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Selective Exposure, Perception, and Retention

Media behavior is selective in the sense that it differs among individuals and often reflects people’s current motives, values, and expectations. People expose themselves very selectively to media content and frequently differ in their interpretation and recall of messages. The discovery of this audience selectivity principle in the 1940s challenged researchers’ views on media effects. At that time, mass media were presumed to produce largely direct, strong, and similar effects on its audiences. This perspective, also called the hypodermic needle paradigm, became slowly replaced by the limited effects paradigm, which acknowledges audience selectivity and thus perceives media as more likely to reinforce existing belief, attitudes, and social norms than to actually change them.

In his influential review of the state of mass media effects research, ...

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