SELECT AN EDITION:
9th EDITION   10th EDITION   11th EDITION
A First Look at Communication Theory Reveal main menu
 
CHANGE TO View by Theory
Theory Outlines
11th Edition

From the Instructors Manual

List mode: Normal (click on theory name to show detail) | Show All details | Clear details

Chapter 36Cultivation Theory


  1. Introduction.
  1. George Gerbner claimed that because TV contains so much violence, people who spend the most time watching it develop an exaggerated belief in a mean and scary world.
  2. The violence they see on the screen can cultivate a social paranoia that counters notions of trustworthy people or safe surroundings.
  3. Gerbner was convinced that TV’s power comes from the symbolic content of the shows watched, binged, and rewatched.
  4. Video content dominates the environment of symbols, telling most of the stories, most of the time.
  5. Violence is a staple of the TV world.   
  6. Gerbner was concerned that violence affects viewers’ beliefs about the world around them and the feelings connected to those beliefs.
  7. Even if you avoid violent shows on the Netflix menu, that doesn’t mean you’re free from the effects of cultivation.
  8. Scholars have also used cultivation theory to examine how TV affects perceptions of the health risks of smoking, the popularity of various political positions, and beliefs about gender roles.  
  9. Although television has changed a lot since Gerbner began studying it, cultivation theory remains one of the most popular—yet controversial—theories of mass communication.
  1. Television then, television now.
  1. Television today is different in three key ways: it is recordable, mobile, and there many choices.
  2. As Gerbner surveyed the television industry of the twentieth century, he saw people watching the same shows, with the same people, at the same time.
  3. He created cultivation theory to explain a media world designed to “attract the largest possible audience by celebrating the moderation of the mainstream.”
  4. TV remains the most popular leisure time activity for Americans and, according to cultivation researchers, another key similarity is this: in both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, much TV content revolves around violence.
  5. Think of cultivation as a three-prong plug, each is associated with a particular type of analysis that Gerbner considered a critical component in understanding the effects of television on viewers.
  1. “What’s on TV?”—The first prong.
  1. If television cultivates perceptions of social reality among viewers, it becomes essential to know exactly what messages TV transmits.
  2. Gerbner’s research involved quantitative content analysis which he referred to as message system analysis.
  3. From the late 1960s to the early 1990s, Gerbner’s Cultural Indicators Project analyzed the content of television shows. More recently, scholars at the Annenberg Public Policy Center extended and expanded this type of research with their Coding of Heath and Media Project (CHAMP), analyzing more than a half-century of television programming.
  4. Both Gerbner’s analysis and later CHAMP research were designed to uncover exactly how violence is depicted on TV.
  1. CHAMP’s definition of violence is “any intentional infliction of physical pain or harm on a character by another or the implication of intent to harm.”
  2. The definition includes cartoon violence but excludes verbal abuse, idle threats, slapstick, natural disasters, accidents, or sports.
  1. Researchers could determine the overall prevalence of violence on television.
  1. During Gerbner’s research, the annual index was remarkable stable and alarmingly high.
  2. CHAMP’s research has found that the prevalence of overall violence continued to increase until 2000, levelled off in 2011, and decreased afterward.
  1. Gerbner found inequality regarding the age, race, and gender of those on the receiving end of violence.
  1. Elderly people and children, ethnic minorities, and women were common targets.
  2. When in the script, they were made visible in order to be victims.
  3. But the trends are changing. Amy Bleakley used CHAMP data to analyze popular shows in the mid 2010s and found that involvement in violence didn’t differ by the character’s age, gender, or race.
  4. Instead, violence was common overall, with 54 percent of characters participating. 
  1. “How much does TV influence us?”-- The second prong.
  1. Most devotees of cultivation theory subscribe to the notion that message system analysis is the prerequisite to the next prong: cultivation analysis.
  2. Message system analysis deals with the content of TV; cultivation analysis deals with how TV’s content might influence viewers—particularly the viewers who spend lots of time glued to the screen.
  3. This is the part of the paradigm where most of the action takes place.
  4. Cultivation works like a magnetic field.
  1. Although the magnitude of TV’s influence is not the same for every viewer, all are affected by it.
  2. L. J. Shrum relies on the accessibility principle in explaining TV’s cultivating impact.
  3. This principle states that when people make judgments about the world around them, they rely on the smallest bits of information that come to mind most quickly—the information that is most accessible.
  4. For those who consume a lot of television, the most accessible information for making judgments is more likely to come from TV shows than from anywhere else.
  1. Mainstreaming: Blurring, blending, and bending of attitudes.
