The concept of Two-step flow theory was presented by Paul Felix Lazarsfeld. He was American- Australian Sociologist. He also presented the concept of opinion Leader in his two-step theory.
Hypodermic theory and bullet theory talked about the direct effect of media messages, but two-step flow theory is totally opposite of these theories. It emphasizes human factors rather than the direct impact of mass media.
According to this theory ideas and information spread in two steps. First from mass media to opinion leader and opinion leader to the general public.
Along with this concept, the important role of an opinion leader is found. In two-step flow theory, the role of an opinion leader is most effective. They have a huge role in society. They have the ability to influence more people. Opinion leaders do not have any legal power or status however they have much knowledge in their respected areas that they can influence people easily. They act as a mediator between the media and the public.
In 1940 during the presidential election in America Paul F. Lazarsfeld studied the voting behavior of the American public. His research was published in the book called “ the people choice”. He studied the psychological and sociological process of the people with respect to the voting decision during the election. He analysis the influence process and highlighted the importance of opinion leader. This process he termed as the two-step flow theory.
In 1940 Paul F. Lazzersfled wrote about opinion leader in the book called The people choice. In the context of the American presidential election, he wrote in that book that information first received by opinion leaders through mass media ( Radio, Television) later it delivers to the less active people of the society through opinion leader. This is also known as personal influence theory and individual effect.
In 1955, Elihu Katz and Paul F. Lazarsfeld highlighted the concept of two-step flow and opinion leader in the book called “personal influence”.
According to the research related to opinion leader, the effect of interpersonal communication is much and continuous than a mass communication medium. This is not related to the matter of politics only but it is also applicable the matter of fashion, film, market, etc.
Criticism of two-step flow
According to many scholars, opinion leaders have been shown unnecessarily highly colored. The mass communication medium has a vast reach and they have the quality to influence people. It has a direct reach to the vast public and people do not have the need to depend on others for any information or idea. In 1971 Westley with reference to different studies talked about the direct effect of mass medium. He said almost all the big news come directly in the contact of the people without any other involvement between the mass media and public.