Narcotizing dysfunction

Narcotizing dysfunction is a theory that as mass media inundates people on a particular issue, they become apathetic to it, substituting knowledge for action.[1] It is suggested that the vast supply of communication Americans receive may elicit only a superficial concern with the problems of society. This would result in real societal action being neglected, while superficiality covers up mass apathy. Thus, it is termed "dysfunctional" as it indicates the inherent dysfunction of both mass media and social media during controversial incidents and events. The theory assumes that it is not in the best interests of people to form a social mass that is politically apathetic and inert.[2][3] The term narcotizing dysfunction was identified in the article Mass Communication, Popular Taste and Organized Social Action, by Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and Robert K. Merton.[4][5]

Mass media's overwhelming flow of information has caused the populace to become passive in their social activism.[6] Because the individual is assailed with information about a huge range of issues and problems and they are knowledgeable about or able to discuss these issues, they believe they are helping to resolve these issues. As more time is spent educating oneself on current issues, there is a decrease in time available to take organized social action. Courses of action may be discussed, but they are rather internalized and rarely come to fruition. In short, people have unwittingly substituted knowledge for action.[4] People's consciences are clear, as they think they have done something to address the issue. However, being informed and concerned is not a replacement for action. Even though there are increasing numbers of political messages, information, and advertisements available through traditional media and online media, political participation continues to decline. People pay close attention to the media, but there is an overexposure of messages that can get confusing and contradictory so people do not get involved in the political process.[7]


The term narcotizing dysfunction gained popularity from its use in the 1948 article Mass Communication, Popular Taste, and Organized Social Action, by Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton. In Lazarsfeld and Merton's article, it appears as the third function of mass media's problematic social effects, alongside social status conferral function and the enforcement of social norms.

See also


  1. ^ Baran et al. pp.179-80 quotation:

    one of the first media effects to be studied in some depth using functional analysis was the narcotizing dysfunction, the idea that as news about an issue inundates people, they become apathetic to it... These findings were disturbing because they suggested that even when media are effective at surveying the environment and calling attention to societal problems (a manifest function), ... media coverage might "narcotize" [the public] so that they become apathetic and decide that they are powerless to do anything (a latent dysfunction).

  2. ^ Eşitti, Şakir (April 2016). "Narcotizing Effect of Social Media" (PDF). Rethinking the Contributions of Social Media to Democracy and Social Movements. Cankiri Karatekin University Journal of Institute of Social Sciences. 7 (1): 1023. ASOS f187234. Retrieved August 7, 2018. media can act against political participation & grass roots mobilization because social media & other internet based technologies "discourage face-to-face communication"
  3. ^ Lazarsfeld PF, Merton RK. "Mass communication, popular taste, and organized social action" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b Merton, Robert King; Lazarsfeld, Paul Félix (1957) [1st pub. in Mass culture Free Press:1957]. Mass Communication,popular Taste and Organized Social Action. Bobbs-Merrill Reprint Series in the Social Sciences, S163. Bobbs-Merrill. OCLC 29423152.
  5. ^ Grant, August E. (2014). e-Study Guide for: Understanding Media Convergence. ISBN 9781467247054. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  6. ^ Eşitti, Şakir (2016-04-01). "Narcotizing Effect of Social Media". Çankırı Karatekin Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi. 7.
  7. ^ Whitaker, Rik; Ramsey, Janet; Smith, Ronald D. (19 December 2008). MediaWriting: Print, Broadcast, and Public Relations. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780203886700 – via Google Books.


  • Baran, S.;Davis, D: Mass Communication Theory (fifth edition) (Wadsworth, 2009).
  • Lazarsfeld, Paul Felix, and Robert King Merton. Mass Communication, Popular Taste and Organized Social Action. Bobbs-Merrill, College Division, 196AD.
24-hour news cycle

The 24-hour news cycle (or 24/7 news cycle) is 24-hour investigation and reporting of news, concomitant with fast-paced lifestyles. The vast news resources available in recent decades have increased competition for audience and advertiser attention, prompting media providers to deliver the latest news in the most compelling manner in order to remain ahead of competitors. Television-, radio-, print-, online- and mobile app news media all have many suppliers that want to be relevant to their audiences and deliver news first.

