Reciprocal Effects Essay

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The term ‘reciprocal effects’ denotes the effects of the mass media on actual and potential protagonists of media coverage. Protagonists are distinguished from bystanders who are not addressed by media coverage. Anticipatory (re) actions are intended to avoid or seek to bring about media coverage (e.g., Cohen et al. 2008). Immediate reactions are instantaneous consequences of interactions with journalists. Corrective reactions are stimulated by existing news coverage.

With respect to reciprocal effects, linear models of media effects have to be supplemented by feedback models: protagonists stimulate media reports that, in turn, influence their behavior which causes subsequent media coverage (Fishman 1980).

Six types of effects can be distinguished: (1) awareness: protagonists are highly involved in the issue at hand and motivated to follow more reports than bystanders; (2) appraisals: protagonists tend to see themselves as victims of circumstances and believe they would be misrepresented if reported as independent actors; (3) assumptions: most people attribute stronger negative effects of media messages to others than to themselves; (4) observations: protagonists observe behavioral changes and correctly or incorrectly attribute them to media coverage; (5) emotions: protagonists of negative reports develop feelings like anger; protagonists of positive reports feelings like pride; and (6) interactions of emotions and observations: emotions and perceived behavioral changes reinforce each other (Kepplinger & Glaab 2007).


  1. Cohen, J., Tsfati, Y., & Sheafer, T. (2008). The influence of presumed media influence in politics. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72, 331–344.
  2. Fishman, M. (1980). Manufacturing the news. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
  3. Kepplinger, H. M. & Glaab, S. (2007). Reciprocal effects of negative press reports. European Journal of Communication, 22(3), 337–354.

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