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The term ‘indirect effects’ denotes the consequences of direct effects on individuals who are not exposed to media content. The concept extends the effect of the mass media beyond the users and to nonusers (Holbert & Stephenson 2003). As far as users transmit information and opinion from the mass media unchanged, they act as filters. As far as they transmit them partly or totally changed, they act as amplifiers of media effects.
Quantitative and qualitative studies document a broad variety of indirect effects. Intensive coverage of terrorism may stimulate additional violence (direct effect) and cause additional victims (indirect effect). The dominant tone of media coverage may discourage recipients from speaking out in public (direct effect), which may push others into falling silent (indirect effect). Media coverage of the availability of pornography or violence might stimulate concern about antisocial effects on others (direct effect I), increase support for censorship (direct effect II); and bring into office politicians planning to change the law (indirect effect). Trial publicity may influence witnesses (direct effect) and thus might help or harm defendants (indirect effect).
- Holbert, R. L. & Stephenson, M. T. (2003). The importance of indirect effects in media effects research: Testing for mediation in structural equation modeling. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 47(4), 556–572.
- Kepplinger, H. M. & Zerback, T. (2012). Direct and indirect effects of media coverage. Exploring the effects of presumed media influence on judges, prosecutors, and defendants. Studies in Communication Media, 1(3–4), 473–492.
- Weimann, G. & Winn, C. (1994). The theater of terror: Mass media and international terrorism. London: Longman.