Uses and gratifications theory

Uses and gratifications theory is a popular approach to understanding mass communication. It focuses more on the consumer instead of the actual message by asking “what do people do with media?” as opposed to “what does media do to people?” >
(Katz, 1959)

People’s dependency on media proves audience goals to be the origin of the dependency while the uses and gratifications approach focuses more on audience needs (Grant et al., 1998). Still, both theories agree that media use can lead to media dependency(Rubin, 1982).

(Katz, Gurevitch and Haas, 1973)

With the rise of mass media in the last century, critics worried that its power could destroy freedom through manipulating consumers. Different approaches to the study of mass media offer support or fail to offer support for these fears.

Uses and Gratifications Theory is a popular approach to understanding mass communication. The theory places more focus on the consumer, or audience, instead of the actual message itself by asking “what people do with media” rather than “what media does to people” (Katz, 1959) . It assumes that members of the audience are not passive but take an active role in interpreting and integrating media into their own lives. The theory also holds that audiences are responsible for choosing media to meet their needs. The approach suggests that people use the media to fulfill specific gratifications. This theory would then imply that the media compete against other information sources for viewers’ gratification. (Katz, E., Blumler, J. G., & Gurevitch, M. 1974)

There are three main paradigms in media effects: hypodermic needle (i.e., direct, or strong effects), limited effects, and the powerful to limited effects. “Uses and Gratifications” falls under the second paradigm which reached its apex around 1940-1960, when studies helped realize that the first paradigm was inaccurate.

Basic model

The Uses and Gratifications Theory follows a basic model. It is an audience-centered approach. When an audience actively seeks out media, they are typically seeking it in order to gratify a need. For example, in social situations, people may feel more confident and knowledgeable when they have specific facts and stories from media to add to conversation. By seeking out media, a person fulfills a need to be informed.

Social situations and psychological characteristics motivate the need for media, which motivates certain expectations of that media. This expectation leads one to be exposed to media that would seemingly fit expectations, leading to an ultimate gratification.

The media dependency theory, has also been explored as an extension to the uses and gratifications approach to media, though there is a subtle difference between the two theories. People’s dependency on media proves audience goals to be the origin of the dependency while the uses and gratifications approach focuses more on audience needs (Grant et al., 1998). Still, both theories agree that media use can lead to media dependency(Rubin, 1982).

The media dependency theory states that the more dependent an individual is on the media to fulfill needs, the more significant the media becomes to that person. DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach (1976) illustrate dependency as the relationship between media content, the nature of society, and the behavior of audiences. Littlejohn (2002) also explained that people will become more dependent on media that meet a number of their needs than on media that touch only a few needs. Dependency on a certain medium is influenced by the number of sources open to an individual. Individuals are usually more dependent on available media if their access to media alternatives is limited. The more alternatives there are for an individual, the less is the dependency on, and influence of, a specific medium.

The hypodermic needle model claims that consumers are strongly affected by media and have no say in how the media influences them. The main idea of the Uses and Gratifications model is that people are not helpless victims of all-powerful media, but use media to fulfill their various needs. These needs serve as motivations for using media. >

More to read:


This study investigates the interactivity construct in terms of its antecedents (i.e., motivations for using the Internet) and consequences (i.e., attitude toward the site, attitude toward the brand, and purchase intention). A structural equation model was developed for an empirical test, based on uses and gratification theory applied to the interactivity context. A sample of 385 college students in the United States and Korea participated in the experiment. The findings suggest that consumers who have high information motivations are more likely to engage in human-message interaction on a Web site, whereas social interaction motivations are more strongly related to human-human interaction. Both human-message and human-human interactions had a positive effect on attitude toward the site, which leads to positive attitude toward the brand and purchase intention.


The increased use of the Internet as a new tool in communication has changed the way people interact. This fact is even more evident in the recent development and use of friend-networking sites. However, no research has evaluated these sites and their impact on college students. Therefore, the present study was conducted to evaluate: (a) why people use these friend-networking sites, (b) what the characteristics are of the typical college user, and (c) what uses and gratifications are met by using these sites. Results indicated that the vast majority of college students are using these friend-networking sites for a significant portion of their day for reasons such as making new friends and locating old friends. Additionally, both men and women of traditional college age are equally engaging in this form of online communication with this result holding true for nearly all ethnic groups. Finally, results showed that many uses and gratifications are met by users (e.g., “keeping in touch with friends”). Results are discussed in light of the impact that friend-networking sites have on communication and social needs of college students.

This paper investigates the uses of social networking site Facebook, and the gratifications users derive from those uses. In the first study, 137 users generated words or phrases to describe how they used Facebook, and what they enjoyed about their use. These phrases were coded into 46 items which were completed by 241 Facebook users in Study 2. Factor analysis identified seven unique uses and gratifications: social connection, shared identities, content, social investigation, social network surfing and status updating. User demographics, site visit patterns and the use of privacy settings were associated with different uses and gratifications.


This study attempted to determine empirically the gratifications sought from communication channels and to test the assumption that individuals differentiate channels based on gratifications. Age-related changes in the dimensions adolescents use to differentiate channels were also investigated Results indicated that three dimensions were operative across three age levels, although the importance of the dimensions varied with age. The three dimensions were surveillance/entertainment, affective guidance, and behavioral guidance.


Investigations as to why people attend to mass communications have generally not dealt with one of the assumed basic concepts of uses and gratifications research, namely, expectations about gratification. Nor have studies i n the area shown much concern for the question of whether gratifications sought from exposure to media are subsequently obtained; and if so, or if not, how this affects later expectations and patterns of exposure. This article describes a cognitive theory of motivation, expectancy-value theory. It then derives an expectancy model of media exposure in the framework of uses and gratifications research-a model which utilizes expectancy-value measures of audience gratifications in order to be able to predict subsequent levels of exposure to media. The model is illustrated by a small set of three-time panel data, the results of which support the view that the model has predictive validity. The article concludes that expectancy-value theory holds promise for extending uses and gratifications research beyond studies of the “charting and profiling” of reasons for attending to the media.

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