Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communications

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Routledge, Jul 12, 2017 - Social Science - 434 pages
First published in 1955, "Personal Influence" reports the results of a pioneering study conducted in Decatur, Illinois, validating Paul Lazarsfeld's serendipitous discovery that messages from the media may be further mediated by informal "opinion leaders" who intercept, interpret, and diffuse what they see and hear to the personal networks in which they are embedded. This classic volume set the stage for all subsequent studies of the interaction of mass media and interpersonal influence in the making of everyday decisions in public affairs, fashion, movie-going, and consumer behavior. The contextualizing essay in Part One dwells on the surprising relevance of primary groups to the flow of mass communication. Peter Simonson of the University of Pittsburgh has written that "Personal Influence was perhaps the most influential book in mass communication research of the postwar era, and it remains a signal text with historic significance and ongoing reverberations...more than any other single work, it solidified what came to be known as the dominant paradigm in the field, which later researchers were compelled either to cast off or build upon." In his introduction to this fiftieth-anniversary edition, Elihu Katz discusses the theory and methodology that underlie the Decatur study and evaluates the legacy of his coauthor and mentor, Paul F. Lazarsfeld.

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the Text
Four Intervening Variables in the Mass
Step Flow of Communication
Norms and Networks in the Process
The Shared
Conformity of Each Other
within the Group
the Family
LifeCycle Position and Fashion
Sex Social Status and the Flow
Movie Leadership and
Age and the Flow of Influence
Mass Media

Implications for Mass Media Research
Criteria of Influence
A Technique of Confirmation
The Place of Impact Analysis in The Study
Various Influences
On Describing the Flow of Influence
Determinants of Gregariousness
Horizontal Flow Pattern
Opinion Leadership and Mass Media Effect
APPENDIX A Choice of the City
On Followup Interviewing
On the Analysis of a Followup Flow

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About the author (2017)

Paul F. Lazarsfeld was a Viennese-born American mathematician, psychologist, and sociologist who immigrated to the United States in 1933. In Vienna he had established an applied social research center, which became a model for others in the United States; the most famous product of the Vienna center is Marienthal (1933) a pioneering study of unemployment in an Austrian village. In the United States, Lazarsfeld became director of a Rockefeller Foundation-supported study of the impact of radio; through this study, communications research was established as a field of social science inquiry. In 1937 Lazarsfeld founded a research center, which became the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University; he taught at Columbia from 1940 until 1969. Lazarsfeld's research areas included mass communications, voting, latent structure analysis, mathematical models, the history of quantitative research, and the analysis of survey data. His major goal was to find intellectual convergences between the social sciences and the humanities, between concept formation and index construction, and between quantitative and qualitative research. His enthusiasm and originality had an enormous impact on colleagues and students; an annual evening lecture and reception at Columbia provided an opportunity for them to share both vivid memories and current experiences.

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