mass communication

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mass communication

[′mas kə‚myü·nə′kā·shən]
Communication which is directed to or reaches an appreciable fraction of the population.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

mass communication

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mass Communication


the systematic dissemination of information through the press, radio, television, motion pictures, sound recordings, and videotapes to large, dispersed audiences, in order to affirm the intellectual and moral values of a society and exert ideological, political, economic, or organizational influence on people’s evaluations, opinions, and behavior.

The material precondition for the rise of mass communication in the first half of the 20th century was the invention of technical devices for the rapid transmission and mass circulation of vast quantities of verbal information, images, and music. All of these devices, which are run by highly specialized professional workers, are usually referred to as the “mass information and propaganda media,” or the “mass media.”

Mass communication involves a source of information and a recipient, connected by a physical communication channel such as the press (newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, mass market books, leaflets, and posters) and radio and television (broadcasting stations and those who own radios and televisions). The other mass media are the movies (films and a network of projection facilities), sound recordings (the production and dissemination of phonograph records, tapes, or cassettes), and videotapes.

The effectiveness of mass communication depends not only on the purposes and goals of influencing audiences (readers, listeners, and viewers) but also on the degree to which the content and form of information conform with people’s informational needs at a given time.

As a powerful tool of the ideological and political struggle, of social administration, of the regulation of relations between social groups, and of the dissemination of culture, mass communication has become an important element in social relations. In turn, social relations have considerable influence on the content and form of information, on the transmission of directives by the authorities, on various types of education, on the kinds of advertising and entertainment available through the mass media, and on the specific nature of ideological, political, and other types of propaganda.

In capitalist society the aims of mass communication, which is a tool of the ruling class, are determined by the apologists for the system of social injustice and by the tasks of distorting the individual’s mind by means of manipulative devices and “mass culture.” Mass communication in socialist society is designed to strengthen the ideological and moral and political unity of society, to combat bourgeois ideology and propaganda, and to contribute to the upbringing of a harmoniously developed personality.

The sociology and psychology of mass communication, which emerged as scholarly fields in the 1920’s, study the structure, patterns, and effectiveness of mass communication systems and the functioning of some of their components. Because of qualitative differences in their goals and tasks, Marxist and bourgeois sociology have different theories and methodologies of mass communication research.


Frid, N., and K. Esterling. “Razmyshleniia o propaganda.” Problemy mira i sotsializma, 1963, no. 4.
Vooglaid, Ü. “Kak skladyvaetsia ideologicheskoe vozdeistvie.” Kommunist Estonii, 1967, no. 8.
Sotsiologiia i ideologicheskaia deiatel’nost’: Sbornik. Moscow, 1967.
Alekseev, A. N. “O massovoi kommunikatsii i ee sotsial’nykh sredstvakh.” In the collection Zhurnalist, pressa, chitatel’. Leningrad, 1969.
Problemy sotsial’noi psikhologii i propaganda: Sbornik. Moscow, 1971.
Sherkovin, Iu. A. Psikhologicheskie problemy massovykh informatsionnykh protsessov. Moscow, 1973.
Riley, Jr., J., and M. Riley. “Massovaia kommunikatsiia i sotsial’naia sistema.” In the collection Sotsiologiia segodnia: Problemy i perspektivy. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from English.)
Waples, D., B. Berelson, and F. Bradshaw. What Reading Does to People. Chicago, 1940.
Merton, R. K. Mass Persuasion. New York-London, 1946.
The Process and Effects of Mass Communication. Edited by L. A. Dexter and D. M. White. London, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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