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Agenda Setting Theory and Emotionalism

  • 16 Pages
  • Published On: 08-12-2023


Communication is an integral part which manifests itself as a preliminary measure towards influencing a point of action. In this connection, it has been observed that the emergence and development of the agenda setting theory is specifically reliant on influencing the topics that are improvised by the public agenda. According to Kim, Kim and Zhou (2017), the agenda setting is specifically focused towards manipulating and influencing the awareness among the groups of people and are thereby mostly used by the news media houses with the purpose of influencing and encouraging the active participation of the general public in the social agendas. The clear assessment of the agenda setting is being focused towards identifying and influencing the viewers. On the other hand, the emerging concept of Emotionalism has mostly taken an aesthetic view on influencing the people through targeting the emotional constructs while aligning with the thoughts, mentality or beliefs in a societal structure.

Agenda setting might take on a move towards introducing the people to the different agendas that are relevant in the societies. However, the implementation of emotionalism has significantly supported the media houses in connecting to the emotions of the people, living the societies, while influencing or persuading the same towards a call for action. Therefore, the discussion would be mostly focused towards identifying the extent to which emotionalism has altered the understanding of the Agenda- setting theory. In this connection, the discussion would firstly identify the concepts of Agenda- setting theory and emotionalism while moving towards identifying or analyzing the change that was brought about by emotionalism in the concept that was previously conceived as the Agenda- setting theory.


The critical aspects of agenda setting theory

Agenda- setting theory is focused towards identifying the general social agendas that drives the interests or priorities of the people and placing the same in manner to influence or persuade the people towards a call for action. Agenda setting is being viewed as a capability of the media houses in influencing the importance of an agenda in the minds of the people in a society. Alitavoli and Kaveh (2018) stated that the Agenda- setting theory is mostly focused towards manipulating the interests of the people while making the same aware of the societal agendas while manipulating the information to fit into the purpose. In this connection, it might be stated that the Agenda- setting activity by the media houses are focused towards empowering a manipulative framework while imposing different media biases.

Blasco-Duatis et al. (2019) stated that communication is being undertaken by the media houses and owners with the purpose of influencing the awareness of the people towards believing certain specific biases in the aspects of politics, economy or culture. It has been observed that the biases create a sense of indulgence or urgency in the minds of the viewers while influencing their active participation to any event or concern that is being occurring in the societal constructs. Media plays an eccentric role in empowering the awareness of the people in the societies while influencing their participation in different social events. The Agenda- setting theory provides the media houses with the capability of manipulating information and presenting the same in a manner with the purpose of influencing the activities of the viewers.

According to Shafi (2017), media plays an important part in educating people on the current events and the agendas that are being coupled by their societies in order to exterminate some concerns. However, Aruguete (2017) opined that the manipulative action of media might be considered as an important aspect that has been driving the success factors towards influencing the active participation of the viewers in the common agenda. Therefore, the Agenda- setting theory encompasses and focuses on making the people aware of the different concerns while influencing their interests on an agenda topic through manipulative means.

The emotionalism and its relevance in mass media communication in current days

Emotionalism is specifically the identification of the feelings and emotions that are related to a message or piece of information while triggering the cognition of the audience. The concept of emotionalism is driven through the psychological factors like feelings and emotions that acts as a trigger towards the activities that are undertaken by the people. In this connection, Chernov and McCombs (2019) observed that the concept of emotionalism has extensively contributed towards developing communication ability in modern days. Communication practices, verbal and non- verbal, are reliant on the identification of the behaviour, traits, beliefs, feelings and emotions of audience.

The effective identification of the emotional constructs of people supports the communicator, in the current era, to develop and craft the information as per the interests or priorities of the viewers. NASER (2020) stated that the identification of the emotional constructs of the people, before communicating an information, acts as a point of research towards improving the quality of communication while influencing their point of actions. Media channels, in the current days, are prioritizing emotionalism with the purpose of improving their influence on the people while persuading the same towards a desired course of action.

