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Knowledge Gap Hypothesis

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Jennifer Ray

on 15 October 2013

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Transcript of Knowledge Gap Hypothesis

Knowledge Gap Hypothesis (KGH)
by Tichenor, Donohue, and Olien
Mass Media Flow and the Differential Growth in Knowledge
The Original Hypothesis
“As the infusion of mass media information into a social system increases, segments of the population with higher socioeconomic status tend to acquire this information at a faster rate than the lower status segments, so that the gap in knowledge between these segments tends to increase rather than decrease” (Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1970).
The authors based their original hypothesis off 20 years of findings.
1. Does not mean the poor become more poor or that the people of the lower status are completely uniformed.

2. It just means the knowledge growth rate is relatively greater for the higher status population.
Level of education was strongly correlated with:
public affairs
political campaigns
science (including ag)
More interest, more knowledge, and more exposure strongly correlated with higher socioeconomic status (SES).
KGH explained findings.
Mass media did not seem to reach the general public.
(The original KGH was only applied to print media.)
(Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1970)
(Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1970)
KGH was based on 5 factors:
(Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1970)
• communication skills
• stored information
• relevant social contact
• selective exposure, acceptance, and retention
• the nature of the mass media system

Do these factors change? Is this list exhaustive?
Are factors specific only to western culture?
Researchers presented conflicting factors within the first five years (Ettema & Kline, 1977).
What is it?
1986, 87
1977, 83
1973, 75
Print Media Research
Newspaper circulation is designed to maximize profits, not the distribution of information (Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1986).
1999 Study of Motivation
Three models:

1. Causal association model (motivational variables are caused by SES).

2. Rival Explanation model (education and motivational factors compete for effect on knowledge acquisition)

3. Motivation-contingency model(high motivational variables can lessen education-based knowledge gaps).

(Kwak, 1999)
Standford Study of Internet Use
"Once people are connected to the Net they hardly differ in how much they use it and what they use it for - except for a drop-off after age 65, and a faint hint of a gender gap." (p 7)
Swiss Study of Internet Use
Educational gap in internet access widened between 1997 and 2000.

People of higher education use the Internet as a tool and people of lower education use it for entertainment.
Smaller communities may be less informed about national news, but still informed about local news (Donohue, Tichenor, & Olien, 1973).
Conflicting Findings and New Considerations
1. Whole community affected
2. Climate of social conflict
3. Small, homogeneous community

4. Gaps may decline as attention decreases
(Donohue, Tichenor, & Olien, 1975)

Authors Make Modifications
Not all information reported
Ceiling effect
Interesting and usefulness effect
Motivation (rather than education) has a direct effect on knowledge acquisition.(Ettema & Kline, 1977)
Motivation has a effect on knowledge gaps. The information campaign launched in this study eliminated the knowledge gap of cardiovascular health knowledge. This shows that increasing information in the mass media system can also close knowledge gaps.
(Ettema, Brown, & Luepker, 1983)
2011, 12
2003, 04
Variety of Applications and Tests
Presidential campaigns in Brazil, Mexico, and Russia all showed that the knowledge gap between higher and lower levels of SES stayed the same or widened (McCann & Lawson, 2006).
More Studies, Some More Support, A New Variable
Young adults with higher levels of education use the Internet for more activities related to political awareness (Hargittai & Hinnant, 2008).
Health & Political Findings
Education level has a positive relationship with Internet engagement. Internet engagement has a positive relationship with health knowledge (Lee, 2009).
Internet, Crisis Communication, International Affairs, H1N1
SES knowledge gaps are more closely tied to Internet use than access (Wei & Hindman, 2011).
Digital Divide & Community Boundness
The digital divide means that some people are accessing the internet and others are not. It is critical to examine the consequences and the KGH is one theory that can be applied (Mason & Hacker, 2003).

