Cultivation Theory

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Television today has become such a large part of our culture it seems now that it has become just another member of the family and it has become the one thing that gives most of the information to us. In 1967, George Gerbner began his ongoing study ‘Cultural Indicators’. The basis behind Gerbner’s study was to see whether and how watching television may influence viewers’ ideas of what the everyday world is like (Chandler, 1995). Gerbner sees television as “where the action is” (Lent, 1992), and “not a window on or reflection of the world, but a world in itself” (Chandler, 1995). Television today is responsible for cultivating the perception of how some people view life in today’s society.

Cultivation Theory is a theory of mass communication that states that television shows can persuade the viewer’s perception of reality in today’s society. Today television has become the major storyteller and the major source of violent images in our society (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli (1986). Researchers believe that long-term exposure to violent television content has a small but somewhat measurable effect on the way some viewers perceive the world and the heavy viewing of television can cause someone to develop an exaggerated belief in a scary or hateful world. For example, an individual who watched the television show ‘ER’ could assume that every hospital emergency room is just like the one that is portrayed on the TV. “In 1993, Leonard Eron estimated that 10 percent of the violence in the Unites States can be attributed to television (Stossel, 1997). Not only do violent television shows cultivate our outlook on society so do the news media because it is the quickest and simplest way for us to learn.

Gerbner’s cultivation theory has been subject to many critiques. Theorists have expanded the their theory to account for the small effect and difference among subgroups (Gerbner et al. 1986). Mainstreaming effect is what happens when heavy viewers from...
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