Weekly Seminar Series: The Role of Media in the U.S.
Our speaker today was Professor of Communication, James Shanahan. Professor Shanahan is a mass media effects researcher, specializing in “Cultivation Theory”. He has co-authored numerous books, published several articles, and has edited journals such as Mass Communication. The title of his talk to the fellows, “The Role of Media in the U.S.”, focused primarily on the prevalence of violence in American media, and its effects on the population. The main question of the debate over violent media is whether or not children exposed to violence in media will become violent themselves. Professor Shanahan argued that mental illness and demographics play a much higher role in a person’s tendency towards violence. That being said, Shanahan does believe that media affects us, but more in perception than behavior. His research focuses on the effects of media on people over a long period of time. This research led to Shanahan’s development of “Cultivation Theory”, which hypothesizes that if children are exposed to large amounts of media for long periods of time, their perceptions of the world will be affected. Professor Shanahan explained how this leads people today to have “Mean World Syndrome”, which he displayed by asking the fellows about their opinions of America before they arrived here. This “syndrome” causes people to believe that our world is more violent than it really is, and gave perspective on what the United States is really like.