87 Aniversario
1935-2022

Daniel Lerner ( 1958 ) saw mass media as the main catalyst for social change

Daniel Lerner ( 1958 ) saw mass media as the main catalyst for social change

That a relationship between exposure to mass media, particularly news media, and attitudes exists has been supported by additional scholarship, particularly in the United States ( Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996 )

While mass media have been less studied, some theorists focused on the role that they play in modernization and argued that it was the key agent in bringing about development. Lerner argued that media exposed people who possess traditional values to the “modern” world, and that exposure in turn produced a desire to live in it. For him, media enabled the modernization process: “the importance of media in our theory is that it enlarges a person’s view of the world (‘opinion range’) and his capacity to imagine himself in new and strange situations (‘empathy’) in ways that will alter action” ( Lerner 1958, 96 ). This process, he suggested, fosters ideas of equality and tolerance through empathy; empathy induces action and thought that attempt to emulate modern life. A handful of empirical studies based on focus groups, interviews, or surveys of individuals in Latin America starting in the early1960s established an empirical link between media consumption and attitudes such as empathy http://www.datingranking.net/nl/farmers-dating-site-overzicht/ and support for democracy, among others (e.g., McNelly 1966 ; Rogers 1965 ; Bishop 1973 ).

In terms of tolerance for homosexuality, research supports the existence of that relationship ( Schiappa, Gregg, and Hewes 2006 ; Brewer 2008 ; Riggle 1996 ; Berggren and Nilsson 2015 )

Lerner’s arguments were expectedly later criticized. For some, they did not consider the fact that access to mass communication can be highly unequal in some countries in the global South. Work on Latin America, for example, showed that, in rural areas, media are often dominated by elites ( Beltran 1976 ). It was also argued that the effects of mass communication on values were not as direct as Lerner had suggested. While agreeing with the main tenets of modernization, it was argued that in addition to media, other factors, such as literacy and travel, also contribute to the process ( Rogers 1965 ). More fundamentally, however, Lerner’s arguments, like other modernization arguments, were dismissed for their inherently normative bias as they saw modern societies as being superior ( Schiller 1969 ; Hedebro 1982 ).

Despite criticisms leveled against modernization theory, and its subsequent decline in prominence in the social sciences in the 1970s and 1980s, recent work by Ronald Inglehart and his collaborators has lent credence to some of its main tenets ( Norris and Inglehart 2009 ; Inglehart and Welzel 2005 ). Equipped with reliable longitudinal data newly available, this scholarship demonstrates that there exists an association between levels of economic development and the adoption of “self-expression” values, such as support for gender equality and tolerance for homosexuality. Indeed, some of this research shows that the role of the media appears to be important and suggests that mass media play a role in shaping social values. According to Pippa Norris and Inglehart ( 2009 ), access to news media and the adoption of liberal attitudes are related; as individuals internalize media messages, they ultimately change their worldviews (see also Berggren and Nilsson 2015 ). While they do not suggest monocausality, as Lerner had previously claimed, mass media is one of the factors, inter alia, that can have an effect on the development of socially liberal values.

Ben Brake and Peter Katzenstein argue that transnational technological interactions can lead to changing “beliefs, or alter our confidence in those beliefs because of new observations, interpretations, or repertoires in practice” ( 2013, 747 ). Based on social contact theory, which suggests that individuals become more tolerant of groups as they interact with them, some scholars have shown that contact with “imagined” or “vicarious” communities that are diffused through mass media can have an effect on lowering prejudices and improving attitudes toward gay people ( Riggle 1996 ; Schiappa, Gregg, and Hewes 2006 ). Yet, while we know much about these phenomena in the countries of the global North, we do not know how they play out in Latin America, especially regarding attitudes toward SSM. The absence of scholarship is partly due to the fact that since SSM had not been placed on national agendas, pollsters did not include survey questions that probed public support. This situation changed when debate in Argentina and Mexico in 2009 accelerated as legislatures in both countries began to discuss the issue, galvanizing support and opposition ( Diez 2015 ). Pollsters began to include questions in surveys in 2010, and there now exist reliable survey data on support for SSM for most Latin American countries. The availability of such data allows us to explore the relationship between access to mass media and attitudes toward SMM in Latin America, a relationship that has not yet been explored.

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