The Law of Minimal Consequences gives rise to
The Agenda Setting Function
In The Effects of Mass Communication, Joseph Klapper (1960) concludes that ". . . (m)ass communication ordinarily does not serve as a necessary and sufficient cause of audience effects but rather functions among and through a nexus of mediating factors and influences. " Klapper continues, stating that these ". . . mediating factors are such that they typically render mass communication a contributory agent, but not the sole cause in a process of reinforcing the existing conditions... " (Shaw and McCombs, 3). The law of minimal consequences declares that mass media fails to exert an influence on the attitudes and behaviors of the public to whom it disperses information. The premise runs contrary to the previously held popular belief that mass media possessed the " . . . ability. . . to mold the public mind and significantly influence the flow of history. . . " and to further ". . . achieve significant, perhaps staggering, social and political effects" (Shaw and McCombs, 3). The aforementioned change in general sentiment results from a shift in focus from the short-range effects of media on attitudes and behavior to the long-range effects of such on cognition. The center of study focuses on the effects of media on earlier links in the communication process, precisely, awareness and information. Shaw and McCombs (1977) diagramed the effects of exposure to mass media communication as follows (4):
Despite the inconsequential effects of mass media communication on the attitudes and behaviors of the public, "...people do learn from mass communication" (McCombs and Shaw, 3). Mass communication allows people to know and learn about things they otherwise could not (e.g. events in other parts of the world). The ability of mass media to effect cognitive change in the public and to structure the public's agenda by controlling its awareness and information is known as the agenda setting function of mass communication.
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