audiences. London: Pine Forge Press.

Mehrabian, A.,1971. Silent Messages. : .

Potter, J., 2008. Arguing for a general framework for mass media scholarship. New York: SAGE.

Schramm, W., 1987. How communication works: The process and effects of communication. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.

Staubhaar, D., 2009. Media Now. Belmont, Ca: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Tankard, J.,1979. Communication Theories — Origins, Methods and Uses. New York: Hastings House.

Underwood, M., 1994. Mass Media: Limited Effects. New York: McGraw Hill.

Weaver, W., 1975. The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana, Illinois: .

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