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Attending to the Mass Media

Mark Shevy and Robert Hawkins


Mass communication's impact has been shown at an individual level and in society at large, yet all mass communication must pass through the same narrow gateway before having these varied effects. Unless people receive mass communication through their eyes, ears, or touch, and cognitively process it, it is powerless. This is why researchers are interested in studying attention – it is a necessary condition for all mass communication effects (→ Media Effects ). Attention is a central factor in understanding what it means to watch → television , read the → newspaper , listen to the → radio , or use the → Internet . It has an impact on what type and magnitude of effects result from media. Although attention is a part of receiving and processing messages from all types of media, television has drawn most of the attention research. Consequently, much of what we know about attention comes from research on attention to television. In cognitive mass communication research (→ Cognition ; Cognitive Science ), “attention” refers to a state of cognitive focus on a particular stimulus. Looking and listening are external manifestations of attention, not the attention itself. Attention thus involves directing sensory organs toward the acquisition of messages and other stimuli and allocating cognitive resources toward processing them. As such, it is the first step in prominent models and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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