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Media Literacy

Jan Splaining: What is the two-stage flow theory? – MEDIA EXPERTISE

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Jan Fran

The two-stage flow theory. It’s the idea that information goes through two steps before affecting people. It ranges from mass media to opinion leaders, people who deal with the media, interpret it and pass it on to the general public. Some opinion leaders are obvious. They are the ones who are paid to displace them. Wait a minute!

Others are less obvious, but more powerful. You see, the two-step flow theory was developed long before social media, before television, in the 1940s. Researchers studying the US election found that most voters obtained their information from other people who read about the candidates in the newspapers, rather than directly from the newspapers themselves. They concluded that face-to-face contacts influence voting behavior more than the media.

Now the media has changed a lot, but that influence hasn’t changed. Here’s a recent experiment where researchers sent political messages to 61 million Facebook users about an upcoming congressional election and found close friends who shared the message, which was four times more likely to influence behavior change than the message itself.

When you share information, you are a very powerful opinion leader, you have more influence than you think. Would you like to contribute to a world where fake news spreads? Because people trust their friends too much. If you want to stop the spread of misinformation then make sure what you post and what you consume, especially from family and friends.

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