Action-Oriented Mass Communication

  • Alfred Mcalister


Ideas about the effects of the mass media in the United States have changed during the history of communication research and three stages have been identified (Roberts and Maccoby, 1985; Flora, Maibach, and Maccoby 1989). Initially, mass media messages were considered almost omnipotent in altering behavior (Katz and Lazarsfeld, 1955). Later, the mass media were considered virtually incapable of producing independent effects (Klapper, 1960). The earlier excessive claims of large effects spurred overzealous public communication campaigns, which failed to meet expectations (Bauer, 1964; Hyman and Sheatsley, 1947;Lazarsfeld and Merton, 1948). As theories about communication and behavior have merged in the analysis of phenomena such as the diffusion of innovation (Rogers, 1983; Bandura, 1986), the most recent trend is toward the belief that mass media messages have little direct effect and that their greatest influence is indirect and largely dependent on interpersonal influences and environmental circumstances. Even small direct effects, such as shifts of a few percentage points in consumer preferences, are of great commercial value and similar changes in health-related behaviors may have enormous absolute significance in a population of millions (Puska et al., 1985b). Contemporary research and accompanying developments in theory have shown that when campaigns combine community-based interpersonal communication with mass media messages the effects can be substantial (McAlister, Ramirez, Galavotti, and Gallion, 1989; Ramirez and McAlister, 1988; Flora, Maccoby and Farquhar, 1989; Bracht, 1990; Rice and Paisley, 1981). An agreed-upon effect of mass communication is “agenda-setting” (McCombs and Shaw, 1972; McCombs, 1981)


Media Campaign Interpersonal Communication Media Outlet Mass Communication Behavioral Counseling 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Amezcua, C., McAlister, A., Ramirez, A., & Espinoza, R. (1990). Health promotion in the Mexican American community: A su salud Neil Bracht (Ed.) In Organizing for community health promotion: A handbook Newbury Park, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  2. Atwood, L. E., Sohn, A., Sohn, H. (1976). Community discussion and newspaper content Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism, College Park, MDGoogle Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-HallGoogle Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control New York: W.H. FreemanGoogle Scholar
  5. Bauer, R. (1964). The obstinate audience: The influence process from the point of view of social communication. American Psychologist, 19,319–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bracht, N. (1990). Organizing for Community Health Promotion Newbury Park, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1995). Community level prevention of HIV infection among high-risk populations: Methodology and preliminary findings from the AIDS Community Demonstration Projects. MMWR Supplement Google Scholar
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1996). Community-level prevention of HIV infection among high-risk populations. MMWR Recommendations and Reports, May 10, Vol. 45 (10(RR-6), 1–24Google Scholar
  9. Chaffee, S. (1982). Mass media and interpersonal channels: competitive, convergent or complementary. In G. Gumpert and R. Cathcart (Eds.), Inter/Media: Interpersonal communication in a media world (pp. 57–77). New York: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  10. Colletti, G., Brownell, K. D. (1982). Self-change and therapy change of smoking behavior: a comparison of processes of change in cessation and maintenance. Addictive Behaviors, 7, 133–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ettema, J., Kline, F. (1977). Deficits, difference and ceilings: Contingent conditions for understanding the knowledge gap. Communication Research, 4,179–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Farquhar, J. W. (1978). The community-based model of lifestyle intervention trials. American Journal of Epidemiology, 108, 103–111PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Ferstl, R., Jockusch, U., & Brengelmann, J. C. (1975). Die verhaltenstherapeutische Behandlung des Ubergewichts. Internationales Journal fur Gesundheitserziehung, 18,119–136Google Scholar
  14. Festinger, L., and Maccoby, N. (1964). On resistance to persuasive communications. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 68 Google Scholar
  15. Flay, B. R., Ditecco, D., & Schlegel, R. P. (1980). Mass media in health promotion. Health Education Quarterly, 7, 127–143PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Flay, B. R. (1987a). Mass media and smoking cessation: A critical review. American Journal of Public Health, 77(2), 153–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Flay, B. R. (1987b). Evaluation of the development, dissemination, and effectiveness of mass media health programming. Health Education Research, 2, 123–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Flay, B. R., Burton, D. (1990). Effective mass communication campaigns for public health. In Atkin, C., and Wallack, L. (Eds.) Mass Communication for Public Health Newbury Park, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  19. Flora, J., Maccoby, N., & Farquhar, J. (1989). Communication campaigns to prevent cardiovascular disease: The Stanford community studies. In R. Rice & C. Atkins (Eds.), Public Communication Campaigns, 2nd ed. (pp. 233–252). Newbury Park, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  20. Flora, J., Maibach, E., & Maccoby, N. (1989). The role of media across four levels of health promotion intervention. Annual Review of Public Health, 10, 181–201PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gaziano, C. (1983). The knowledge gap: An analytical review of media effects. Communication Research, 10, 447–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Green, L. W. (1970). Should health education abandon attitude-change strategies: Perspectives from recent research. Health Education Monograph, I,24–48Google Scholar
