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

Taylor & Francis Group, 2017 M12 8 - 434 páginas
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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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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