  1. Mainstreaming is Gerbner’s term for the process of “blurring, blending, and bending” that those with heavy viewing habits undergo.
  2. Gerbner illustrated the mainstreaming effect by showing how heavy TV viewers blur economic and political distinctions.
  3. TV glorifies the middle class, and those with heavy viewing habits assume the label, no matter what their income, and label themselves as political moderates.
  4. Even though those with heavy viewing habits call themselves moderates, Gerbner and his associates noted that their positions on social issues were decidedly conservative.
  5. The mainstream is not middle of the road— it’s skewed to the right.
  6. Resonance: The TV world looks like my world.  
  1. Gerbner thought the cultivating power of TV’s message would be especially strong over viewers who perceived that the world depicted on television was very much like their own.
  2. He described this resonance process as these viewers getting a “double dose” of the TV message.
  1. Surveys to measure the cultivational differential.
  1. Gerbner viewed the process as one that unfolds gradually through the steady accumulation of TV’s messages. Cultivation takes time.
  2. Gerbner turned to survey research, seeking to discover evidence of a cultivation differential, the “difference in the percent giving the ‘television answer’ within comparable groups of light and heavy viewers.”
  3. Two hours a day of television watching was the upper limit for a light viewer while he labeled heavy viewers as those who watched four hours or more.
  4. Gerbner’s comparisons between light and heavy viewers revealed some provocative findings.
  1. People with heavy TV viewing habits drastically overestimated criminal activity, believing it was 10 times worse that it really is.
  2. Heavy television viewers perceived higher activity of police.
  3. Those with heavy viewing habits were suspicious of other people’s motives.
  1. He called this cynical mindset the mean word syndrome.
  1. Cultivation effects are small and ambiguous.
  1. Most cultivation research today continues in the mold Gerbner established.
  2. In cultivation analysis, researchers have found a reusable tool for explaining a seemingly endless list of media effects.
  3. Cultivation analysis research suffers from two common problems.
  1. The first is small effect sizes. One meta-analysis on Gerbner’s work calculated the average correlation over 82 different studies to be significant but very small—less than 1 percent.
  2. The second problem with survey research is that it doesn’t provide definitive evidence that viewing TV causes fear of violence.  All we know is that TV viewing and fear go up and down together, but we can’t say why.
  1. “Who makes TV this way and why?”—The third prong.
  1. The third prong of the theory, institutional process analysis, tries to get behind the scenes of media organizations in an effort to understand what policies or practices might be lurking there.
  2. The centralized control of media content remains a reality in the twenty-first century.
  3. Media producers aren’t chiefly concerned with ethics, morality, diversity, or the greater good; they are interested in connecting audiences to advertisers and consumer products.
  4. Gerbner believed that media companies want to export content globally for maximum profit at minimal cost.
  5. Violence speaks a visual language that is universally understood.
  6. The third prong was deeply important to Gerbner, but it has inspired far less research than the other two prongs have.
  7. Traditionally, such questions of power have been the province of critical interpretive theories rather than objective theories.
  1. Critique: A simple idea that may need revision or retirement.
  1. Gerbner assumed that most heavy viewers watch similar content, that people consume TV passively, and that they view with other people in their household, often during prime time. He also assumed that TV content ignores minority groups in favor of the mainstream majority.
  2. Both assumptions many not hold up in the twenty-first century.
  3. If the theory’s assumptions no longer hold, that raises questions about its ability to predict and explain media use today.
  4. Some critics’ concerns about the theory’s testability may mean that further research will not clarify things.
  5. When both differences and lack of differences are interpreted as supporting the theory, the theory isn’t falsifiable.
  6. The theory’s relatively simple claims have generated much quantitative research.
  7. But when the theory is reduced to a basic association between viewing and attitudes, it loses the grand scope and potential for social change that Gerbner championed.
  8. Some critics point out that cultivation analysis would be stronger with experimental and longitudinal studies that provide clearer evidence for the cultivation differential.
  9. We would benefit from more recent message system analysis studies that examine what content appears on the internet and streaming services.
  10. The time is ripe for a revision of cultivation theory that provides a more practically useful account of the role of media in shaping the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of twenty-first century audiences.    


You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

Back to top



Resources
by Type


Instructors can get
additional resources.
Read more




 OUTLINES


 VIDEOS


 ESSAY






New to Theory
Resources?

Find out more
in this short
video overview
(3:01).