Although all-news radio operated for decades earlier, the 24-hour news cycle arrived with the advent of cable television channels dedicated to news and brought about a much faster pace of news production with an increased demand for stories that could be presented as continual news with constant updating. This was a contrast with the day-by-day pace of the news cycle of printed daily newspapers. A high premium on faster reporting would see a further increase with the advent of online news.A complete news cycle consists of the media reporting on some event, followed by the media reporting on public and other reactions to the earlier reports. The advent of 24-hour cable cable- and satellite television news channels and, in more recent times, of news sources on the World Wide Web (including blogs), considerably shortened this process.

Advertising slogan

Advertising slogans are short phrases used in advertising campaigns to generate publicity and unify a company's marketing strategy. The phrases may be used to attract attention to a distinctive product feature or reinforce a company's brand.

Catch and kill

Catch and kill is a technique employed by some newspaper editors to prevent information damaging to someone else from becoming public, presumably to protect allies of the editor. The newspaper buys the exclusive rights to a story without the intention of publishing it, in effect silencing the seller.

Catch and kill is distinct from using hush money: it is practiced by the media and the target may not be aware his or her information will be kept secret. So far, the rare documented cases always involve a tabloid newspaper, specifically the National Enquirer and its parent company.

Dumbing down

Dumbing down is the deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content in education, literature, and cinema, news, video games and culture. The term "dumbing down" originated in 1933, as movie-business slang used by screenplay writers, meaning: "[to] revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence". Dumbing-down varies according to subject matter, and usually involves the diminishment of critical thought, by undermining intellectual standards within language and learning; thus trivializing meaningful information, culture, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture.

In Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979), the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) proposed that, in a society in which the cultural practices of the ruling class are rendered and established as the legitimate culture of that society, that action then devalues the cultural capital of the subordinate social classes, and thus limits their social mobility within their own society.


Fearmongering or scaremongering is the spreading of frightening and exaggerated rumors of an impending danger or the habit or tactic of purposely and needlessly arousing public fear about an issue.

Junk food news

Junk food news (also known as junk news or junk journalism) is a sardonic term for news stories that deliver "sensationalized, personalized, and homogenized inconsequential trivia",

especially when such stories appear at the expense of serious investigative journalism. It implies a criticism of the mass media for disseminating news that, while not very nourishing, is "cheap to produce and profitable for media proprietors."

Lawn sign

Lawn signs (also known as yard signs, bandit signs, placards, and road signs, among other names) are small advertising signs that can be placed on a street-facing lawn or elsewhere on a property to express the support for an election candidate, or political position, by the property owner (or sometimes to promote a business). They are popular in political campaigns in the United States and Canada.

Managing the news

Managing the news refers to acts that are intended to influence the presentation of information within the news media. The expression managing the news is often used in a negative sense. For example, people or organizations that wish to lessen the publicity concerning bad news may choose to release the information late on a Friday, giving journalists less time to pursue the story. Staying "on message" is a technique intended to limit questions and attention to a narrow scope favorable to the subject.

An example cited by the Communication, Cultural and Media Studies infobase regards a February 1996 Scott Report on arms sales to Iraq. In the United Kingdom, the report was given early to certain officials.

Media scrum

A media scrum is an impromptu press conference, often held immediately outside an event such as a legislative session or meeting. Scrums play a central role in Canadian politics and also occur in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The same term is now also used for similar gatherings of journalists in the United States.

Name recognition

In politics, name recognition is the ability a voter has to identify a candidate's name due to a certain amount of previous exposure through various campaigning methods. It can be described as the awareness voters have about specific candidates resulting from various forms of campaign advertising. Some of the advertising methods used by candidates running for various offices are creating posters, making yard signs, bumper stickers and attempting to get media exposure, are a few examples of how they achieve this. Though candidates can achieve high name recognition and exposure, this does not necessarily mean that the average voter has a good understanding of their ideologies, positions and stances on political issues.


