The sociological approach to communication theory is based on the assumption that there exists a definite relationship between mass communication and social change.
1. CULTIVATION THEORY
Cultivation theory was an approach propounded by Professor George Gerbner, dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. He began the 'Cultural Indicators' research project in the mid-1960s, to study whether and how watching television may influence viewers' ideas of what the everyday world is like. Cultivation research is in the 'effects' tradition. Cultivation theorists argue that television has long-term effects which are small, gradual, indirect but cumulative and significant.
Assumptions and Statements
Cultivation theory states that the more a person is exposed to a message provided by the media, the more likely that person is to believe the message is real. Cultivation Theory is often applied to people’s perceptions of reality. For example, a person who watches a lot of crime shows on television will eventually believe that there is a lot of violent crime in the city in which he lives. This skewed world is called a “mediated reality” (Wilcox et al, 2003, p.214). The theory also states that viewers who watch more television will be more influenced than those who watch less and that “the cumulative effect of television is to create a synthetic world that heavy viewers come to see as reality” Conceptual Model- Cultivation Theory[pic]
Source: Hawkins and Pingree (1983)
Scope and Application
Cultivation research looks at the mass media as a socializing agent and investigates whether television viewers come to believe the television version of reality the more they watch it. Application in Public Relations
Cultivation Theory is an extremely important principle in public relations for several reasons. It has negative as well as positive effects. Negative effect on a business’s image- If the public is bombarded with negative materials about a company, then it is very possible that the public will no longer associate the company with its previous reputation or achievements or even its products. The public instead will focus on the negative materials attached to the company, and if they do still attach products to a company’s image, it is entirely possible that the public will then attach that negative stigma to the products. Positive effect on a business- By using the effects of a mediated reality to a company’s advantage, the public relations team may be able to shift public focus to the company’s goals, reputation and product. If a company is admired by the public, then that public is generally much more willing to stand by it should a crisis or scandal occur.
Cultivation theory and mediated reality suggested by it is a double-edged sword for public relations practitioners. A reality skewed in favor of a company can be extremely helpful, but a reality skewed against a company can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak. If the public is against an entity, it surely will not last long in this country in which companies rely solely on the public’s consumption of a product. If a company is to survive negative media attacks, it must have established a solid reputation before and handle media relations well during a crisis. To maintain a good image companies need to use the expertise of public relations professionals.
2. AGENDA SETTING THEORY
McComb & Shaw advanced the Agenda Setting Theory in 1972. They investigated presidential campaigns in 1968, 1972 and 1976. In the research done in 1968 they focused on two elements: awareness and information. Investigating the agenda-setting function of the mass media, they attempted to assess the relationship between what voters in one community said were important issues and the actual content of the media messages used during the campaign.