The impact of emotionalism on altering the understanding of agenda setting theory

Primarily, agenda setting theory was used by the media channels with the purpose of increasing their coverage and understanding the ways in which media performs their intended operations. Several past literatures have not considered the need of including emotionalism as an integral part of the agenda-setting theory as they believed that improving coverage would support the media channels in meeting their expected outcome from the information transmission based activities. However, with the changing times and the emergence of different concerns that are being faced by media channels, it was conceived that emotionalism is an integral psychological aspect that might be considered by the media houses in order to fulfil the definition of agenda-setting theory.

The First-level agenda setting is focused towards identifying the amount of coverage being provided to a social issue and the role of media in manipulating the information on the issues that must be conveyed to the audience (Hartanto 2017). It has been observed that identifying the amount of coverage that is required by an issue is based on the nature of the concern or the impact that the concern might create in the societal structure. Therefore, it might be stated that determining the amount of coverage is an important procedure that are followed by the media houses with the purpose of influencing the flow of information to the audience. In certain specific situation like a downturn in the economy or the change in the political forum might be mostly prioritized by a media agency over that of a trifling housebreak.

The gravity of a situation is mostly prioritized by the media houses with the purpose of attracting the attention of the audience which is again controlled through the amount of coverage. Moreover, it has been observed that the media houses take on the role of manipulating the information after prioritizing the same on the basis of the interests of the audience. According to Vargo, Guo and Amazeen (2018), effective communication is specifically based on the capability of the sender in identifying the perceptions, interests, beliefs or the priorities of the audience while positioning the message in order to gain exposure. Therefore, it might be stated that the first-level agenda setting focuses directly on the aspects of deciding on the coverage for the information that must be conveyed to the audience.

The second stage of agenda- setting is reliant on the positioning of the media information on the basis of the emotional characteristics. According to Stern, Livan and Smith (2020), the identification of emotions or the feelings of the audience is an integral part that is considered by the media houses while positioning the information. The cognition on the emotions or feelings experienced by the public and the nature or the essence of information is aligned by the media houses in order to encourage the active participation of the audience. Feezell (2018) stated that information conveys different moods while attracting various interests that are guided by the emotions or feelings of the people. According to some of the psychologists anger, fear, sadness, happiness, hope, pride and the like are some of the emotions that guides the actions of the people. The identification of different emotional constructs and the traits improves the cognitive abilities while developing efficient communication, which is a primary motive of mass media. Therefore, a careful anticipation of the emotional constructs of the people is an important aspects that are presumed by the media houses while releasing their information or positioning the knowledge among the appropriate sets of audience.

However, as per Brosius, Haim and Weimann (2019), agenda-setting research traditionally overlooked the emotional dimension while putting more stress on identifying character traits, framing issues or valence being the components of affect. Denying the need for emotional or feeling based constructs has significantly limited the scope of the media in conceiving concepts on the other trivial factors for developing insights on ‘affects’. The identification of character traits like integrity and honesty or frames like human interests and economic consequences are more likely to restrict the scope of improving the media coverage. Wanta and Alkazemi (2017) stated that the identification of the emotional or the behavioral constructs of the audience is essential for a media house while communicating information to the target audience and thereby create the required outcome. As the media houses manipulates information with the purpose of attracting the interests of the audience, the identification of the emotional constructs, their beliefs and behaviors are necessary towards improving the scope on a call for action.

The emergence and prioritization of Emotionalism as a core element of the agenda setting theory has significantly supported the development and growth of the media houses while attracting the attention of their audience towards manipulated contents while encouraging them towards a call for action. In some of the studies emotion has been observed as an output of the trait evaluations and the information that is conveyed to the audience. Coleman and Wu (2021) stated that media houses are mostly focused towards the objective part of their responsibility of transmitting information and knowledge to the people with the purpose of keeping the same aware. On the other hand, the emergence and prioritization of the second stage of agenda setting theory, emotionalism, has created a need for the media houses to judge the audiences and the tentative emotions that they possess towards a agenda, which is highlighted in their society.