Narcotization may mean:

Narcotics, administration of narcotic drugs

Narcotizing dysfunction, a theory about the social consequence of mass media


Obfuscation is the obscuring of the intended meaning of communication by making the message difficult to understand, usually with confusing and ambiguous language. The obfuscation might be either unintentional or intentional (although intent usually is connoted), and is accomplished with circumlocution (talking around the subject), the use of jargon (technical language of a profession), and the use of an argot (ingroup language) of limited communicative value to outsiders.In expository writing, unintentional obfuscation usually occurs in draft documents, at the beginning of composition; such obfuscation is illuminated with critical thinking and editorial revision, either by the writer or by an editor. Etymologically, the word obfuscation derives from the Latin obfuscatio, from obfuscāre (to darken); synonyms include the words beclouding and abstrusity.


A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer called supplication.

In the colloquial sense, a petition is a document addressed to some official and signed by numerous individuals. A petition may be oral rather than written, or may be transmitted via the Internet.

Political censorship

Political censorship exists when a government attempts to conceal, fake, distort, or falsify information that its citizens receive by suppressing or crowding out political news that the public might receive through news outlets. In the absence of neutral and objective information, people will be unable to dissent with the government or political party in charge. The term also extends to the systematic suppression of views that are contrary to those of the government in power. The government often possesses the power of the army and the secret police, to enforce the compliance of journalists with the will of the authorities to spread the story that the ruling authorities want people to believe. At times this involves bribery, defamation, imprisonment, and even assassination.

The word censorship comes from the Latin word censor, the job of two Romans whose duty was to supervise public behaviour and morals, hence 'censoring' the way people acted.

Product demonstration

In marketing, a product demonstration (or "demo" for short) is a promotion where a product is demonstrated to potential customers. The goal of such a demonstration is to introduce customers to the product in hopes of getting them to purchase that item.

Products offered as samples during these demonstrations may include new products, new versions of existing products or products that have been recently introduced to a new commercial marketplace.


A slogan is a memorable motto or phrase used in a clan, political, commercial, religious, and other context as a repetitive expression of an idea or purpose, with the goal of persuading members of the public or a more defined target group. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines a slogan as "a short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising." A slogan usually has the attributes of being memorable, very concise and appealing to the audience.

Sound bite

A sound bite is a short clip of speech or music extracted from a longer piece of audio, often used to promote or exemplify the full length piece. In the context of journalism, a sound bite is characterized by a short phrase or sentence that captures the essence of what the speaker was trying to say, and is used to summarize information and entice the reader or viewer. The term was coined by the U.S. media in the 1970s. Since then, politicians have increasingly employed sound bites to summarize their positions.

Due to its brevity, the sound bite often overshadows the broader context in which it was spoken, and can be misleading or inaccurate. The insertion of sound bites into news broadcasts or documentaries is open to manipulation, leading to conflict over journalistic ethics.

Transfer (propaganda)

Transfer is a technique used in propaganda and advertising. Also known as association, this is a technique of projecting positive or negative qualities (praise or blame) of a person, entity, object, or value (an individual, group, organization, nation, patriotism, etc.) to another in order to make the second more acceptable or to discredit it. It evokes an emotional response, which stimulates the target to identify with recognized authorities. Often highly visual, this technique often utilizes symbols superimposed over other visual images. An example of common use of this technique in the United States is for the President to be filmed or photographed in front of the country's flag. Another technique used is celebrity endorsement.


Understatement is a form of speech or disclosure which contains an expression of lesser strength than what would be expected. It is the opposite of an embellishment. The rhetorical form of understatement is litotes in which understatement is used for emphasis and irony. This is not to be confused with euphemism, where a polite phrase is used in place of a harsher or more offensive expression.

Understatement be also be called underexaggeration to denote lesser enthusiasm.

In academia
News media
Political campaigning
Psychological warfare
Public relations

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