What Is Uses and Gratifications Theory? Definition and Examples (2023)

Uses and gratifications theory asserts that people use media to gratify specific wants and needs. Unlike many media theories that view media users as passive, uses and gratificationssees users as active agents who have control over their media consumption.

Key Takeaways: Uses and Gratifications

  • Uses and gratifications characterizes people as active and motivated in selecting the media they choose to consume.
  • The theory relies on two principles: media users are active in their selection of the media they consume, and they are aware of their reasons for selecting different media options.
  • The greater control and choice brought about by new media has opened up new avenues of uses and gratifications research and has led to the discovery of new gratifications, especially in regards to social media.
(Video) Introduction to Uses and Gratifications Theory

Origins

Uses and gratifications was first introduced in the 1940s as scholars began to study why people choose to consume various forms of media. For the next few decades, uses and gratifications research mostly focused on the gratifications media users sought. Then, in the 1970s, researchers turned their attention to the outcomes of media use and the social and psychological needs that media gratified. Today, the theory is often credited to Jay Blumler and Elihu Katz’s work in 1974. As media technologies continue to proliferate, research on uses and gratifications theory is more important than ever for understanding people’s motivations for choosing media and the gratifications they get out of it.

(Video) Uses and Gratification Theory: Concepts, History and Social Media Example

Assumptions

Uses and gratifications theory relies on two principles about media users. First, it characterizes media users as active in their selection of the media they consume. From this perspective, people don’t use media passively. They are engaged and motivated in their media selections. Second, people are aware of their reasons for selecting different media options. They rely on their knowledge of their motivations to make media choices that will help them meet their specific wants and needs.

On the basis of those principles, uses and gratifications goes on to outline five assumptions:

(Video) Uses and Gratifications Theory

  • Media use is goal-directed. People are motivated to consume media.
  • Media is selected based on the expectation that it will satisfy specific needs and desires.
  • Media influence on behavior is filtered through social and psychological factors. Thus, personality and social context impact the media choices one makes and one’s interpretation of media messages.
  • Media are in competition with other forms of communication for an individual’s attention. For example, an individual may choose to have an in-person conversation about an issue instead of watching a documentary about the issue.
  • People are usually in control of media and therefore are not particularly influenced by it.

Taken together, uses and gratifications theory stresses the power of the individual over the power of the media. Individual differences mediate the relationship between media and their effects. This results in media effects being driven as much by the media user as by the media content itself. So, even if people take in the same media message, each individual will not be impacted by the message in the same way.

Uses and Gratifications Research

Uses and gratifications research has uncovered several motivations people often have for consuming media. These include force of habit, companionship, relaxation, passing the time, escape, and information. In addition, a newer body of research explores people’s use of media to meet higher order needs like finding meaning and considering values. Studies from a uses and gratifications perspective have involved all kinds of media, from radio to social media.

(Video) Uses and Gratifications Theory - UGT

TV Selection and Personality

Uses and gratifications' emphasis on individual differences has led researchers to examine the way personality impacts people’s motivations for using media. For example, a study by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University looked at personality traits like neuroticism and extroversion to see if people with different traits would identify different motivations for watching television. The researcher found that the motivations of participants with neurotic personalities includedpassing the time, companionship, relaxation, and stimulation. This was the reverse for participants with extraverted personalities. Moreover, while the neurotic personality types favored the companionship motive most, extraverted personality types strongly rejected this motive as a reason to watch TV. The researcher judged these results to be consistent with these two personality types. Those who are more socially isolated, emotional, or shy, demonstrated an especially strong affinity for television. Meanwhile, those that were more sociable and outgoing saw TV as a poor substitute for real-life social interactions.

Uses and Gratifications and New Media

Scholars have noted that new media includes several attributes that weren’t part of older forms of media. Users have greater control over what they interact with, when they interact with it, and more content choices. This opens up the number of gratifications that new media use could satisfy. An early study published in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior on uses and gratifications of the internet found seven gratifications for its use: information seeking, aesthetic experience, monetary compensation, diversion, personal status, relationship maintenance, and virtual community. Virtual community could be considered a new gratification as it has no parallel in other forms of media. Another study, published in the journal Decisions Sciences, found three gratifications for internet usage. Two of these gratifications, content and process gratifications, had been found before in studies of the uses and gratifications of television. However, a new social gratification specific to internet use was also found. These two studies indicate that people look to the internet to fulfill social and communal needs.

(Video) USES AND GRATIFICATION THEORY

Research has also been conducted to uncover the gratifications sought and obtained through social media use. For instance, another study published in CyberPsychology & Behavior uncovered four needs for Facebook group participation. Those needs included socializing by staying in touch and meeting people, entertainment through the use of Facebook for amusement or leisure, seeking self-status by maintaining one’s image, and seeking information in order to learn about events and products. In similar study, researchers found that Twitter users gratified their need for connection through the social network. Increased usage, both in terms of the amount of time one had been active on Twitter and in terms of the number of hours per week one spends using Twitter, increased the gratification of this need.

Critiques

While uses and gratifications remains a popular theory in media research, it faces a number of criticisms. For example, the theory downplays the importance of media. As a result, it may overlook the way media influences people, especially unconsciously. In addition, while audiences may not always be passive, they may not always be active either, something the theory does not account for. Finally, some critics claim that uses and gratifications is too broad to be considered a theory, and therefore, should only be considered an approach to media research.

(Video) Uses & Gratifications Theory - Mr B's Media Marvels

Sources

FAQs

What is uses and gratification theory examples? ›

Examples of Uses and Gratification Theory

People choose from their own choices and moods. The needs of the particular person are met through the media used. Some people might watch news for information, some for entertainment, and some for self-reassurance. Some watch according to their moods.

What is the main idea of uses and gratifications theory? ›

The Uses and Gratifications Theory is a Mass Communication theory that focuses on the needs, motives and gratifications of media users. The theory states that media consumers are passive consumers of mass communications; rather, they play an active role in media consumption.

Which of the following defines uses and gratifications U&G theory? ›

Uses and gratifications theory (UGT) proposes that people choose to consume certain kinds of media because they expect to obtain specific gratifications as a result of those selections.

What is the uses and gratifications theory quizlet? ›

Uses and gratifications theory is an approach to understanding why and how people actively seek out specific media to satisfy specific needs. UGT is an audience-centered approach to understanding mass communication.

What are the 4 uses and gratifications? ›

The four categories were: (1) Diversion: escape from routine or problems; emotional release; (2) Personal relationships: companionship; social utility; (3) Personal identity: self reference; reality exploration; value reinforces; and (4) Surveillance (forms of information seeking).

Why is it important to study uses and gratification theory? ›

It is more audience-oriented study. Positive point of the uses and gratification theory is it focuses attention on individuals in the mass communication process. It mainly focuses on people's selectivity on media content rather than its unintended effects in their minds.

Is uses and gratification theory still relevant today? ›

The uses and gratifications theory focuses on active audiences whose research applications are in conventional media, such as television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. However, this theory is still relevant as a reference in analyzing the impact of new media trends, such as social media.

What two theorists talk about uses and gratifications? ›

Uses and Gratifications theory as developed by Bulmer and Katz suggests that media users play an active role in choosing and using the media. Bulmer and Katz believed that the user seeks out the media source that best fulfils their needs.

Why people use social media uses and gratifications? ›

The ten uses and gratifications are: social interaction, information seeking, pass time, entertainment, relaxation, communicatory utility, convenience utility, expression of opinion, information sharing, and surveillance/knowledge about others.

What is personal relationships in uses and gratifications theory? ›

2. Personal relationships - Where they use the 'text' to form relationships with others, e.g. online communities, discussion with friends. 3. Personal Identity - the ability to compare one's life with the characters and situations within programmes, and hence explore personal problems and perspectives.

Where did the uses and gratification theory come from? ›

Elihu Katz first introduced the Uses and Gratification Approach, when he came up with the notion that people use the media to their benefit. The perspective emerged in the early 1970's as Katz and his two colleagues, Jay Blumler and Michael Gurevitch continued to expand the idea.

What is uses and gratification theory PDF? ›

"Uses and Gratification Theory" or "need seeking" is one of the theories of. communications that focuses on social communications. This theory adapts a functionalistic. approach to communications and media, and states that media's most important role is to. fulfill the needs and motivations of the audience.

What is the full meaning of gratification? ›

pleasure or satisfaction, or something which provides this: sexual gratification.

What is the true meaning of gratification? ›

: reward, recompense. monetary gratification for a job well done. especially : gratuity. : the act of gratifying : the state of being gratified. the gratification of physical appetites.

Which of the following is an example of instant gratification? ›

Instant Gratification Examples

The following are examples of instant gratification: A person who wakes up to an alarm and hits the snooze button is instantly gratifying themselves with nine minutes of not having to get up. Putting off a work task to talk to friends.

What are the 5 needs categories of uses and gratification theory? ›

Some recent research on SNSs use has shown their users gratify all five needs from the original classification – cognitive needs, af- fective needs, the need for personal identity, integration and social interaction and escapism (Katz, Gurevitch, Haas, 1973, in: Tan, 1985: 235-236).

What are the two forms of gratification? ›

Immediate and delayed gratification

There are sources who claim that the prefrontal cortex plays a part in the incidence of these two types of gratification, particularly in the case of delayed gratification since one of its functions involve predicting future events.

What are the five assumptions of uses and gratification theory? ›

The basic assumptions are, Active audience, Audience choice, Competitive choice and Suspend value-judgement. Among the group of scholars who focus on Uses and Gratifications research is Elihu Katz.

Who discovered uses and gratification? ›

Uses and gratifications theory, first advanced in the 1940s by Lazarsfeld and Stanton (1944), attempts to explain the reasons people use mass media and the different types of gratification they receive from it.

How has instant gratification changed society? ›

The need for instant gratification has seeped into every corner of society, from retailers offering same-day delivery services, to instant streaming services, yearly upgrades of our tech, and an internet connection that will load a webpage in seconds. The instant experience isn't just handed to us, it is expected.

What is a major criticism of uses and gratifications theory? ›

The uses and gratifications perspective has been criticized over the years for its vague conceptual framework, lack of precision, and a failure to consider audience's perceptions and interpretations of media messages, among others (Ruggiero, 2000).

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