Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-18, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 7 March, 2018 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2018.


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Uses and gratifications theory

core definition

Uses and gratifications theory of the media (mainly television) contends that viewers make use of the media for their own ends (or gratifications)

explanatory context

Uses and graticfications theory has been mainly developed in relation to television. Researchers argue that viewers use television for their own gratification and make more (or less) of the message than the broadcaster intended. Classic uses and gratifications theory sees four main types of gratification. First, television is a form of escapism. Second, it is a means of social integration (for example, having something to talk about at work). Third, it is an aid to self-awareness (comparing oneself to broadcast personalities). Fourth, it is a means of getting information. Most uses and gratifications theory suggests that broadcasters have little influence over their audience. The audience is in control, makes use of the media, and is able to resist media effects.


Main methods tend to be questionnaires to and observation of individual users of the media to explore gratification and motives, along with data on usage, demographics and ratings.


analytical review

University of Twente (2017):

Originated in the 1970s as a reaction to traditional mass communication research emphasizing the sender and the message. Stressing the active audience and user instead. Psychological orientation taking needs, motives and gratifications of media users as the main point of departure... Uses and gratifications theory attempts to explain the uses and functions of the media for individuals, groups, and society in general. There are three objectives in developing uses and gratifications theory: 1) to explain how individuals use mass communication to gratify their needs. “What do people do with the media”. 2) to discover underlying motives for individuals’ media use. 3) to identify the positive and the negative consequences of individual media use. At the core of uses and gratifications theory lies the assumption that audience members actively seek out the mass media to satisfy individual needs.... A medium will be used more when the existing motives to use the medium leads to more satisfaction.  

Example: Leung, L. and Wei, R. (2000) [in which] mobility, immediacy and instrumentality are found to be the strongest instrumental motives in predicting the use of cellular phones, followed by intrinsic factors such as affection/sociability. Based on survey research in Hong Kong 1999.

associated issues


related areas

See also

Mass media


Leung, L. and Wei, R., 2000, 'More than just talk on the move: uses and gratifications of the cellular phone', Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 77(2), 308–20.

University of Twente, 2017, Communication Studies Theories: Uses and gratifications approach, last updated 27 February 2017. Available at (accessed 7 March 2018).

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2018

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