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Mary Howe

Stanley Baran Chapter 1 Summary/Application Homework

This chapter served very well to refresh my mind of the many communication
theories we have been taught. I liked the constant connection between social
sciences and physical sciences throughout the chapter which helped to put in
perspective what makes the communication discipline so difficult to sometimes
describe to someone. The book describes how in studying communication it can be
difficult to measure many things because as we are studying humans and human
nature, there is no universal measurement for how we act and the cause and effect
of our daily lives and interactions. This is what makes communication theories so
important because they are being used to help describe what allows for interactions
between people which would be otherwise immeasurable. Some of the more
important theories discussed in this chapter were postpositivist theory focusing on
observation guided by the scientific method, cultural theory, analyzing structures
and how the building blocks of a community affect the relationships within, critical
theory, focused on changing social order in order to achieve a change, and
normative theory, focusing on media system structures. All of these theories can be
applied to analyze humanity and how individuals and groups interact with one
One the more interesting points in my opinion presented in the reading lies in the
question posed in the box on page 9: Why do you think that social scientists seem
to suffer greater criticism than their physical science colleagues? As I was reading
the explanation for how difficult it is to control the environment in which a social
scientist might make observations I also thought back to my health communication
classes in which we learned that controlling someones behavior and telling them
that they need to change part of their way of life can be extremely difficult. In this
same way, a social scientist who is trying to develop theories based on human
behavior runs the risk of discovering something people do not like to hear such as
global warming the solution to which would be a change in the way people go
about their day to day lives, causing a change in their comfortable environment. I
think that this fact poses a major threat to the social sciences and is a partial
explanation for why human nature seems to allow us to readily accept the facts
presented to us by physical sciences versus our tendency to push the social
sciences to the side sometimes.
Discussion Questions:
1. How can we battle the third-person effect? What does it take to overcome the
notion that an individual is somehow separate from the rest of the population
and immune to what would affect the rest of people excluding that individual?
Can we use what we have learned already in communication to overcome
that feeling?