Individuals, groups, and agenda melding: A theory of social dissonance

Donald L. Shaw*, Maxwell McCombs, David H. Weaver, Bradley J. Hamm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Many studies have established that there is a degree of audience learning from the mass media, especially of new issues entering the news. But recent studies show an agenda-setting effect at deeper levels beyond broad news categories. Audiences also absorb the attributes of news - the frames and slants in the way news is presented - and this suggests that while the mass media do not tell us what to think, the mass media do have considerable power to tell us how to think about topics, with implications for social policy. Beyond these two levels of agenda setting, however, is something more significant - agenda melding. Agenda melding argues that individuals join groups, in a sense, by joining agendas. There is a powerful impulse to affiliate with others in groups as one leaves the original family setting, and one joins these groups via media of connections, mostly other people but also other media. This paper suggests a model of agenda melding that accounts for the role of media (mass or interpersonal) in helping individuals move toward or away from groups. This attempts to build toward general social theory by suggesting the role of media in how individuals function with others in a coherent social system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-24
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Public Opinion Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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