Note: Cultivation Theory For Dummies

Cultivation Theory


This theory explains that how people’s conception of social reality are influenced according to exposure to television.

During 1960’s, interest in media ran very high. Many groups and organization do research to examine media (especially on TV) and their impact (especially the effect of aggression and violence). A social scientist, George Gerbner (the founder of this theory) was involved in this efforts. His task was to produce an annual Violence Index. Their annual counting demonstrated that violence appeared on prime-time television at levels unmatched in the real world.

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First: Television is essentially and fundamentally different from other form of mass media.

The first assumption of this theory underscores the uniqueness of television.

  • It requires no literacy, as do print media.
  • Unlike the movies, it can be free.
  • Unlike radio, it combines pictures and sound.
  • It requires no mobility as do church attendance and going to the movies or the theater.
  • Television is the only medium ever invented that is ageless. Which is people can use it at the earliest and latest years of life, as well as all those years in between.

Television draws together dissimilar groups and show their similarities. It can make people forget their differences for a time by providing them a common experience.

For example, in 2012, four billion people around the globe watches the Olympics in London. Regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, gender, politics or other potentially divisive identities, these people had a common experience.

In other word, television is the culture’s primary storyteller and has the ability to gather together different groups.

Two: Television shapes our society’s way of thinking and relating

Based on this assumption, Cultivation Theory supplies an alternative way of thinking about TV violence. The theory does not speak to what we will do based on watching violent television. Instead, it assumes that watching violent TV makes we feel afraid because it cultivates within us the image of mean and dangerous world.

Three: The influence of Television is limited

Cultivation Theory stated that TV’s effects are limited. This may sound strange, given the fact that TV is so pervasive. Yet, the observable, measurable and independent contributions of TV to the culture are relatively small.

Gerbner uses an ICE AGE ANALOGY to distance Cultivation Theory from limited effects.

“Just as an average temperature shift of a few degrees can lead to an ice age or the outcomes of elections can be determined by slight margins.  It’s can be relatively small by pervasive. Influence make crucial difference”

Gerbner argue that it is not the case that watching a specific TV program causes a specific behavior, but rather that watching TV in general has a cumulative and pervasive impact on our vision of the world.

For example: The perception of beauty among the women is flawless and fair skin, high nose bridge, V-shape, round big eye and fuller lips.

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One: Mainstreaming

Occurs when television’s symbols dominate other sources of information and ideas about the worlds (especially for heavier viewer).

Heavy viewer tend to believe the mainstreamed realities that the world is a more dangerous place than it really is. For example: All politicians are corrupt, the teen crime is at record high levels, all poor families are all on welfare etc.

Two: Resonance

Occurs when thigs on television are congruent with viewers’ actual everyday realities. In other word, people’s objective external reality resonates with that of television.

For example, some urban dwellers may see the violent world of television resonated in their deteriorating neighborhoods.

Three: First Order Effect

Refer to the learning of facts from the media.

For example: how many employed males are involves in law enforcement or what proportion of marriages end in divorce.

Four: Second Order Effect

Refers to learning values and assumptions from the media.

For example: Question like” Do you think people are basically honest?  Are aimed at these second order effects.

Five: Mean World Index

Consist of a series of three statements:

  • Most people are just looking out for themselves
  • You can’t be too careful in dealing with people
  • Most people would take advantage of you if they got the chance

The study showed that heavy viewers were much more likely to see the world as a mean place than were light viewers.

Mean World Syndrome – the perception based on media violence that the world is a dangerous and unforgiving place.