Two Step Flow Model

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Two Step Flow Model

What is the Two Step Flow Model? Meaning.

Two Step Flow Model is a mass communication theory that asserts that information from the media moves indirectly in two distinct stages.


The Two Step Flow Model of Mass Communication theory claims that information from the media moves in two separate stages. In the first phase individuals (opinion leaders) who pay close attention to the mass media and its messages receive the information. Then the opinion leaders pass on their own interpretations of the actual media content. The term ‘personal influence’ was used to indicate the process intervening between the media’s direct message and the ultimate reaction of the audience to the message.

Origin of Two Step Flow Model. History

The foundation of the theory comes from work of Bernard Berelson, Hazel Gaudet and Paul Lazarsfeld in The People's Choice, a 1944 study on the process of decision-making during a Presidential election campaign. Lazarsfeld c.s. were looking for empirical support for the direct influence of media messages on voting intentions. However they discovered that informal, personal contacts were mentioned far more frequently than exposure to radio or newspaper as sources of influence on voting behavior.

Katz and Lazarsfeld

Based on this data, the Two Step Flow Model of Mass Communication was developed by Elihu Katz and P. Lazarsfeld successively (Personal Influence, 1955). The two authors assumed people are not alone in their community, rather they are integrated in one or more groups, in which they usually have interpersonal relationships with other members. Moreover, they found out that a major role within each group or community was played by Opinion Leaders. These “special” people act as catalyst, meaning that messages delivered by media don’t hit receivers directly, like it was initially supposed by Hypodermic Needle Theory, but are mitigated by opinion leaders. They take the role of receiving and transferring media messages and, in this process, they exert a certain power of influence over the others. The model of communication is then: Stimulus – Intervening Variables – Response. Later on, Katz and Lazarsfeld demonstrated that key elements of this new communication process were not opinion leaders themselves, but the group in general, especially in small groups. What happened in small communities was a sort of intense debate about how to react to socio-political issues that used to end with a decision shared by most of members.

The Two Step Flow Model of Communication was the foundation for the later Multi Step Flow Theory by Rogers and Bass and also influenced later mass communication theories like: Uses and Gratification Theory, Play Theory, Spiral of Silence, Agenda Setting, Cultivation Theory, and Dependence Theory.

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