New Variables:
Most Recent Research
Timeline of KGH Research 1970- 2013
Still not much is known about the radio and TV (Donohue, Olien, & Tichenor, 1987).
(Nie & Erbring, 2000)
(Bonfadelli, 2002)
Community boundness is a measure of how a particular issue affects members of a community. People of lower SES showed a higher knowledge of a medical assistance program (Rucinski, 2004).
The study shows that intention of education and knowledge types are key variables in applying KGH to formal education (Le Heron & Sligo, 2005).
New Discipline: Formal Education
Need for Cognition
Increased Media Choices
Knowledge gaps of cancer causes are a potential cause of cancer disparities (Viswanath et. al, 2006).
Print vs. TV News: Wider gaps are associated with print.
A higher level of civic engagement through ties to community groups was associated with better recall of health messages (Viswanath, Steele , & Finnegan, 2006).
The knowledge gap between SESs was wider among heavy Internet and newspaper users in South Korea(Kim, 2008).
Results show information aptitude processing may also be a key variable (Grabe, Yegiyan, & Kamhawi, 2008).
The Internet increased cancer knowledge gaps (Shim, 2008).
The way political issues are covered in the news can alter how much media coverage influences SES knowledge gaps (Jerit, 2009).
Health knowledge is affected by regional coverage. Attention to health news can lessen the knowledge gap affects associated with how much knowledge is available (Slater, Hayes, Reineke,Long, & Bettinghaus, 2009).
More Findings
There is a "belief gap" between liberals and conservatives and it can be predicted to grow. (Hindman, 2009).
SES, gender, and print-media affect the influence of political blogs (Wei, 2009).
Internet equipment and availability have an impact, but they do not account for all of the differences in use between SESs (Zillien & Hargittai, 2009).
Results show more international news coverage has potential to narrow the knowledge gap in Switzerland (Iyengar, Hahn, Bonfadelli, & Marr, 2009).
KGH & Ag Com
The Knowledge Gap Theory
Results show a narrowing knowledge gap and SES was not correlated with storm preparation and knowledge needs (Spence, Lachlan, & Burke, 2011).
Countries with more political conflict, changes in economic stability, and a lack of free press had a stronger relationship between education level and media exposure (Pardos-Prado & Cano, 2012).
Newspaper attention to the H1N1 flu pandemic did not widen SES knowledge gaps. TV exposure actually narrowed gaps (Ho, 2012).
"Belief gap hypothesis" tested: Political affiliation had a greater relationship to healthcare reform knowledge than education level (Hindman, 2012).
Increased science Internet and television use among low education groups can help narrow gaps (Cacciatore, Scheufele, & Corley, 2013).
Device type can influence "capital enhancing" (Pearce & Rice, 2013).
KGH has been applied to:
Crisis Communication
Science (including ag!)
Beers (1963) noted that barely literate farmers in developing nations are often relatively farther behind in farming knowledge than were their illiterate grandparents.
1. New Knowledge to Farmers
Recent U.S. studies have not applied the KGH in this way.
2. Farm Knowledge to the General Public
How does agriculture appear in the mass media? How often? What medium?
Do education levels and SES play a role in agriculture knowledge from the mass media?
Agricultural Literacy:
education about agriculture
KGH can be applied more to the study of agricultural communication.
Jennifer Ray, Ag Com 844
(Nie & Erbring, 2000)
Bekalu, M. A., & Eggermont, S. (2013). Media use and HIV/AIDS knowledge: a knowledge gap perspective. Health promotion international.

Bonfadelli, H. (2002). The Internet and Knowledge Gaps A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation. European Journal of communication, 17(1), 65-84.

Cacciatore, M. A., Scheufele, D. A., & Corley, E. A. (2012). Another (methodological) look at knowledge gaps and the Internet’s potential for closing them. Public Understanding of Science.

Cho, J. & McLeod, D. M. (2007). Structural Antecedents to Knowledge and Participation: Extending the Knowledge Gap Concept to Participation. Journal Of Communication, 57(2), 205-228.

Donohue, G. A., Olien, C. N., & Tichenor, P. J. (1987). Media access and knowledge gaps.Critical studies in mass communication, 4(1), 87-92

Donohue, G. A., Tichenor, P. J., & Olien, C. N. (1973). Mass media functions, knowledge and social control. Journalism Quarterly, 50(3), 652-659.

Donohue, G. A., Tichenor, P. J., & Olien, C. N. (1975). Mass Media and the Knowledge Gap A Hypothesis Reconsidered. Communication Research, 2(1), 3-23.

Donohue, G. A., Tichenor, P. J., & Olien, C. N. (1986). Metro daily pullback and knowledge gaps within and between communities. Communication Research, 13(3), 453-471.

Ettema, J. S., & Kline, F. G. (1977). Deficits, Differences, and Ceilings Contingent Conditions for Understanding the Knowledge Gap. Communication research, 4(2), 179-202.

Ettema, J. S., Brown, J. W., & Luepker, R. V. (1983). Knowledge gap effects in a health information campaign. Public Opinion Quarterly, 47(4), 516-527.

Fraile, M. (2011). Widening or reducing the knowledge gap? testing the media effects on political knowledge in spain (2004-2006). The International Journal of Press/Politics, 16(2), 163-184.

Gaziano, C. (2010). NOTES ON "REVISITING THE KNOWLEDGE GAP HYPOTHESIS: A META-ANALYSIS OF THIRTY-FIVE YEARS OF RESEARCH.".Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 87(3/4), 615-632.

Grabe, M. E., Yegiyan, N., & Kamhawi, R. (2008). Experimental evidence of the knowledge gap: Message arousal, motivation, and time delay. Human Communication Research, 34(4), 550-571.

Hargittai, E., & Hinnant, A. (2008). Digital inequality differences in young adults' use of the internet. Communication Research, 35(5), 602-621.

Hindman, D. B. (2009). Mass media flow and differential distribution of politically disputed beliefs: the belief gap hypothesis. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 86(4), 790-808.

Hindman, D. B. (2012). Knowledge Gaps, Belief Gaps, and Public Opinion about Health Care Reform. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly,89(4), 585-605.

