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How do mass media messages move the viewer from attention to persuasion? 

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Asher Wismer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mass Media messages are designed to do several things, including getting the attention of the viewer, explaining something quickly, and leave an impression of desire. Since these messages must be understood by the widest selection of people, the messages are designed to be short and to-the-point; "sound bites" are a very useful method of showcasing ideas, stereotypes, or claims in a small unit of time. By catering to the ideas of an intended audience, the message is guaranteed a minimum amount of attention; after attention is received, the message must proceed to persuasion through talking points, examples, metaphorical imagery, and other means. In television, imagery is of paramount importance; the viewer will switch channels if they are not immediately entertained. By using positive and negative imagery, the viewer can be consciously and unconsciously persuaded to feel a certain way about a product, service, or individual.

One of the most important methods is appealing to an already-identified audience; blue-collar workers will respond to different visual and auditory stimuli than white-collar workers or executives. In the same way, people whose ideas are influenced by their culture will respond in different ways. When a media message targets a specific audience, it is moving past initial attention directly into persuasion; the audience does not need to be attracted first.

Another very important area is emotion versus reason. Most mass media messages work on an emotional level, using imagery and sound to evoke fear, desire, love, or hate in the viewer. This causes the following message to become entangled with those feelings in the mind; appealing to emotion is much faster than appealing to reason, which requires time and patience. Mass media creators know that the fastest route to persuasion is emotional.

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