Role of Media as a Tool of Learning: Agenda Setting Theory

Chapter 3

Theoretical Framework

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Theoretical framework of the study is a structure that can hold or support a theory of research work. It presents the theory which explains why the problem under study exists. Thus, the Theoretical Framework is but a theory that serves as a basis for conducting research.

Theoretical Framework of this study has been chosen on the basis of the considered judgment of the researcher. This research has analyzed within the framework of Agenda setting theory of communication and social learning theory. Agenda setting theory will help to analyze the role of newspapers in setting the agenda for policy makers and formatting public opinion. Secondly the researcher also selected social learning theory. This theory will also help to analyze the role of media as a tool of learning and as a social institution in improving the status of child rights in Pakistan.

Media has the strong power to effect and hold people’s mind due to its diversity. Researcher have suggested and given several communication theories to describe the diversity of media. This chapter is related to the explanation of different function of media, through description of two communication theories, in the connection with this study.

Agenda setting theory explains how the media sets its agenda and manipulate the things and phenomenon. Media also give the selection of coverage to the issues to grip people’s mind. Seeing in this context, if media give coverage to the solution of the issue, it can play a constructive role for society, for being the part of process of resolving the conflict.

3.1. Agenda Setting Theory

“ The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its reader what to think about” (B.Cohen1963). The concept of agenda setting was found in early 20th century.

It was first discussed by Walter Lippmann in his book “Public Opinion” in 1922. Lippmann emphasized that the picture of reality created by news media were merely reflections of the actual reality and sometimes distorted. He said that the news media projection of world creates a pseudo environment and people react to this pseudo environment.

McCombs and Donald Shaw defined agenda setting “in choosing and displaying news, editors, newsroom staff, and broadcasters play an important part in shaping practical reality. Readers learn not only about a given issue, but how much importance to attach to that issue from the amount of information in a news story and its position” (1972, p.176).

Kurt and Gladys Engel Lang (1959) also wrote “The mass media force attention to certain issues. They build up public images of public figures. They are constantly presenting objects suggesting what individuals in mass media should think about, know about and have feeling about,”

There are two assumptions underlie most research on agenda setting:

The press and the media do not reflect reality; they filter and shape it.
Media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues.

3.1.1. Functions of Agenda Setting

The agenda setting functions has multiple components

Media agenda are issues discussed in the media, such as newspaper, television and radio.
Public agenda are issues discussed and personally relevant to members of the public.
Policy agenda are issues that policy makers consider important, such as legislators.
Corporate agenda are issues that big business and corporation consider important, including corporation.

These four agendas are interrelated. The two basic assumption underlie most research on agenda setting are the press and the media do not reflect reality, they filter and shape it, and media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues.

3.1.2. Levels of Agenda Setting

Media sets the agenda for the people about any particular issue in following steps or levels:

The first level of agenda setting is most traditionally studied by researchers. In this level the media use objects or issues to influence the public. In this level the media suggest what the public should think about amount of coverage.

In the second level agenda setting the media focus on characteristics of the objects or issues. In this level the media suggest how the people should think about the issue.

3.1.3. Usage

Due to its effectiveness, the agenda setting theory has been used in political advertising, political campaigns and debates, business news and corporate reputation, business influence on federal policy, legal systems, and role of groups, audience control, public opinion, and public relations, the mass media has priming effects, in that the repeated exposure of audiences to ideas and information in the media triggers related ideas and feelings in their minds.

The agenda setting theory directly relates to the present research because coverage of Minority issue had been analyzed and that particular coverage was under influence of the agenda setting function of the media.

In 1960s Funkhouser Ray.G conducted a research to conduct a research to look at the relationship between media content and reality. To get the measure of public opinion he used Gallup polls and obtained measure of media content by counting the number of articals on each issue in three weekly magazine, Times, Newsweek and US News.

Funkhouser (1960) conclded that, “ the news media are believed by many people ( including many policy makers) to be reliable information sources but data presented here indicate that this is not necessary the case.

The agenda setting theory is useful in explaining how the Pakistani Urdu and English print media sets its agenda to cover child rights and which issues are being highlighted in which direction with what context, and how they are being represented in Pakistani print media (Daily Dawn, The News, Jang and Nawa-i-waqt).

