Davison's "The Third-Person Effect in Communication" seems to hit on more than just a hypothesis of mass communications. Just to review, the third-person effect hypothesis "predicts that people will tend to overestimate the influence that mass communications have on the attitudes and behavior of others" (3). People are more likely to see themselves as relatively unaffected by mass media, while assuming others who are not "me" or "you" are not as fortunate. This intrigued me because it reminded me of psychology - in a given situation, people lean towards seeing themselves in a positive light and optimally explaining their behavior, while others who behave the same way are seen negatively. For example, if I cut someone off in traffic, I say it's because I was in a hurry to do something important. If someone else cuts me off in traffic, I assume the worst and say they're rude and inconsiderate drivers who shouldn't be on the road. Same situation, different standpoints.
The third-person effect and the psychological example are not completely parallel, but it seemed similar enough to share. People tend to think the best of themselves, and this can be seen especially in light of the media. Researchers go back and forth on the idea of mass media's "powerful" effects on audiences, and perhaps this triggers a desire to be "above the influence" among consumers. However, it seems to me that people generally revel in their independence. Desiring to be autonomous, they lash out against any implication that somehow they are influenced by something they may not be conscious of. People like to trust in themselves, and it can be unnerving to discover their lack of total control. Are you unsettled reading this and mulling over the possibilities? They also have the ability to manipulate others, which unfortunately does come into play - whether it be within interpersonal communication or national propaganda campaigns. What we face every day inevitably affects us to some degree - but how willing are we to admit it? Whether we may be played as puppets by the media (strong effect model), or taking in useful information from the plethora available to us (selectivity/limited effects) or to other degrees, it is fascinating to explore the notion of how perhaps the third-person effect exposes something about the human condition.