The functions of mass communication in society could be paralleled by statements about how the media function at the level of the individual. how the individual uses mass communication. At the individual level, the functional approach is given the general name of the uses-and-gratifications model the various uses and gratifications classified into a four-category: cognition; diversion; social utility; and withdrawal
Cognition is the act of coming to know something. When a person uses a mass medium to obtain information about something, then he or she is using the medium in a cognitive way. At the individual level, there are two different types of cognitive functions are performed. One has to do with using the media to keep up with information on current events, while the other has to do with using the media to learn about things in general or things that relate to a person's general curiosity. It have found that many people give the following reasons for using the media:
· I want to understand what is going on in the world.
· I want to know what political leaders are doing.
· I want to satisfy my curiosity.
· The media make me want to learn more about things.
· The media give me ideas.
Another basic need of human beings is for diversion. Diversion can take many forms. Some of the forms identified by researchers are
(1) stimulation, or seeking relief from boredom or the routine activities of everyday life;
(2) relaxation, or escape from the pressures and problems of day-to-day existence; and
(3) emotional release of pent-up emotions and energy. Let us look at each of these gratifications in more detail.
Stimulation Seeking emotional or intellectual stimulation seems to be an inherent motivation in a human being. Psychologists have labeled these activities lucid behaviors"—play, recreation, and other forms of activity that seem to be performed to maintain a minimum level of intellectual activity.. Many people report that they watch, read, or listen simply to pass the time. The media have taken.
When faced overload, people tend to seek relief. The media are one source of this relief. Watching channels or reading magazine represents a pleasant diversion from the frustrations of everyday life. Some might relax by listening to serious /cinema classical music. The content is not the defining factor, since virtually any media material might be used for relaxation by some audience members.
The use of the media for emotional release is fairly obvious. For instance, emotional release can take more subtle forms. One of the big attractions of soap operas, for example, seems to be that many people in the audiences are comforted by seeing that other people have troubles greater than their own. Other people identify with media heroes and participate vicariously in their triumphs. Such a process evidently enables these people to vent some of the frustrations connected with their normal lives. Emotional release was probably one of the first functions to be attributed to media content. Aristotle, in his Poetics, talked about the phenomenon of catharsis (a release of pent-up emotion or energy) occurring as a function of viewing tragic plays. In fact, the catharsis theory has surfaced many times since then, usually in connection with the portrayals of television violence.
Psychologists have also identified a set of social integrative needs, including our need to strengthen our contact with family, friends, and others in our society. The social integrative need seems to spring from an individual's need to affiliate with others. The media function that addresses this need is called social utility, and this usage can take several forms. First, we have talked with a friend about a TV program. Or we Have discussed a current movie or the latest record you heard on the radio. If so we are using the media as conversational currency. The media provide a common ground for social conversations, and many people use things that they have read, seen, or heard as topics for discussion when talking with others.
At times, people use the mass media to create a barrier between themselves and other people or activities. For example, the media help people avoid certain chores that should be done.
People also use the media to create a buffer zone between themselves and other people. When you are riding a bus or sitting in a public place and do not want to be disturbed, you bury your head in a book, magazine, or newspaper. If we are on an airplane, we might insert a pair of earphones in our ears and tune everybody out. Télevision can perform this same function at home by isolating adults from children or children from adults .
Content and Context In closing, we should emphasize that it is not only media content that determines audience usage, but also the social context within which the media exposure occurs. For example, soap operas, situation comedies, movie magazines all contain material that audiences can use for escape purposes. People going to a movie, however, might value the opportunity to socialize more than they value any aspect of the film itself. Here the social context is the deciding factor.
It is also important to note that the functional approach makes several assumptions:. Audiences take an active role in their interaction with various media. That is, the needs of each individual provide motivation that channels that individual's media use.
1. The mass media compete with other sources of satisfaction. Relaxation, for example, can also be achieved by taking a nap or having a couple of drinks, and social utility needs can be satisfied by joining a club or playing touch football.
2. The uses-and-gratifications approach assumes that people are aware of their own needs and are able to verbalize them. This approach relies heavily on surveys based on the actual responses of audience members. thus, the research technique assumes that people's responses are valid indicators of their motives.