The hypodermic needle theory, also known as the magic bullet theory or transmission belt model, posits that media have a direct impact on the audience. This conception of media as omnipotent instruments appeared with the first reflections on the mass communication phenomenon between 1920 and 1940. Although subsequent research has shown that this perception cannot explain accurately how the complex process of communication works, the idea is still present in many discourses and debates about the power of mass media in society. Therefore, this is an early and a global model to study media effects—never tested empirically—but very influential in subsequent theoretical approaches. This entry discusses how the theory conceives of communication, media effects, and the role of actors in communication. It also looks ...

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