The Scientific Method and research methods used to measure human behavior and mass media have a lot more in common than you think.
The Scientific Method has been used to prove many hypotheses and developed facts in the scientific world and has given us an understanding of many aspects of science. Much like the Scientific Method, there are several theories in mass communication that are modeled after the Scientific Method to give us an understanding of how human behavior is affected by mass media. Determining exactly what in mass media causes certain human behaviors is more complicated than determining a scientific hypothesis that is proven based on factual information. Human behavior and mass media have many, complicated variables that might not always be present and may show different outcomes. Two specific research methods in mass communication that help us have a better understanding of the relationship between human behavior and mass media are qualitative and quantitative research methods.
The difference between qualitative and quantitative research is that qualitative research is based on evidence from experiences, ideas, and observations, while quantitative research is based on facts, a hypothesis, and numbers.
Mass media has gone through many changes over time; social media reigns king while traditional media like newspapers and magazines have fallen behind. With this, we have begun to see how mass media has altered human behavior. But like all things, this theory takes time and plenty of research. Like I said before, it’s difficult to measure human behavior and mass media as there are many variables involved that are not always consistent. For example, the amount of time exposed to mass media, accessibility, opinions, or accounts and platforms followed. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods are essential to understanding any phenomenon.
The qualitative research method has been used in social media research to understand how and why people engage with social media as well as their experiences with social media. Studying social media is such a new field of study and there are many experiences that are new in regards to human experience. For example, data from focus groups has given insights as to how platforms like Facebook affect real, romantic relationships. Facebook is also a popular platform for group pages where communities and like-minded people can come together and bond over their experiences. Another Facebook study using qualitative research was the evaluation of posts in a Facebook group dedicated to diabetes and how people and patients offered information and supported one another.
Quantitative research in social media tends to be a bit more difficult as it is more difficult to measure its success in social media. But, an example of how quantitative research has helped gain an understanding of social media is using this method to quantify the impact of social media reviews on brand perception. This research method contributes to turning reviews into a ‘real-life mechanism’ to improve the brand in the eyes of its consumers.
Overall, I think both research methods are essential to gaining a better understanding of mass media (social media in particular) and how it affects human behavior. I would prefer qualitative research over quantitative because studying social media and it effects on behavior should come straight from the source itself — social media users. Qualitative research gives an understanding of the habits of social media users.