3.2. Social learning theory

The social learning theory proposed byAlbert Bandurahas become perhaps the most influential theory of learning and development. While rooted in many of the basic concepts of traditional learning theory, Bandura believed that direct reinforcement could not account for all types of learning. His theory added a social element, arguing that people can learn new information and behaviors by watching other people. Known as observational learning (or modeling), this type of learning can be used to explain a wide variety of behaviors.

3.2.1. Basic Social Learning Concepts

There are three core concepts at the heart of social learning theory. First is the idea that people can learn through observation. Next is the idea that internal mental states are an essential part of this process. Finally, this theory recognizes that just because something has been learned, it does not mean that it will result in a change in behavior.

observational learning says people can learn through observation, In his famousBobo doll experiment, Bandura demonstrated that children learn and imitate behaviors they have observed in other people. The children in Bandura’s studies observed an adult acting violently toward a Bobo doll. When the children were later allowed to play in a room with the Bobo doll, they began to imitate the aggressive actions they had previously observed. Bandura identified three basic models of observational learning:

A live model, which involves an actual individual demonstrating or acting out a behavior.
A verbal instructional model, which involves descriptions and explanations of a behavior.
A symbolic model, which involves real or fictional characters displaying behaviors in books, films, television programs, or online media.

Intrinsic reinforcement Bandura explained that mental state is important to learn. He noted that external, environmental reinforcement was not the only factor to influence learning and behavior. He described intrinsic reinforcement as a form of internal reward, such as pride, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment. This emphasis on internal thoughts and cognitions helps connect learning theories to cognitive developmental theories. While many textbooks place social learning theory with behavioral theories, Bandura himself describes his approach as a ‘social cognitive theory.’

Learning does not necessarily lead to a change in behavior while behaviorists believed that learning led to a permanent change in behavior, observational learning demonstrates that people can learn new information without demonstrating new behaviors.

3.2.2. Modeling process

Not all observed behaviors are effectively learned. Factors involving both the model and the learner can play a role in whether social learning is successful. Certain requirements and steps must also be followed. The following steps are involved in the observational learning and modeling process:

Attention in order to learn, you need to be paying attention. Anything that detracts your attention is going to have a negative effect on observational learning. If the model interesting or there is a novel aspect to the situation, you are far more likely to dedicate your full attention to learning.

Retention the ability to store information is also an important part of the learning process. Retention can be affected by a number of factors, but the ability to pull up information later and act on it is vital to observational learning.

Reproduction once you have paid attention to the model and retained the information, it is time to actually perform the behavior you observed. Further practice of the learned behavior leads to improvement and skill advancement.

Motivation Finally, in order for observational learning to be successful, you have to be motivated to imitate the behavior that has been modeled. Reinforcement and punishment play an important role in motivation. While experiencing these motivators can be highly effective, so can observing other experience some type of reinforcement or punishment. For example, if you see another student rewarded with extra credit for being to class on time, you might start to show up a few minutes early each day.

3.2.3. Social learning theory and Mass communication

Symbolic models are another type of model that we can learn from. These are non-live models such as those we see on television or read about in books. Other forms of symbolic models include verbal instruction as when an instructor describes for us the actions for driving a car. In this case the teacher’s verbal descriptions combined with demonstration, usually teaches us most of what we need to know. This is fortunate, for if we had to learn to drive exclusively from consequences of our own actions, few of would survive the driving process (Bandura 1962).

As described by Bandura, there are four components of observational learning. To successfully imitate a model we must 1) attend to the model, 2) have some way of retaining what we have seen, 3) have the necessary motor skills to reproduce the behavior. If these conditions are met, we probably know how to imitate the model. Still, one may choose not to. Our actual performances are controlled by, 4) reinforcement contingencies, many of which are vicarious. These four components are not totally separate. Reinforcement processes, in particular, influence what we attend to. As Bandura noted “we often attend to powerful, competent, prestigious models because we have found that imitating them, rather than inferior models, leads to more positive consequences.”

