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An empirical study in the U & G tradition might typically involve audience members completing a questionnaire about why they watch a TV programme. Blumler & Katz (1974) argued that audience needs have social and psychological origins which generate certain expectations about the mass media, leading to differential patterns of media exposure which result in both the gratification of needs and in other (often unintended) consequences. James Lull (1990: 35-46) offers a typology of the social uses of television based on ethnographic research. A major focus for research into why and how people watch TV has been the genre of soap opera.
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Viewers may not know why they chose to watch what they did, or may not be able to explain fully. It presents the use of media in terms of the gratification of social or psychological needs of the individual (Blumler & Katz 1974).

However, instrumental (goal-directed) accounts assume a rational choice of appropriate media for predetermined purposes.
As a theoretical stance it foregrounds individual psychological and personality factors and backgrounds sociological interpretations. There is evidence that media use is often habitual, ritualistic and unselective (Barwise & Ehrenberg 1988). U & G theorists tend to exaggerate active and conscious choice, whereas media can be forced on some people rather than freely chosen.
This perspective tends to be associated with the use of interviews rather than questionnaires.
But more positively, TV viewing can sometimes be seen as aesthetic experience in which intrinsic motivation is involved. In contrast, people who reported having many acquaintances in their neighbourhood tended to see the quizzes as a basis for social interaction.

Its functionalist emphasis is politically conservative: if we insist that people will always find some gratifications from any use of media, we may adopt a complacently uncritical stance towards what the mass media currently offer. Different needs are associated with individual personalities, stages of maturation, backgrounds and social roles. Judith van Evra argues that young children may be particularly likely to watch TV in search of information and hence more susceptible to influence (Evra 1990: 177, 179).

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mass communication theory examples

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