In examining how people interact with media characters, an individual may ask why the audience develops a tendency to like and intimately follow the presenter’s speech, program or film regardless of the fact that the audience knows the persona. In this critique, the paper endeavors to evaluate the Parasocial interaction theory based on the four criteria of a good theory.
These criteria include ease of application, information value, predictability, and explanatory power. An examination of the theory of Parasocial interaction shows understandability of the theory based on its ability to be related to the daily and real-life experiences. The theory has gathered enormous application in various social and scientific fields to explain how people interact with media personalities.
The theory of Parasocial interaction seeks to vividly explain this phenomenon based on numerous social concepts. However, besides building n explanation about how and why people react to media characters in the manner observed, the theory of PSI founds a prediction model that explains why individuals’ uncertainty or presence of it may affect their ability to create strong social relationships in situations where communication and social distance are eminent.
Parasocial interaction theory (PSI) as suggested by Cohen refers to the social relationships that exist between a social media character and the audience in which the latter develops a social feeling and bond toward the former. Here, the audience behaves as if they are closely related to the persona in the media.
When approaching the social scientific theories, it is necessary for an individual to critically examine the nature, applicability and abstractness of a given theory in order to determine its soundness.
in evaluating the Parasocial interaction theory has largely contributed to the social theory since its emergence (Horton & Wohl, 2006) noted that psychologists have demonstrated little interest in the concept of PSI, yet the theory has raised numerous questions in relation to social psychology and the nature of interactions that have proven problematic to the existing theories.
Additionally, there has been an increased awareness of the significance of media in carrying out psychological research (Giles, 2002). In his survey on PSI, Horton & Wohl (2006) suggested that despite its direct application of Parasocial interaction theory within the realms of psychology, it possesses substantial issues that attract a considerable amount of interest of psychologists.
Applicability of the theory and practice of any body of knowledge is critical in establishing relevance. A theory must draw its application in order to yield significant contribution to the field in which it is developed or seeks to enrich. The examination shows that the theory has invoked a series of application while linking its knowledge and concepts to other theories.
In rendering this notion of applicability of PSI, Persie & Rubin (1989) applied the theory of uncertainty to explain the development of parasocial interaction theory and established that greater parasocial complexity was attributed to high confidence levels as demonstrated by viewers toward media personalities.
Although the theory of PSI emphasizes the unidirectional relationship between the audience and the media characters, a comprehensive PSI occurs even in face-to-face social circumstances, especially in a situation where there exist a large gap in status between the performer and his or her viewers.
It is notable that the theory establishes its validity by drawing its experience from various perspectives. For instance, (Rubin & Perse, 1989) assert that an individual’s perception of uncertainty reduction causes him or her to like the persona. According to this analogy, the ability of both parties in a parasocial relationship to know each other results in an increased sense of intimacy of the viewer.
The other criterion that establishes the essence of a theory is explanatory power. The term explanation is used synonymously to refer to theory. As suggested by its wide-range use, the theory of PSI reveals its power in respect of its ability to explain the application of its hypotheses in explaining the phenomenon of personae-audience relationship in a technology mediated interactions.
The theory has successfully used its vivid concept and study variables in representing its dimensions in regard to one-sided interactions. The concept of media in influencing the social interactions has gained enormous recognition in the public domain and as such, the theory’s concept may easily be understood based on the impact created by media on their lives (Horton & Wohl, 2006).
On the other hand, a theory must be able to answer the question of whether its variables correlate either causally of functionally. In so doing, the theory should tell its reader that in the vent that A happens, a subsequent event B would follow. According to the theory of PSI, when the audience develops a high level of confidence in the presenter, the tendencies are that he or she forms a strong social feeling and intimacy toward the presenter.
This observation indicates that the theory is predictable given specific conditions. The theory suggests that when individuals experience inadequate social interactions or experience social gaps in their lives, they are highly likely to develop even much bond with the presenter or media character. Therefore, the correlation between a series of social factors and the degree of Parasocial interactions demonstrates its predictability based on previous elements.
Giles, D. (2002). Parasocial interaction: A review of the literature and a model for future research. Media Psychology. 4, 279-302
Horton, D., & Wohl, R. (2006). ‘Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction: Observations on Intimacy at a Distance’, 3(1). Retrieved from http://www.participations.org/volume%203/issue%201/3_01_hortonwohl.htm
Perse, E., & Rubin, R. (1989). Attribution in social and Para-social relationships. Communication Research, 16, 59–77.