Media equation theory, developed in the 1990s by Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass, argues that we respond to communication media, media technologies, and mediated images as we do to actual people and places. At its simplest, the theory (sometimes referred to as the media equation hypothesis or simply the media equation) can be summarized as media = real life. The claim that we treat—and react to—the media in our lives not as mere tools or appliances, but as real social actors, has important implications for interpersonal and mass communication theory as well as for the disciplines of sociology, social psychology, cognitive science, and evolutionary biology. The findings of media equation research also have direct applications for (and in fact, have been used in) fields as diverse as computer software and hardware design, political campaigning, advertising, and filmmaking.

As Reeves and Nass demonstrate in their 1996 book, The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places, evidence of the equation extends well beyond pleading with a recalcitrant computer, screaming with genuine fright while watching a horror movie, or yelling back at an irritating pundit on the TV screen, although such actions do provide handy illustrations of the equation in everyday life. Reeves and Nass’s hypothesis is supported by the results of dozens of empirical studies conducted throughout the 1980s and 1990s to explore people’s reactions to and interactions with a wide range of communication media. The most important findings come from their investigations into the realms of manners, personality, emotion, and social roles.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.635

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Gayes Mahestu
Edwina Ayu Kustiawan