Date of this Version
If Personal Influence (Katz and Lazarsfeld 1955) has survived, it is thanks to Paul Lazarsfeld. Having stumbled on the idea of the “two-step flow of communication” in his study (Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet 1944/1948, chap. xvi) of how voters made up their minds in the 1940 presidential election, it was typical of him, as empiricist and entrepreneur, to take the next step toward confirming the hypothesis that messages from the media are intercepted by “opinion leaders” who filter them, selectively, to their peers. Fieldwork for what was called the Decatur Study was begun toward the end of World War II, and its aim was to trace the flow of influence in the making of everyday decisions. I had no share in the design or fieldwork for the study, nor in most of the subsequent analysis. At the time, I was just beginning in Columbia College and, a year later, in the U.S. Army.
Date Posted: 06 April 2012