The Hypodermic Needle Theory: Am I Really That Easily Influenced?

Colleen Harley
3 min readSep 1, 2022


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I feel like every where I turn, something political is being brought up. In 2022, politics seem to be on the forefront of every Americans mindset, whether you like to engage in talking about it or not- it somehow weasels its way into a conversation in some capacity.

After studying the Hypodermic Needle Theory as it relates to Mass Communication and how we view and digest media pieces- especially in politics, it really made me wonder, “Have I ever been a part of something where this tactic was used?”. I guess the real answer is we’ll never know. Do I think the media has purposely blown certain things out of proportion in order to get higher viewership and ratings? Yeah, of course I do- it’s called Clickbait. Online media is so dependent on certain KPI’s, sometimes it’s almost impossible to avoid.

But wait- what is the Hypodermic Needle Theory you ask? Great question. According to an article written by Brett Lamb,

“The Hypodermic Needle Theory is a linear communication theory which suggests that media messages are injected directly into the brains of a passive audience. It suggests that we’re all the same and we all respond to media messages in the same way.” (Lamb, 2013).

Originally, the Hypodermic Needle Theory was developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s as Political Propaganda to cause mass hysteria to it’s viewers during times of war, and induce panic and fear.

Now, begs the question- Am I personally easily influenced by media?

I think in the sense of the Hypodermic Needle Theory- the answer is no. Times have DRASTICALLY changed in the course of 100 years, and I believe we as a society have grown to understand our governments a lot more than those did back then. With different things such as social media, more people who are college educated, and just an overall different sense of life and understanding, I’m not as easily influenced by media now as I think I would’ve been back in the 1920’s/1930’s.

The quote from an article published on, written by Ayesh Perera, further proves that as a society- we’ve grown to not take what the media says and run with it.

While the messages on the media were not without effect, the results of the study indicated that the voters were not helpless and gullible consumers of campaign propaganda. Today’s realities, far different from those of the mid/early 20th century, seem to have further abated the hypodermic theory’s explanatory power. (Perera, 2022)

Finally, with SO many different media outlets available at the tips of our finger tips, if I ever needed more information, or wanted a better understanding of a topic being discussed by the news, I’d simply look at other sources I trust, and decide for myself what I believe, or don’t.

In an article published on,

“People do not simply “absorb” whatever they hear on the radio, see on TV or read online. Instead, people have become more educated about seeking out information from trusted sources and critical thinking when evaluating a media message. As a result, the magic bullet theory is no longer an accurate model for processing media messages.” (

In the end, I believe as a 27 year old, college educated woman living in the United States, I don’t believe I am easily influenced by mass media in the political or social issue stance. Social Media on Lifestyle topics? Yes, there I am heavily influenced. But, times have changed since the Hypodermic Needle Theory was implemented for political use, and I believe it has phased out as a media tactic.