Vu et al. (2019) stated that there are two types of emotions, positive and negative, which affects the mental stature of the people and guides their decisions or involvement. In a study it was found that the negative emotions are more complex than that of the positive emotions as in certain situations negative information gains the largest weight rather than positive information. For an instance, negative information that is conveyed by media to the people on the corruption in the government is capable of creating awareness and negative statistics on the downgrading economic condition are capable of informing the audience while enabling the same to forecast the future course of actions. On the other hand, the positive side information is only capable of making the audiences aware like the improvement in the cultural traits or the political situation. Therefore, from the illustrations it might be witnesses and stated that negative information has greater influence than that of positive information on the minds of the audience.

The most surprising fact of including emotionalism as a part of the agenda setting theory is specifically based on identifying the emotions that might be triggered through the transmission of the type of information among the people in order to influence their emotions. According to Vargo (2018), emotions and feelings guide the activities of people towards a stated cause. The traditional agenda setting theory did not prioritize emotionalism as an important part as media mostly focused towards conveying information, as their objective. However, the identification and inclusion of emotionalism as an integral part of the agenda setting theory has empowered the media houses in developing cognition on the end result of the information that is being conveyed to their targeted public. McCombs (2020) observed that effectiveness of communication is specifically reliant on influencing the audience and improving engagement. The inclusion of emotionalism context in the agenda setting theory has been supportive towards the media while influencing the audience through manipulated information and developing emotional constructs.

Traditionally the approach of media houses were input oriented which was reliant on the traits of the people and the subjects of the information (Grömping 2021). However, the inclusion of the emotional context in the mass media communication outset has created a space for output based approach where the information transmitted are mostly objective based. The output based approach is deliberately identified by Su and Xiao (2021), as a nature of identifying the emotional constructs of the people or the feelings and emotions that are connected to the information which acts as a trigger towards their call for action. The identification and prioritization of emotionalism as an important factor in the second stage of the agenda setting theory has widened the scope of media in improving their influence and achieve the targeted outcomes with mass inclusion.

Different past researches and empirical studies has excluded the scope of emotionalism in the context of agenda setting theory while prioritizing mostly on the aspects of range of coverage and identification of the general traits among the audience with the purpose of influencing the same through manipulative information. However, it has been observed through the research by different psychologists and media personnel that the utilization of traits without knowledge of emotions or feelings of the people has significantly limited the scope of the media houses in reaching out or influencing their target audience. Janusch (2021) observed in a research study that the inclusion of emotionalism in agenda setting theory has greatly supported the media in identifying the target audience and behaviours towards the information shared. Identifying the reaction of the people or the tentative outputs that might be created through the information are important considerations that enables the media houses to define their goals and position information effectively towards appropriate viewer.

Moreover, Chernov (2018) opined that the emotionalism has significantly contributed towards identifying the specific set of values, feelings and emotions of the people towards any information, positive or negative, while conceiving their reaction. According to Su and Borah (2019), the Second-level agenda-setting, emotionalism, has a stronger negative emotional dimension than positive emotional dimension. For an instance, the emotions that are created by the news of a sudden downturn in the economic condition of a nation would be more intense than that of information covering the general prosperity made by an economy. The intensity of the emotional dimension is conceived through the application of the concepts of emotionalism rather than the general traits or characteristics of the audience which would be defining the call to action. The inclusion of emotionalism as a concept in agenda-setting and the complete dissemination of the same in the different areas of media operations has significantly empowered the outcome based approach over the input based approach that was traditionally applied by the media houses.

