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>>>Classic one being the well documented spikes that occur in
>>>rightafter the suicide of some public person.>
<<These have been discussed previously on the list. Showing a
> correlation does not show a causal relationship,>>
<Right. For a causal relation to be suspected the "caused" event
> happen later in time, and the alternative of both being caused by some
> unknown event must be ruled out or at least considered unlikely. I
> consider it possible but unlikely that the spike in suicides following
> media reports has a common relation to some unknown event. Do you have a
> different opinion?>
You're missing the point. You cannot make assumptions about causal
relationships from correlative data. It's a simple as that. It doesn't
matter whether it seems to you more possible, the correlative evidence does
not support causal inferences. What you need to do is demonstrate that the
post-media suicides have been directly caused by that media coverage.
Otherwise, it is a specious association.
The reason it is largely rejected by much of the media studies
community is that it infers a level of media power of audiences that has
been demonstrated by much other research to not exist. It suggests that is
media coverage that made people go out and commit suicide (or in other
Phillips' studies commit transport accidents, which also apparently rise
after media reports), yet studies on a range of other behaviours- including
notably, voting behaviour- have shown this kind of influence does not occur.
Why some social phenomena appear to occur more frequently after media
coverage is not known, but what is pretty widely accepted, in my field at
any rate, is that it is not a product of direct media power.
Indeed, it is the rejection of this kind of powerful media model,
that has led to other models which are more sophisticated and more widely
accepted today, such as theories like agenda-setting and cultivation theory
(although these too have their problems, not least in their treatment of
audiences as passive).
<Can you suggest a better study?>
What to show the same thing or to refute it? Try having a look at
David Gauntlett's work on the problems with effects research. It is
available on his website (www.newmediastudies.com). Or you could try his
book 'Moving Experiences', or Martin Barker's 'Ill Effects', both of which
are very good.
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