Narcotizing Dysfunction
The term narcotizing dysfunction was first identified in the article Mass Communication, Popular Taste and Organized Social Action, by Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and Robert K. Merton
Robert K. Merton
Robert King Merton was a distinguished American sociologist. He spent most of his career teaching at Columbia University, where he attained the rank of University Professor...


The term refers to a social consequence of mass media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

. The theory claims that as news about an issue inundates people, they become apathetic to it, substituting knowing about that issue for action on it.
Because the individual is assailed with information of issues and problems and they are knowledgeable about or discuss these issues, they believe they are helping in the solution. Society has confused knowing about an issue with doing something about it. Society’s conscience is clear as they think they have done something to remediate 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, 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 don’t get involved in the political process.


Research on understanding media effects have gone through 3 phases during the 20th century. From the 1920s to 1940s researchers believed the media had a powerful effect on its audience. This assumes the audience is passive and uncritical of the media’s messages. This phase is characterized by the Hypodermic needle model
Hypodermic needle model
The hypodermic needle model is a model of communications suggesting that an intended message is directly received and wholly accepted by the receiver...

 or Bullet Theory. This theory was used to explain how WWII propaganda changed behavior – convincing men to join the service, housewives to change food habits, and improving the morale of new soldiers.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, researchers believed that people were more influenced by their friends and family than the media. The minimalist effects theory includes narcotizing dysfunction because the audience withdraws from real issues and becomes passive. In this phase instead of the media telling people what to think, it tells the audience what to think about (sets the agenda).

From the 1960s to today, researchers believe that the media can have both powerful and limited effects on society, depending on situational factors. The media may impact the development of attitudes, beliefs, and values, and it may be more influential on some personalities than others.

Popular culture

Don Henley
Don Henley
Donald Hugh "Don" Henley is an American singer, songwriter and drummer, best known as a founding member of the Eagles before launching a successful solo career. Henley was the drummer and lead vocalist for the Eagles from 1971–1980, when the band broke up...

 wrote the song Dirty Laundry (1982) about the callousness of television news reporting as well as the tabloidization of all news.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.