Mass media's influence on everyday speech amongst adolescents: Research findings and perspectives

Term Paper, 2007

21 Pages, Grade: 1,7



Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Media effects research
2.1. Defining media effects
2.2. ‘Mediating factors’
2.3. ‘Uses and Gratifications’
2.4. Lobbies interested in research findings

3. Research
3.1. Qualitative Sociolinguistics
3.2. Methodology
3.3. The recipient(s) : Groups and individuals
3.4. Stages of communication

4. Findings
4.1. Media preferences
4.2. Categories of media references
4.3. Sources for references
4.3.1. Advertising
4.3.2. Music
4.3.3. Movies
4.4. Social functions
4.4.1. Group formation and manifestation
4.4.2. Identity formation
4.4.3. Entertainment
4.5. Other functions
4.6. General findings

5. Conclusion

6. References

1. Introduction

In the Western world in this day and age, it has become impossible to imagine things without mass media. They are omnipresent and frequently keep us company in our daily routine. Media products could not be more diverse: they range from newspapers and countless other written products over radio- and television broadcasting to the internet, video games, and motion pictures. Their diversity as well as their consistent further development make mass media a fascinating field of investigation, and there are more and more schools and universities across the globe which concentrate on mass media, its history, its future prospects, and various other aspects. The influence attributed to media constitutes a controversial topic. While fulfilling numerous valuable functions, such as circulating information and thereby contributing to education, there might also be some negative effects resulting from exposure to certain means of mass communication, which at this point can only be speculated. In recent years, following some shocking high school shoot-outs[1], media effects have become a widely-discussed topic and hence attracted lots of public attention. Do acts of violence seen on television or depicted in video games have a wider impact on adolescents than on adults? As a matter of fact, the media themselves contribute to their own disreputability by making trivialised statements about their direct influence on youths’ demeanour (Bonfadelli 2004: 9).

But aside from this rather explosive issue, how do media influence adolescents’ daily life, e.g. their language use? Schlobinski and his research fellows Kohl and Ludewigt raise this question in their essay’s introduction (1993: 149). In the past, media were frequently accused of having an enormous influence on adolescent language use: Neil Postman’s works (1982; 1985)[2] are mentioned, which basically blame the media for ‘polluting’ young people’s language, causing intense discussions about this topic (Schlobinski/Kohl/Ludewigt 1993: 149). His and other scholars’ works are characterised by a reductionist view, overestimating the media’s influence and leaving other important factors such as (peer) group influence totally aside (Schlobinski/Kohl/Ludewigt 1993: 149). Significantly, the three authors give up finding the answer to their relatively broad introductory question in the course of their work. According to them, it is impossible to figure out how far instances of media citations are directly connected to the actual media consumption (Schlobinski/Kohl/Ludewigt 1993: 154).

Instead of correlating mass media with language use, this paper sets out to provide an overview of the findings and perspectives of researchers who have investigated instances of media references in everyday speech amongst adolescents. Namely, I will refer to the studies of Schlobinski, Kohl, and Ludewigt (1993), Püschel and Holly (1997), Branner (2002), Birken-Silverman (2003), Shankar (2004), and Spreckels (2006), who all approached the topic in similar ways in terms of methodology. Additionally, I will consult the findings of scholars such as Bausinger (1974), Cutler (1999), and Androutsopoulos (2001). Before dealing with the actual research of the above-named scholars and summarising their findings in chapters 3 and 4, chapter 2 provides a brief introduction to media effects research, in order to familiarise the reader with basic assumptions of this particular field of study.

2. Media effects research

It is still a well-established cliché: The image of the mighty manipulation appliance called television and the passive audience, which literally is at TV’s feet (Püschel/Holly 1997: 30). Especially parents, at least the ones who actually care for their offspring’s development, fear that certain media might have the power to manipulate their children’s minds. Undoubtedly, too much media consumption should be avoided, but can researchers actually figure out how media contents effect people? According to Püschel and Holly, media effects research is still far from being methodologically sound (1997: 30). In any case, since this paper tries to compile research on mass media’s influence on adolescents’ language, it is certainly useful to have a brief look at the field of study called media effects research.

2.1. Defining media effects

The impact that television programs, or any other media contents, might have on the audience’s behaviour is investigated by media effects researchers. Communication scientist and psychologist Gerhard Maletzke (1963) defines media effects as all processes resulting from exposure to mass communication in the post-communicative phase, i.e. after the media consumption, as well as all behavioural patterns which occur in the communicative phase, i.e. during the media consumption (Bonfadelli 2004: 18). Bonfadelli adds the pre-communicative phase, which constitutes the time ahead of the communication (2004: 19). This represents the three phases in the communication process: pre-communicative effects include media selection and motives for media consumption, communicative effects are e.g. understanding of the content or activation of emotions, and post-communicative effects constitute all influences noticeable after the media reception has been finished (Bonfadelli 2004: 22).

Additionally, researchers further subdivide media effects into short- and long-term effects, intended and unintended effects, direct and indirect effects as well as several other categories (Bonfadelli 2004: 22-5).

2.2. ‘Mediating factors’

As Bernard Berelson (1960) puts it, “some kinds of communication on some kinds of issues, brought to the attention to some kinds of people under some kinds of conditions, have some kinds of effects” (Jäckel 1999: 64). But what conditions is the audience exposed to? According to Jäckel, the recipient is influenced by the following ‘mediating factors’: (1) ‘selective exposure’, meaning that the audience tries to avoid undesirable media contents, (2) ‘selective perception’, i.e. the recipient subconsciously tends to see only what he wants to see and what corresponds to his existing perception of the world, respectively, (3) ‘selective retention’, being a combination of the first two mediating factors, it means that likeable statements are generally better remembered than dislikeable ones (1999: 65-6). In addition to these intra-personal factors influencing how media contents are perceived by the recipients, there are also interpersonal forces, such as group membership: groups in this context are social circles of acquaintances, e.g. friends and family, each of them sharing certain beliefs and values, which decisively influence the individual’s media perception (Jäckel 1999: 66). Regarding all of these factors it becomes obvious that the recipient is not a passive ‘victim’ who is at the mercy of media strategists. Generally, a monocausal approach overestimating the media’s influence by assuming that the recipients merely have a passive role[3] does not administer to a constructive academic research (Schlobinski/Kohl/Ludewigt 1993: 154).


[1] such as the case of Columbine High School (Littleton, Colorado, USA), which became the setting of a student-initiated massacre involving 14 people being shot on April 20, 1999.

[2] The Disappearance of Childhood (1982); Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985)

[3] Such an approach is depicted in the ‘Stimulus-Response-Model’ (Bonfadelli 2004: 29). Due to its above-mentioned one-sided perception of the communication process it will not be further elaborated in this paper.

Excerpt out of 21 pages


Mass media's influence on everyday speech amongst adolescents: Research findings and perspectives
University of Hannover
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ISBN (eBook)
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Mass, Research, Media, television, TV, Media Studies, Journalism, teenage language, Linguistics, language, speech
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Anonymous, 2007, Mass media's influence on everyday speech amongst adolescents: Research findings and perspectives, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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