alexa Mass communication and para-social interaction: Observations on intimacy at a distance
Social & Political Sciences

Social & Political Sciences

Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism

Author(s): Horton D, Wohl RR

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ONE OF THE STRIKING CHARACTERISTICS of the new mass media—radio, television, and the movies—is that they give the illusion of face-to-face relation-ship with the performer. The conditions of response to the performer are analogous to those in a primary group. The most remote and illustrious men are met as if they were in the circle of one's peers; the same is true of a character in a story who comes to life in these media in an especially vivid and arresting way. We propose to call this seeming face-to-face relationship between spectator and performer a pare-social relationship. In television, especially, the image which is presented makes available nu-ances of appearance and gesture to which ordinary social perception is attentive and to which interaction is cued. Some-times the 'actor'—whether he is playing himself or performing in a fictional role—is seen engaged with others; but often he faces the spectator, uses the mode of direct address, talks as If he were con-versing personally and privately. The audience, for its part, responds with something more than mere running ob-servation; it is, as it were, subtly insinu-ated into the program's action and in-ternal social relationships and, by dint of this kind of staging, is ambiguously trans-formed into a group which observes and participates in the show by turns. The more the performer seems to adjust his performance to the supposed response of the audience, the more the audience tends to make the response anticipated. This simulacrum of conversational give and take may be called pare-social inter-action.

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This article was published in Psychiatry and referenced in Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism

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