In today’s society mass meda play an important role to influence human behavior through symbolic communication. Social learning theorists have shown that behavior is influenced not only by personal or live models but also by those presented in the mass media. Television and film models, in particular, seem to exert a powerful impact, and one major implication is that television is shaping humans motivation and behavior on a daily basis. Social learning theorists have been especially concerned with televised violence and use of alcohol and its effect on children. Research has shown that, in fact, it can increase children’s aggressiveness and tendency to consume alcohol within their lifetime. Although these findings are complex, it does raise concerns about how much television our youth attends to and what exactly is the content of the programs that they are viewing, including advertisements.

An exposure study of Anheuser-Busch’s 1995 frog campaign on children 9 to 11 years of age found that 95% of the children recognized Tony the Tiger while 81% recognized the beer frogs. Overall, 73% of the sample remembered the slogan “Bud-weis-er” and 81% knew the frogs sold beer. Boys were more likely than girls to remember the product. More children recalled the Budweiser slogan than the slogans for commercials and characters shown during children’s programs (Alcohol Policy Network).

What gives significance to vicarious influence is that observers can acquire lasting attitudes, emotional reactions, and behavioral proclivities toward persons, places or things that have been associated with modeled emotional experiences. They learn to fear the things that frightened models, to dislike what repulsed them and to like what gratified them (Bandura, 1986). At times, television often represents social realities in human nature, social relations, and day to day life of human interactions. The potential danger of heavy consumption of television is the exposure to this symbolic world may make the televised images appear to the authentic state of human affairs. This outcome can be detrimental to those individuals that have no other models that they can observe. In the absence of a parent, guardian or peer that is able to explain reality from fiction, the child may be more inclined to attend and reproduce the modeled behavior seen on television.

The fashion and taste industries rely heavily on the social prompting power of modeling. Because the potency of vicarious influences can be enhanced by showing modeled acts bringing rewards, vicarious outcomes figure prominently in advertising campaigns. Thus, drinking a certain brand of wine or using a particular shampoo wins the loving admiration of beautiful people, enhances job performance, masculinizes self-conception, and actualizes individualism (Bandura 2002).

Bandura and other researchers have concluded that the mass media not only creates personal attributes but also can alter pre-existing ones based on exposure. Exposure plays a large role in the process of social learning theory.

Another important aspect of social learning theory in relation to mass media is the flow of information through social networks. As noted before, the exposure that one experiences through

Television is often a contributing factor toward behavior, but even humans that do not watch television or listen to radio are affected by the mass media. People are intertwined in networks of relationships that include co-workers, friendships, classmates, teammates, intimate relationships and family members. Because these social networks often overlap, people are often directed by the media to designate what is important to discuss and what the current public agenda may be during a given time period.

Therefore, the individual that does not watch television is often involved in social interaction that is based on communication with television viewers and other media consumers. This communication can lead to the same behavior being displayed by the consumer as well as the non-consumer.

This abstract modeling that youth can reproduce through observation can provide us valuable information and direction while educating our youth. Bandura’s work should do a good deal to increase our awareness of the importance of models in child-rearing and education. Although most parents and teachers are already somewhat aware of the fact that they teach by example, they probably have also overlooked how important influential modeling can become.

A case in point is physical punishment; many parents attempt to prevent their children from fighting by spanking them when they fight. By spanking, the parents are inadvertently providing a good demonstration of how to control others physically. Similarly, social learning theorists have taught us that whenever we find that we are unable to rid a child of some distressing bit of behavior, we might ask whether we have been inadvertently modeling the behavior ourselves (Schunk, 1996).

Social learning theory has generated much research. Evidence shows that social learning theory and one’s sense of self efficacy predicts such diverse outcomes as alcohol abuse, smoking cessation, pain tolerance, athletic performance, career choices, assertiveness, coping with feared events, recovery from medical procedures and sales performance.

Media is a tool of learning and a social institution. In today’s society media play an important role for opinion formation. In this study researcher will analyze that how symbolic learning influence the behaviors of people towards child rights. Does content published in print media played any important role to improve the status of child in Pakistan? Did Government take serious notice of news based on violations of child rights published in newspaper?.

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