Agenda-setting theory is specifically reliant on making the audience aware of the social agendas while influencing their proactive engagement. However, the first stage, coverage and identification of traits, has significantly limited the capability of the media houses in addressing the objective of the theory towards making a social inclusion. Funk, and McCombs (2017) stated that creating meager awareness among the public, without influencing their engagement is not the objective of agenda-setting. As per a study, it was observed that politicians devise an imagery that influences the activities of the voters, while traditional media mostly focused towards developing information for the people and circulating the same among the people with the purpose of educating. The first level agenda-setting covered aspects through which the media role was emphasized with the purpose of reaching out to the intended audience.c

However, the Second-level agenda-setting confirmed the need for understanding and deploying information on the basis of emotional constructs is integral towards the development of scope of agenda-setting. The quality of media communication is reliant on maintaining relevance of information with effective tone and style with the purpose of influencing the responses or reactions of the audience. In order to develop communication, understanding the emotional constructs and touch points of the audience is essential (Dalhatu and Shehu 2020). Therefore, the emergence of emotionalism has brought in sufficient amount of changes in the perception of agenda-setting theory while empowering the media channels to execute their communication objectives.

The major basic changes that are introduced through emotionalism on the understanding of the agenda-setting is based on conceiving the emotional attributes of the people and thereby devise communication with appropriate tone and context with the purpose of influencing outcomes. Primarily, agenda setting was referred as a context of identifying the responsibilities of the media and the manner in which the communication processes were undertaken. However, the prioritization of emotionalism has brought about drastic changes in the perception quality of the agenda setting among the media houses. According to NASER (2020), primarily stage one of the agenda-setting theory was used by the media with the purpose of improving their coverage while focusing on the strategies for increasing their reach with the purpose of increasing the degree of awareness among the people.

However, later with the prioritization of emotionalism as an important aspect of the theory, the concept of agenda-setting was fully realized while setting up outcome based communication strategies while aiming towards the feelings and emotions of the people through manipulative content. According to Aruguete (2017), efficient communication is specifically reliant on identifying the Agenda-setting theory is perceived by the media houses as their ability of manipulating information and creating a response out of their targeted audience. However, primarily media houses used stage one while focusing on increasing their range of coverage and reach among the people rather than developing knowledge on traits, emotions, feelings or beliefs of the people. The input based approach of traditional agenda-setting theory was altered through the output based model which mostly centered on identifying the emotional reactions to the information that are transmitted by the media channels.

Feezell (2018) opined that agenda-setting theory is specifically focused towards developing a suitable response through the information that is shared among the audience. The utilization of stage one enabled the media channels in improving their coverage and reach but limited the scope on the responses that agenda-setting theory aims at producing. However, the introduction of the psychology based emotionalism factor has significantly altered the cognition of the media channels while streamlining their efforts towards achieving maximum participation or reaction of the people through triggering on their feelings and emotions. Coleman and Wu (2021) opined that efficient communication as per agenda-setting theory is specifically reliant on influencing the audience and creating response or reaction. Therefore, the enumeration and prioritization of emotionalism as an integral factor or stage of the agenda-setting theory has significantly supported in improving the scope of influencing the emotions of the audience or viewer through the use of efficient content, tone and information quality.

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Therefore, from the above research it might be concluded that emotionalism is an integral part of media communication while supporting the channels to improve their capability of targeting their audience with effective contents, tone and style. Efficient content or information being transferred to the audience allows a media channel to demonstrate efficiency in influencing the engagement or participation of the people in the different operations. According to the agenda-setting theory media channels manipulate information and improvise on their style of communication with the purpose of influencing and persuading responses from the audience or the viewers. The responses and reactions to the different areas of information that are shared by the media channels are reliant on the emotional constructs that acts as triggers.

From the discussion it was identified that the stage one of the agenda-setting theory was prioritized earlier which included the media operations and activities towards improving coverage. However, the inclusion of emotionalism as an integral part of the agenda-setting theory has empowered the capability of the media channels in developing coherent understanding on the feelings, emotions and traits of their audience while improving their skills on developing their communicability. Efficient communicability is extensively reliant on the clear understanding of the emotions or behavior of the audience which assists in identifying the tone, nature or the frame of the information. Information is manipulated by media with the purpose of attracting the interests and priorities of the audience while encouraging the same to proactively participate in the different operations. Therefore, the discussion identified the manner in which the emergence of emotionalism has altered the understanding of the agenda-setting theory and the manner in which it has improved the scope of mass media communication in the current era.


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