COM 270
Introduction to Theories of Human Communication

Lecture 13: Intermedia Theory

I. Introduction

A. Traditional mass communication theory assumed a direct relationship between media messages and resultant changes in public attitudes, values, beliefs, and actions (behaviors).

Media message ---> {change in} attitudes/values/beliefs/actions

B. But by the mid-1950s, mass communication researchers discovered that “mass communication ordinarily does not serve as a necessary and sufficient cause of audience effects, [and] when mass communication does affect people, these effects tend to be minor and short-lived.”  (Joseph Klapper, 1960, p. 8).

II. Intermedia Theory

A. Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld proposed that mass media messages affect people’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors through the intervention of interpersonal communication within social networks.


Media message ---> interpersonal communication ---> {change in} attitudes/values/beliefs/actions

B. Their theory became known as "Intermedia Theory." Intermedia Theory posits that behavioral outcomes are not the direct result of media messages, per se, but rather the interpersonal communication that it stimulates within the social networks of those who observe those messages.

C. Propositions of Intermedia Theory:

1. An individual's opinions, beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors are anchored in his/her social network of family, friends, and acquaintances.

Ex: People depend on their social networks to validate their own opinions, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

Ex: People rely on their social networks for normative guidelines -- what we should; how we should it.

2. Mediated messages reach people through their social networks.

Ex: People read something in the newspaper, or hear something on the radio, or see something on TV, and pass the information on to their friends.

3. Social networks exert biasing effects on media messages.

Ex: People in our social network can confirm and validate media messages.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson and AIDS

4. Media messages have the best chance of changing people's opinions, beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors if those messages receive promotive support within social networks.








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