Paul Lazarsfeld was an Austrian-born sociologist and political scientist. He is credited with the invention of the "Two-Step Flow of Communication." He, along with other prominent sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists, helped create the modern Mass Communication field of study.

Office of Radio Research Edit

Lazarsfeld came to the United States to direct the Office of Radio Research with a Rockefeller Grant at Princeton University. Lazarsfeld stayed on when the office moved to Columbia University. In 1940 it was renamed the Bureau of Applied Social Research.

Roosevelt vs. Willkie Edit

In his book, with Bernard Berelson  and Hazel Gaudet, "The People's Choice," Lazarsfeld discusses that during the 1940 Presidential Election a majority of people received their information on candidates not directly from mediums such as newspapers, but from people who had already read those newspapers. The findings were that people were not influenced by media directly, but that influence came as hearsay from another source.

Social Environment Edit

Lazarsfeld went further with his research with Elihu Katz in "Personal Influence."  Rather than influence here coming from someone simply more knowledgeable than the individual, this time it is a flow from social standing to individual. Lazarsfeld's position states that friends and family can inform a person's reaction to the mass media.

Two-Step Flow of Communication

These works by Lazarsfeld led to a creation of a new theory in communication. The concept of the "Two-Step Flow of Communication," creates a bridge between the Mass Media and the mass population.  This bridge is a group of individuals called "Opinion Leaders," who funnel the collected ideas of mass media and interpret them for those less media savvy.


Reaction Edit

Lazarsfeld's findings put the mass communication world on its head.  Mass media could no longer be seen as going directly to mass population. Rather, information was taken from mass media to individuals "in the know," then on to the majority who listened to their opinions.  That majority was then effected by social interactions in their lives.

Outside Sources Edit Video with further explanation of the Two-Step Flow model, including examples of opinion leaders.

Resources Edit

Salwen, Michael B. & Stacks, Don W. An Integrated Approach to Communication Theory and Research (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Rogers, Everett M., A History of Communication Study: A Biographical Approach. New York, NY: The Free Press.