The beginnings of Commucication Studies

Lazarsfeld, Lewin, Hovland and Lasswell are important theorists in history of communication studies. When we look into their lives, we will notice a common point. These theorists research the situations of World War 2.

In this point, i should do the definition of social psychology; the individual is never thought seperate from society, group or social context. Social psychology research how the human behaviour is shaped by society and social context. Lazarsfeld, Lewin, Hovland and Lasswell was effected by historical context which they are witness of.

Why did these theorist study about communication? Millions of people make war to kill each other why they don’t know. This period ensue the enlightenment age that scientist, philosophers, artists defend the rationalist thoughts. They believe that everything goes to better changes for the better. On the other hand, the enlightenmet idea  was collapsed with World War 2.

How was the only one man (Adolf Hitler) caused to genocide of millions of Jewish people? What kind of propaganda method was used by him? How is the human behaviour affected by autority?  What does the people attribute the responsibilities of their crimes? How is the persuasion mechanism working? How can the mass communication use in war process?

The humanity has a heavy loss during the World War 2, however this period was efficient for social sciences.


About them:

  • Lazarsfeld: American sociologist. He was born in a Jewish family. He established mathematical sociology. He made an important contribution to research methods of social sciences.
  • Kurt Lewin: He came from a Jewish Family in Poland. They migrated to Germany , after then USA. He studied about organizational behavior, group dynamics and experimental social psychology.
  • Carl Hovland: American psychologist. He had been in army during World War 2. His research interest were attitude changes and persuasion. He also studied about how mass communication can use more efficiently in war process.
  • Harold Lasswell: American political scientist, also communication theorist. He comes from Chicago School. He was inspired by Dewey and Mead. He was a real social scientist. He studied about sociology, psychology, philosophy, political sciences and communication. He had some researchs about propaganda films.

The Chicago School

In the early first decade of 20th century in the United Stated, the concept of the communication went hand in hand with social studies which base was quantitative and analytical methods. The Chicago School played a very important role to develop social theories with empirical foundation. They focused on the city as social laboratory.

During those years, the significant trend was the migration of the people to the United Stated from different parts of the World as well as the movement of people from rural to big cities.
It was the time of great growth and significant changes with new opportunities however this mobilities caused social problems, like racism, homicide, suicide, poverty, which were created by the dynamics of the masses. Different people from different cultures and languages were forced to communicate with each other by the social environment.

The Chicago School developed a set of standard assumptions to solve the social problems. The main assumptions of the school were the quantitative methodologies, which were the only method to study on urban social phenomena. This approach was adopted from natural sciences, especially ecological science which is studied on the species behaviors in their environment. The city conditions and using qualitative methods and data brought great richness to the depth of the work. However, the subject was human and his changing nature and applicability of the quantitative data to real life became one of the School’s liability.