Critical Communication History| Checking Up on The Invasion from Mars: Hadley Cantril, Paul Lazarsfeld, and the Making of a Misremembered Classic

Jefferson D. Pooley, Michael J. Socolow


This article reconstructs the bitter dispute over the authorship of, and credit for, The Invasion from Mars—the classic 1940 study of the mass panic sparked by the 1938 Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” broadcast. The conflict between Hadley Cantril (the credited author) and Paul F. Lazarsfeld (then director of the Princeton Radio Research Project) helped lodge The Invasion from Mars as the published rival, in the remembered history of communication research, to the subsequent work of Lazarsfeld's Bureau of Applied Social Research. The article challenges this two-stage story, especially the typical Cantril-Lazarsfeld contrast. Based on archival evidence, we show that the "War of the Worlds" study should be read as an early installment in―as continuous with―the Bureau's decade-long campaign to complicate media impact.


The Invasion from Mars, Lazarsfeld, Cantril

Full Text: