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Impersonal Effects

Yariv Tsfati

Subject Communication Studies » Communication Reception and Effects
Sociology » Social Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Impersonal effects is an increasingly influential paradigm in media effects research (→  Media Effects ). It argues that media are powerful in shaping our →  perceptions of what anonymous others are feeling and experiencing, and that such perceptions, in turn, influence our →  attitudes and behaviors in a variety of areas. The effect suggested by the theory is, thus, indirect: exposure to media affects the audience's perception of the collective conditions or the opinions and attitudes of people they do not know personally (→  Media Effects: Direct and Indirect Effects ). Cognitive and attitudinal responses to these perceptions are the measurable changes constituting the effects. Claims and speculations regarding impersonal effects date back to De Tocqueville (1956 , 1st pub. 1835), who argued that newspapers help isolated audiences see and feel each other, and facilitate the perception that single, individual experiences are sometimes collective, and thus political. However, conceptualization and empirical investigation of impersonal effects are relatively recent ( Brosius & Bathelt 1994 ; Mutz 1998 ; Gunther & Storey 2003 ). The term “impersonal influence” was coined by Diana Mutz (1998) , who demonstrated significant differences between people's perceptions of their own conditions and their assessments regarding the collective conditions. People tend to perceive ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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