Date of Award

Summer 1972

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Arnold, James W.

Second Advisor

Bovee, Warren

Third Advisor

Belden, Louis

Abstract

The systematic study of written communication, for example content analysis, has long been one of the accepted scientific methods in communication research. Visual communication, however, has not received similar treatment. Researchers are stepping into comparatively virgin soil when they attempt similar analysis of pictures. Yet the importance of visual communication cannot be stressed enough. Visuals are being reproduced in greater numbers and at higher speeds than ever before in this the age of the mass media. The human face, especially, looms large on the billboard and giant screen, speaks intimately from the tube (the next best thing to face to face communication) and stares at us from the daily newspapers and weekly news magazines. What kind of information do these pictures convey? What messages do they contain? Allowing for some subjective responses, what impressions are essentially conveyed to the public mind? Furthermore, do these barrages of pictures have any effect on public opinion? No study has attempted to find out. There is a gap in our knowledge as to the effect these pictures have on readers and viewers. We are thus faced with the cosmic problem of identifying message content of non-verbal communication and its effects, if any, on public opinion. Any scientific study of this communication process will have to develop objective methods of measuring these message contents in place of our present impressionistic analysis. The problem raised is far too wide and complex for any single study to attempt. Before any effects of messages can be measured, the actual contents of the message has to be described and recorded. We will thus restrict ourselves to identifying and examining message content of non-verbal communication and not its effects on the public mind. Of the many areas of non-verbal communication, we will make a small and modest beginning, restricting ourselves to the study of communication by facial expression in photographs in print media, as some groundwork has already been laid in: this field. We will focus on image content. What messages do these mass media photographs contain? What images of public personalities are beamed out at us through this one aspect of non-verbal communication? So far no attempt has been made to objectively describe messages projected by still pictures of the human face. We will cope with the problem of scientifically describing and analyzing images of important political personalities in the print media.

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