  23. Green, L. W., & Kreuter, M. W.(1991). Health promotion planning: An educational and environmental approach, 2nd ed. Mountainview, CA: MayfieldGoogle Scholar
  24. Houston Chronicle, (April 24, 1992). Alcohol, hard drugs linked to child abuse, p. 7Google Scholar
  25. Hyman, J., Sheatsley, P. (1947). Some reasons why information campaigns fail. Public Opinion Quarterly, pp. 448–466Google Scholar
  26. Illich, I. (1976). Medical nemesis: The expropriation of health New York: PantheonGoogle Scholar
  27. Katz, E., & Lazarsfeld, P. (1955). Personal influence: The part played by people in the flow of mass communications New York: Free PressGoogle Scholar
  28. Kelman, H. C. (1961). Processes of opinion change. Public Opinion Quarterly, 25, 57–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Klapper, J. T. (1960). The effects of mass communication New York: Free PressGoogle Scholar
  30. Kuusipalo, J., Mikkola, M., Moisio, S., Puska, P. (1988). The East Finland berry and vegetable project: A health-related structural intervention programme. Health Promotion, 1, 385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lazarsfeld, P., Merton, R. (1948). Mass communication, popular taste, and organized social action Reprinted in W. Schramm and D. Roberts (Eds.), (1977) The process and effects of Mass Communication (pp. 554–578). Urbana: University of Illinois PressGoogle Scholar
  32. Liebkind, K., & McAlister, A. (1999). Extended contact through peer modeling to promote tolerance in Finland. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29, 765–780CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Maccoby, N. (1980). Promoting positive health-related behavior in adults. In L. A. Bond and J. C. Rose (Eds.), Primary prevention of psychopathology: Competence and coping in adulthood Proceedings of Fourth Vermont Conference, University Press of New England, Hanover, NHGoogle Scholar
  34. Maccoby, N., Farquhar, J. W., Wood, P., & Alexander, J. (1977). Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease: effects of a community-based campaign on knowledge and behavior. Journal of Community Health, 3 Google Scholar
  35. McAlister, A. (1976). Toward the mass communication of behavioral counseling. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, Stanford, CAGoogle Scholar
  36. McAlister, A. (1991). Population behavior change: A theory-based approach. Journal of Public Health Policy, 12, 345–361PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McAlister, A. (1995). Behavioral journalism: Beyond the marketing model for health communication. American Journal of Health Promotion, 9, 417–420PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McAlister, A. (1997, October 15–17). Improving intergroup relations through students’ behavioral journalism. Paper presented at Carnegie Corporation meeting on Research to Improve Intergroup Relations among Youth. New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. McAlister, A. L., Fernandez-Esquer, M. E., Ramirez, A. G., Trevino, E, Gallion, K. J., Villareal, R., Pulley, L., Hu, S., Torres, I., & Zhang, Q. (1995). Community level cancer control in a Texas barrio: Part II: Baseline and preliminary outcome findings. Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monograph, 18, 123–126Google Scholar
  40. McAlister, A., Puska, P., Koskela, K., Pallonen, U., & Maccoby, N. (1980). Mass communication and community organization for public health education. American Psychologist, 35,375–379PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McAlister, A., Puska, P., Salonen, J. T., Tuomilehto, J., Koskela, K. (1982). Theory and action for health promotion: Illustrations from the North Karelia Project. American Journal of Public Health, 72, 43–50PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McAlister, A., Ramirez, A., Amezcua, C., Pulley, L., Stern, M., & Mercado, S. (1992). Smoking cessation in Texas-Mexico border communities: A quasi-experimental panel study. American Journal of Health Promotion, 6,274–279PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McAlister, A., Ramirez, A., Galavotti, C., & Gallion, K. (1989). Anti-smoking campaigns: Progress in the application of social learning theory. In R. E. Rice and C. Atkins (Eds.) Public communication campaigns, 2nd ed. Newbury Park, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  44. McAlister, A., & Velez, V. (1999). Behavioral sciences concepts in research on the prevention of violence. Pan American Journal of Public Health, 5, 316–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McCombs, M. & Shaw, D. (1972). The agenda setting function of mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 176–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McCombs, M. (1981). The agenda-setting approach. In D. D. Nimmo & K. R. Sanders (Eds.), Handbook of political communication (pp. 121–140). Beverly Hills, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  47. McGuire, W. J. (1972). Attitude change: The information-processing paradigm. In McClintock, C. (Ed.), Experimental Social Psychology New York: Holt, Rinehart and WinstonGoogle Scholar
  48. McGuire, W. J. (1984). Public communication as a strategy for inducing health promoting behavioral change. Preventive Medicine, 13, 299–319PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McGuire, W. J. (1989). Theoretical foundations of campaigns. In R. Rice and C. Atkins (Eds.), Public communication campaigns, 2nd ed.) (Pp. 43–66). Newbury Park, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  50. Meyer, A., Nash, J., McAlister, A., Farquhar, J., Haskell, W., & Wood, P. (1980). Skills training in a cardiovascular health education campaign. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 48,129–142PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. National Research Council. (1993). Understanding and preventing violence Washington, D.C. National Academy PressGoogle Scholar
