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Definition and Assumptions of the Uses and Gratification Theory


The uses and gratification theory marked a perspective shift in the study of mass communication...




Framed by Elihu Katz, Jay Blumler, and Michael Gurevitch in the 1970’s, the uses and gratification theory marked a perspective shift in the study of mass communication by turning its attention away from media sources and message and how they affect the audience [1].  Blumler and Katz’s uses and gratification theory considers, instead, the audience not a passive but an active player in their  media choices, and that these choices depend largely on media users’ apparent needs, wishes or motives [2], and that audiences are thereby formed based on their similarities of wishes, needs and motives. 

 Elihu Katz [3] first introduced the uses and gratification perspective when he came up with the idea that individuals make use of media to their advantage.  This perspective surfaced in the 1970’s when Blumler and Gurevitch persisted in expanding the idea. 

Blumler and Katz  [4]  and Rossi [5] discussed the five main assumptions of the theory:

·         The audience is not a passive player in their media choices.  This notion is based on the assumption that the audience have perceived goals when they select a particular media and they aim to achieve those goals through the media they have selected.

·         It is the audience member who takes the initiative in associating needs gratification and media selection.  This means that the audience member is very aware of the eventual advantage he/she can get from the chosen media and is not at all prone to be influenced by the media itself.  Furthermore, this also implies that the subjective opinion is more prevailing than what the media tries to depict.

·         Media is in constant competition with other sources of need gratification.  This is based on the assumption that the audience member has several interest or desires that need gratification.

·     The countless goals of media use can be drawn from the information provided by the audience themselves.  This is based on the assumption that the audience are conscious and attentive of the motivations for their media choice and are perfectly capable of expressing  them when needed.

·      The final assumption of the uses and gratification theory is that value judgments regarding the cultural importance of media content are deferred while audience actions are being examined.  This means that it is only the audience who can establish the real value of the media content that they browse, they listen to or that they read.  As they make a decision in reading or viewing the content, they place the value on it, according to their individual assessments.

Mcquail [6] contended that the various audience are attentive of media-connected needs and can express them in terms of motivations; personal convenience is more essential in audience formation than cultural or aesthetic factors; and all of the important factors in audience formation can be measured. With these added elements, researchers were able to find attributes of different media that satisfy the needs of media users. 

  Classification of Needs:

  Based on the research made by Mcquail, Blumler and Brown [7], people use media for:
  •         diversion or escapism
  •        companionship and development of personal relationships
  •        value reinforcement and exploring personal identity
  •        surveillance or getting information about the world
Katz, Gurevich and Haas [8] gave another list:
·         cognitive needs – to attain information, meaning  or understanding of the world to increase knowledge and intelligence for growth and self-realization.
·         affective needs – to search for emotional or aesthetic experience. 
·         personal integrative needs – to enforce credibility, confidence and stability.
·         social integrative needs -  to strengthen contact with family and friends.

However, the uses and gratification theory has been criticized by some scholars for being non-theoretical and vague in defining key concepts and for not providing predictive capacity [9].  Despite criticisms, the theory continued to be used by researchers all over the world to explore the motivations why audience choose a particular media for need gratification.  


References: 

[    [1] Pearce, K. J.  (2009).  Uses, gratifications, and dependency. In S. W. Littlejohn & K.
A. Foss (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Communication Theory (Vol. 2, pp. 978-980). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX3201900333&v=2.1&u=phupou&it=r&p=GPS&sw=w&asid=8281b9b4cdaf1efa117b9d978b9b5090

[3, 5, 9] Rossi, E.  (2002).  Uses and gratification/dependency theory. Retrieved from
http://zimmer.csufresno.edu/~johnca/spch100/7-4-uses.htm

[4, 6, 7, 8] Peirce, K.  (2007).  Uses and gratifications theory. In Encyclopedia of Children,
Adolescents, and the Media (Vol. 2, pp. 841-843). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX3470400454&v=2.1&u=phupou&it=r&p=GPS&sw=w&asid=3ea73357f55aa6ded9b25bf6a307d2c5

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