Hypodermic Needle Theory

The Hypodermic Needle Model

Hypodermic Needle - Audience Theory

This was one of the first theories used as an attempt to explain how audiences act to media. It suggests that the audience, passively (without realisation) receives information via  media text and the audience would not challenge or process the information.
The theory came about when mass media was still very new and it was used, primarily as propaganda.

 The Hypodermic Needle Theory implies that the mass media has an incredibly powerful and direct effect on the audiences.
Fears about the power of media texts began as the governments wanted to communicate with their citizens through advertisement campaigns. Many of the Posters produced for World War One were overly patriotic and xenophobic. English advertisements provoked strong Anti-German feelings because they depicted German soldiers killing babies with bayonets. This demonstrates the incredible power the media has to influence peoples thinking and is how the Hypodermic Needle Model came into being.
 The Hypodermic Needle Model is often referred to when discussing moral panics. It is said that certain groups in society should not be allowed to receive certain media texts because they could watch/ read about sexual or violent behaviour and then reenact what they have seen.

Pop Culture Examples:


  • GTA – GTA is one of the many video games put under the spotlight for potentially promoting violent behaviour in players
  • Catcher in the Rye – This book, written by J. D. Salinger, is deemed controversial due to its popularity amongst killers. Mark Chapman, who murdered John Lennon was found reading it aloud at the scene of the crime.

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