Ho, S. S. (2012). The knowledge gap hypothesis in Singapore: The roles of socioeconomic status, mass media, and interpersonal discussion on public knowledge of the H1N1 flu pandemic. Mass Communication and Society, 15(5), 695-717.

Iyengar, S., Hahn, K. S., Bonfadelli, H., & Marr, M. (2009). “Dark areas of ignorance” revisited comparing international affairs knowledge in Switzerland and the United States. Communication Research, 36(3), 341-358.

Jerit, J. (2009). Understanding the knowledge gap: The role of experts and journalists. Journal of Politics, 71(2), 442-456.

Jerit, J., Barabas, J., & Bolsen, T. (2006). Citizens, knowledge, and the information environment. American Journal of Political Science, 50(2), 266-282.

Kim, S. (2008). Testing the Knowledge Gap Hypothesis in South Korea. International journal of public opinion research, 20(2), 193-210.

Kwak, N. (1999). Revisiting the Knowledge Gap Hypothesis Education, Motivation, and Media Use. Communication Research, 26(4), 385-413.

Le Heron, J., & Sligo, F. (2005). Acquisition of simple and complex knowledge; a knowledge gap perspective. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 8(2), 190-202.

Lee, C. J. (2009). The role of Internet engagement in the health-knowledge gap.Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 53(3), 365-382.

Mason, S. M., & Hacker, K. L. (2003). Applying communication theory to digital divide research. It & Society, 1(5), 40-55.

McCann, J. A., & Lawson, C. (2006). Presidential campaigns and the knowledge gap in three transitional democracies. Political Research Quarterly, 59(1), 13-22.

Nie, Norman H., and Lutz Erbring. "Internet and society." Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society (2000).

Pardos-Prado, S., & Cano, F. (2012). Education and Media Exposure Across Systemic Levels of Conflict. International Journal of Public Opinion Research,24(2), 121-140.

Pearce, K. E., & Rice, R. E. (2013). Digital divides from access to activities: Comparing mobile and personal computer Internet users. Journal of Communication.

Prior, M. (2005). News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Choice Widens Gaps in Political Knowledge and Turnout. American Journal of Political Science, 49(3), 577-592.

Rucinski, D. (2004). Community boundedness, personal relevance, and the knowledge gap. Communication Research, 31(4), 472-495.

Shim, M. (2008). Connecting Internet use with gaps in cancer knowledge.Health communication, 23(5), 448-461.

Slater, M. D., Hayes, A. F., Reineke, J. B., Long, M., & Bettinghaus, E. P. (2009). Newspaper Coverage of Cancer Prevention: Multilevel Evidence for Knowledge‐Gap Effects. Journal of Communication, 59(3), 514-533.

Spence, P. R., Lachlan, K. A., & Burke, J. A. (2011). Differences in Crisis Knowledge Across Age, Race, and Socioeconomic Status During Hurricane Ike: A Field Test and Extension of the Knowledge Gap Hypothesis. Communication Theory (10503293), 21(3), 261-278.

Tichenor, P. J., Donohue, G. A., & Olien, C. N. (1970). Mass media flow and differential growth in knowledge. Public opinion quarterly, 34(2), 159-170.

Viswanath, K. , Breen N. , Meissner H., Moser, R.P. , Hesse, B. , Randolph Steele, W., & Rakowski W. (2006). Cancer Knowledge and Disparities in the Information Age, Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives. 11(1), 1-17, DOI:10.1080/10810730600637426
Viswanath, K., Randolph Steele, W., & Finnegan Jr, J. R. (2006). Social capital and health: civic engagement, community size, and recall of health messages.American Journal of Public Health, 96(8), 1456-1461.

Wecker, C., Kohnle, C., & Fischer, F. (2007). Computer literacy and inquiry learning: When geeks learn less. Journal of computer assisted learning, 23(2), 133-144.

Wei, L. (2009). Filter blogs vs. personal journals: Understanding the knowledge production gap on the Internet. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication,14(3), 532-558.

Wei, L., & Hindman, D. B. (2011). Does the digital divide matter more? Comparing the effects of new media and old media use on the education-based knowledge gap. Mass Communication and Society, 14(2), 216-235.

Yoori, H., & Se-Hoon, J. (2009). REVISING THE KNOWLEDGE GAP HYPOTHESIS: A META-ANALYSIS OF THIRTY-FIVE YEARS OF RESEARCH.Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 86(3), 513-532.


Zillien, N., & Hargittai, E. (2009). Digital Distinction: Status‐Specific Types of Internet Usage*. Social Science Quarterly, 90(2), 274-291.
Does the source impact knowledge gaps? What about the medium?
(Prior, 2005)
(Yung & Eveland, 2005)
(Jerit, Barabas, & Bolsen, 2006)
Supportive Findings, Conflicting Findings, Refinement, New Disciplines
"agricultural diffusion efforts"
(Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1986).
Urban students update their knowledge, get wider knowledge, and have greater depth of knowledge (International Academic Workshop on Social Science).
Mass media coverage related to HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia widened the knowledge gap between urban and rural people (Bekalu & Eggermont, 2013).
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