MASS COMMUNICATION & SOCIETY, 2000, 3(1), 3–37
Uses and Gratifications Theory in the 21st Century
Thomas E. Ruggiero
University of Texas at El Paso
Some mass communications scholars have contended that uses and gratifications is not a rigorous social science theory. In this article, I argue just the opposite, and any attempt to speculate on the future direction of mass communication theory must seriously include the uses and gratifications approach. In this article, I assert that the emergence of computer-mediated communication has revived the significance of uses and gratifications. In fact, uses and gratifications has always provided a cutting-edge theoretical approach in the initial stages of…show more content… Wimmer and Dominick (1994) proposed that U&G began in the 1940s when researchers became interested in why audiences engaged in various forms of media behavior, such as listening to the radio or reading the newspaper. Still others credit the U&G perspective with Schramm’s (1949) immediate reward and delayed reward model of media gratifications (Dozier & Rice, 1984).
Regardless, early U&G studies were primarily descriptive, seeking to classify the responses of audience members into meaningful categories (Berelson,
Lazarsfeld, & McPhee, 1954; Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955; Lazarsfeld, Berelson, &
Gaudet, 1948; Merton, 1949).
Most scholars agree that early research had little theoretical coherence and was primarily behaviorist and individualist in its methodological tendencies (McQuail,
1994). The researchers shared a qualitative approach by attempting to group gratifi-
USES AND GRATIFICATIONS THEORY
cation statements into labeled categories, largely ignoring their frequency distribution in the population. The earliest researchers for the most part did not attempt to explore the links between the gratifications detected and the psychological or sociological origins of the needs satisfied. They often failed to search