  52. Olson, M. (1965). The logic of collective action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  53. O’Reilly, K. R., Higgins, D. L. (1991). AIDS community demonstration projects for HIV prevention among hard-toreach groups. Public Health Reports, 106,714–720PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Palmer, E. (1981). Shaping persuasive messages with formative research. In R. E. Rice, and J. W. Paisley (Eds.), Public Communication Campaigns Beverly Hills, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  55. Pechacek, T., & McAlister, A. (1980). Strategies for modification of smoking behavior: Treatment and prevention. In J. Ferguson and B. Taylor, (Eds.), The Comprehensive Handbook of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 3. New York: SpectrumGoogle Scholar
  56. Pulley, L., McAlister, A., Kay, L., & O’Reilly, K. (1997). Prevention campaigns for hard-to-reach populations at risk for HIV infection: Theory and implementation. Health Education Quarterly,23, 488–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Puska, P., Wiio, J., McAlister, A., & Koskela, K. (1985a). Planned use of mass media in national health promotion: The “Keys to Health” TV program in 1982 in Finland. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 76, 336–342Google Scholar
  58. Puska, P., Salonen, J. T., Koskela, K., McAlister, A., Kottke, T. E., Maccoby, W., & Farquhar, J. W. (1985b). The community-based strategy to prevent coronary heart disease: Conclusions from the ten years of the North Karelia project. Annual Review of Public Health, 6, 147–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Puska, P., Koskela, K., McAlister, A., Mayranen, H., Smolander, A., Moisio, S., Viri, L., Korpelainen, V., & Rogers, E. M. (1986). Use of lay opinion leaders to promote diffusion of health innovations in a community programme: Lessons learned from the North Karelia Project. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 64(3), 437–446PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Puska, P., McAlister, A., Niemensivu, H. O., Piba, T., Wiio, J., & Koskela, K. (1987). Keys to Health: Television format for national public health promotion. Public Health Reports, 102, 263–269Google Scholar
  61. Ramirez A & McAlister, A. (1988). A su salud. Preventive Medicine, 17, 608–621PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Ramirez, A. G., McAlister, A., Gallion, K. J., Ramirez, V., Garza, I. R., Stamm, K., de la Torre, J., & Chalela, P. (1995). Community-level cancer control in a Texas barrio: Part I: Theoretical basis, implementation and process evaluation. Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monograph, 18,117–122Google Scholar
  63. Ray, M. L. (1973). Marketing communication and the hierarchy-of-effects. In P. Clarke (Ed.), New models for communication research Beverly Hills, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  64. Reardon, K., & Rogers, E. (1988). Interpersonal versus mass media communication: A false dichotomy. Human Communication Research, 15,284–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rice, R. E., and Paisley, W. J. (Eds.) (1981). Public communication campaigns Beverly Hills, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  66. Roberts, D., & Maccoby, N. (1985). Effects of mass communication. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology, Vol. II. 3rd ed. (pp. 539–598). New York: Random HouseGoogle Scholar
  67. Rogers, E. (1983). Diffusion of innovations 3rd ed. New York: Free PressGoogle Scholar
  68. Sabido, M. (1981). Towards the social use of soap operas Mexico City, Mexico: Institute for Community ResearchGoogle Scholar
  69. Sheffield, F. D., & Maccoby, N. (1961). Learning complex sequential tasks from demonstration and practice. In A. A. Lumsdaine (Ed.), Student response in programmed instruction Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences–National Research Council Publication 943Google Scholar
  70. Shingi, P. M., & Mody, B. (1976). The communication effects gap: A field experiment on television and agricultural ignorance in India. Communication Research, 3, 171–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1988). Media strategies for smoking control: Guidelines. From a consensus workshop conducted by The Advocacy Institute for the National Cancer Institute, Washington, D.C., January 14–15Google Scholar
  72. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Making health communication programs work: A planner’s guideOffice of Cancer Communications, National Cancer Institute, NIH Publication No. 89–1493, April 1989Google Scholar
  73. Velez, L., McAlister, A., & Hu, S. (1997). Measuring attitudes related to violence in Colombia. Journal of Social Psychology, 137,1533–1534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wallack, L. (1990a). Improving health promotion: Media advocacy and social marketing approaches. In C. Atkin, L. Wallack (Eds.), Mass communication and public health: Complexities and conflicts (pp. 147–163). Newbury Park, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  75. Wallack, L. (1990b). Media advocacy: Promoting health through mass communication. In K. Glanz, F. Lewis, & B. Rimer (Eds.), Health behavior and health education: Theory and practice (pp. 370–386). San Francisco: JosseyBassGoogle Scholar
  76. Windsor, R. A., Baranowski, T., Clark, N., & Cutter, G. (1984). Evaluation of Health Promotion and Education Programs Palo Alto, CA: MayfieldGoogle Scholar
  77. Zimmermann, M. A., & Rappaport, J. (1988). Citizen participation, perceived control and psychological empowerment. American Journal of Community Psychology, 16, 725–750CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfred Mcalister
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity of TexasHoustonUSA

Personalised recommendations