Literature Review

Rationale & Hypotheses






Literature Review

Uses and Gratifications Theory

Uses and gratification theory, first identified in the 1940s by Lazarsfeld and Stanton (1944), attempts to explain why mass media is used and the types of gratification that media generates. Gratification is a reward or satisfaction obtained by an individual. The theory relies on the belief that the audience is not merely a group of passive media consumers, but that they play an active role in selecting different media to meet their needs (Infante, Rancer & Womack, 1997; Lowery & De Fleur, 1983). The theory was further developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s when researchers realized that traditional effects theories did not adequately explain how the audience reacts to mass media (Blumler, 1979; Swanson, 1979).

Rubin (1986) states that there are two underlying presumptions of the uses and gratifications model. First, researchers need to understand audience needs and motives for using mass media in order to comprehend the effects of the media. Second, understanding audience consumption patterns will enhance understanding of media effects. Rubin (1986) also believes uses and gratifications research will be best served by continuing to explore and explain the specific links among attitudes, motives, behavior, and communication effects.

The uses and gratifications theory can be applied to the relationship between Public Affairs officers and the media. Mass media is a tool employed to obtain information, entertainment, and communicate a message or story. Public Affairs personnel work daily with the mass media in order to tell the military story. Commanders must believe that the mass media is a useful tool to them, or they will provide less support for Public Affairs. The underlying principle of this theory is that if commanders perceived that there were viable operational uses of Public Affairs and that gratification could result from Public Affairs efforts (either personal gratification or unit/base gratification), then they would be more likely to adopt pro-Public Affairs attitudes. Ideally, commanders would begin to use Public Affairs professionals and the media in order to communicate the command message and tell the military story.

Employing the uses and gratifications perspective has potentially significant benefits for advertisers, television network executives, and politicians. If they can identify the form and the content that satisfies the needs of their customers, they have a dependable vehicle for successfully communicating persuasive messages. Similarly, Public Affairs personnel who can convey the importance of the mass media are more likely to educate their commanders about the potential uses and rewards of implementing Public Affairs programs.

Leader-Member Exchange Theory

One of the typical signs of a non-supportive leader is the lack of meaningful, two-way communication between leader and subordinate. Fisher and Ellis (1990) state that effective leaders exhibit flexible communicative skills. These leaders adjust their communicative behaviors and interpersonal relationships according to the situation and the nature of their subordinates. Fisher and Ellis (1990) reference several studies, which show that when leaders are working with motivated, competent workers, they are more likely to exhibit consideration and respect for them; they also involve the workers in more decision-making and provide a less structured environment.

Harris and Sherblom (1999) state that at least three characteristics are expected of a leader. These characteristics are vision, credibility and communication competence. Leaders must maintain the overall command vision while moving the group toward that vision. This involves planning long and short-term goals, focusing attention, managing conflict, and empowering others to help the creative process.

Through credibility, Harris and Sherblom (1999) state that leaders must inspire the groupís trust and confidence in their ability. The authors define credibility as knowledge, expertise, honesty and the ability to remain calm under stress. In addition, leaders must be likable and show interest in others. Leaders without credibility are usually perceived as manipulative or dishonest and will have a harder time gaining compliance from their subordinates.

Communication competence is defined as the ability to translate relevant knowledge, skills, and situationally appropriate behavior in a way that subordinates can understand and trust. It also is defined as the ability to manage ambiguity and uncertainty in their operational environment, and when to reduce or heighten uncertainty (Harris and Sherblom, 1999).

Some commanding officers view Public Affairs personnel as necessary evils that must be tolerated, while some commanders see the media as an enemy that cannot be trusted. This perception is due to a commander who sees no value in dealing with Public Affairs personnel or the media. Public Affairs personnel must try to provide the commander with guidance on public affairs programs.

Drake and Moberg (1986) state that content does not drive influence or compliance as much as effective communication. Influencers who use language that violate power and social expectations will find it harder to achieve their goals even with adequate inducements. In contrast, using language that persuades receivers into compliance when the inducements are not good enough or certain linguistic forms can sedate a target into automatic compliance responses (Drake and Moberg, 1986).

Krone (1991) describes the leader-member exchange theory as having subordinate relationships embedded in groups, and that these groups are not equivalent. Two specific groups are defined as in-groups and out-groups. The in-group enjoys greater work-related support and responsiveness from supervisors and handles more administering activities and has greater communication with superiors. The out-group develops more formal and restrictive relationships with supervisors and performs only routine tasks. Because some commanders may not view Public Affairs as an operational aspect of their command, they could view Public Affairs as an out-group.

Value Expectancy Theory

Barge (1994) outlines the expectancy value theory as a choice-making process in which people set goals that they perceive as realistic, attainable and desirable. The author stresses that people will first calculate the expectancy or the amount of confidence they have that certain behaviors will be followed by a certain outcome. Secondly, people will calculate the valance, or degree of postivity or negativity, of their view of whether they achieved the desired outcome. The final calculation people will make is the instrumentality, or the belief that if they go to the trouble, the desired outcome will come about (Barge, 1994).

The author notes that while expectancy value theory explains why people base their decision-making in order to maximize their gains, the theory does not completely account for all types of behavior. Barge (1994) says the theory falls short when the number of possible outcomes becomes too taxing for our cognitive ability to calculate. In addition, the theory's valance considerations can not always explain why some people pursue goals with negative consequences (Barge, 1994). To apply this theory to a non-supportive situation, we must consider limiting the number of variables, strong positive valance, and an attainable desired outcome. If the commander sees value for the effort, odds of gaining compliance and support are increased.

The lack of support from leadership within a unit, organization or group can ultimately result in poorer subordinate performance, failure to meet or inadequately meet goals, and drops in subordinate morale and expectations. Nebecker and Mitchell (1974) studied the value expectancy theory as it applies to leadership behavior and subordinate expectations of that behavior. The authors argue that the value expectancy theory -- the perceived expectation that a behavior is related to the attainment of outcomes weighted by the evaluation of these outcomes -- can be used to help predict leadership behavior. Furthermore, the authors argue that leadership behavior can facilitate or block the attempts of subordinates to reach their work-related goals (Nebecker & Mitchell, 1974).

Meghan Mariman, LT, USN | Steve Butler, CAPT, USMC | Cameron Porter, SSGT, USA