Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Selective Attention in the field of empirical research?

A very interesting point was brought up in the article "Introduction" by Martin Barker and Julian Petley.  Sometimes it is not that the counter argument doesn't exist, but rather, it is our choice to not hear or see it.  They mentions in the article that, the popular theory became so popular and widely-accepted was because "they were what every politician and newspaper wanted to hear." (p1) This is somewhat similar to the knowledge gap effect, that when an individual becomes interested in a topic, s/he would actively to go out and look to information that is related to this topic.  The public audiences usually already have their opinion about the effect of media violence, and they would only pay attention to these  report or media coverage that reinforces their original belief.

Barken and Petley is trying to challenge the mainstream tradition of what media violence is, but right away they recognizes that it will be a rocky road.  "When we tried to state the opposite case, no one wanted to hear." (p 3) Remember how media is not very efficient in changing what others think, in general it is just extremely difficult in changing other's opinions once they have already set their mind on it, especially when the first impression is so strong.  The "specialist" and "researchers" carefully crafts their messages with very establish languages, so that it is almost impossible to response to them.  That group people, usually not even media academics, but "a group of psychologists, psychiatrists, and paediatricians" (p 2) who has no expertise in media primes the public's mind about the danger of media violence, and makes no room for others.  What summarizes their conclusion is the statement "academic work whose methods and conclusions support populist, 'common-sen' assumptions and gel with newspapers' own ideological positions is far more likely to receive coverage than that which doesn't." (p 8 )


  1. I am a big fan of Barker and Petley's work in Ill Effects. Lucy is helpfully pointing to one of their main arguments, namely that media popularization of academic work is often highly selective and even flat-out wrong. All the subtleties of ongoing debate within an academic discipline get ironed away in media reports (this should remind us of the scientists' attitudes toward journalism that I shared a few weeks back).

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed the writings of Barker and Petley. It was interesting to see the writings of actual media study scholars on the effects of the media presented by alleged experts. Most of the people who create theories on the effects that media has on others were formed by "experts" who weren't supporting their theories with any facts. The "tissue thin claims" are having an adverse effect on society creating false fears over things that may not be true. The faux experts false accusations are feeding what the newspapers and politicians want as Lucy quoted. The lack of credibility in the "research" just adds to the selectivity of the viewer and feeds the "common sense" beast which is hindering the media effects studies. These "common sense" studies aren't challenging the status quo or what is thought to be believed but rather "support populist, "common sense" assumptions and gel with newspapers' own ideological positions [which] is far more likely to receive coverage than that which doesn't" (6). With viewers own beliefs already being selectively illustrated and casted to the audience there is no wonder people don't challenge the common sense of media, though there may be no strong, concrete proof to back it up. The assumptions are corrupting the media and forming a sheltered, censored society. So it makes me media actually dangerous or is it the people shaping the way of our beliefs of media the real issue? Definitely more challenged studies need to be conducted specifically defining these terms of violence, and other media effects issues so that "experts" can't just be fruitlessly presenting falsified information without strong grounds to stake a claim. Facts need to be constructed to hopefully shape a more understanding society that doesn't just nod its' head in agreeance with what is being selectively presented.