CHANGE TO View by Theory
Theory Outlines
11th Edition

From the Instructors Manual

List mode: Normal (click on theory name to show detail) | Show All details | Clear details

Chapter 36Cultivation Theory


  1. Introduction.
  1. George Gerbner claimed that because TV contains so much violence, people who spend the most time watching it develop an exaggerated belief in a mean and scary world.
  2. The violence they see on the screen can cultivate a social paranoia that counters notions of trustworthy people or safe surroundings.
  3. Gerbner was convinced that TV’s power comes from the symbolic content of the shows watched, binged, and rewatched.
  4. Video content dominates the environment of symbols, telling most of the stories, most of the time.
  5. Violence is a staple of the TV world.   
  6. Gerbner was concerned that violence affects viewers’ beliefs about the world around them and the feelings connected to those beliefs.
  7. Even if you avoid violent shows on the Netflix menu, that doesn’t mean you’re free from the effects of cultivation.
  8. Scholars have also used cultivation theory to examine how TV affects perceptions of the health risks of smoking, the popularity of various political positions, and beliefs about gender roles.  
  9. Although television has changed a lot since Gerbner began studying it, cultivation theory remains one of the most popular—yet controversial—theories of mass communication.
  1. Television then, television now.
  1. Television today is different in three key ways: it is recordable, mobile, and there many choices.
  2. As Gerbner surveyed the television industry of the twentieth century, he saw people watching the same shows, with the same people, at the same time.
  3. He created cultivation theory to explain a media world designed to “attract the largest possible audience by celebrating the moderation of the mainstream.”
  4. TV remains the most popular leisure time activity for Americans and, according to cultivation researchers, another key similarity is this: in both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, much TV content revolves around violence.
  5. Think of cultivation as a three-prong plug, each is associated with a particular type of analysis that Gerbner considered a critical component in understanding the effects of television on viewers.
  1. “What’s on TV?”—The first prong.
  1. If television cultivates perceptions of social reality among viewers, it becomes essential to know exactly what messages TV transmits.
  2. Gerbner’s research involved quantitative content analysis which he referred to as message system analysis.
  3. From the late 1960s to the early 1990s, Gerbner’s Cultural Indicators Project analyzed the content of television shows. More recently, scholars at the Annenberg Public Policy Center extended and expanded this type of research with their Coding of Heath and Media Project (CHAMP), analyzing more than a half-century of television programming.
  4. Both Gerbner’s analysis and later CHAMP research were designed to uncover exactly how violence is depicted on TV.
  1. CHAMP’s definition of violence is “any intentional infliction of physical pain or harm on a character by another or the implication of intent to harm.”
  2. The definition includes cartoon violence but excludes verbal abuse, idle threats, slapstick, natural disasters, accidents, or sports.
  1. Researchers could determine the overall prevalence of violence on television.
  1. During Gerbner’s research, the annual index was remarkable stable and alarmingly high.
  2. CHAMP’s research has found that the prevalence of overall violence continued to increase until 2000, levelled off in 2011, and decreased afterward.
  1. Gerbner found inequality regarding the age, race, and gender of those on the receiving end of violence.
  1. Elderly people and children, ethnic minorities, and women were common targets.
  2. When in the script, they were made visible in order to be victims.
  3. But the trends are changing. Amy Bleakley used CHAMP data to analyze popular shows in the mid 2010s and found that involvement in violence didn’t differ by the character’s age, gender, or race.
  4. Instead, violence was common overall, with 54 percent of characters participating. 
  1. “How much does TV influence us?”-- The second prong.
  1. Most devotees of cultivation theory subscribe to the notion that message system analysis is the prerequisite to the next prong: cultivation analysis.
  2. Message system analysis deals with the content of TV; cultivation analysis deals with how TV’s content might influence viewers—particularly the viewers who spend lots of time glued to the screen.
  3. This is the part of the paradigm where most of the action takes place.
  4. Cultivation works like a magnetic field.
  1. Although the magnitude of TV’s influence is not the same for every viewer, all are affected by it.
  2. L. J. Shrum relies on the accessibility principle in explaining TV’s cultivating impact.
  3. This principle states that when people make judgments about the world around them, they rely on the smallest bits of information that come to mind most quickly—the information that is most accessible.
  4. For those who consume a lot of television, the most accessible information for making judgments is more likely to come from TV shows than from anywhere else.
  1. Mainstreaming: Blurring, blending, and bending of attitudes.
  1. Mainstreaming is Gerbner’s term for the process of “blurring, blending, and bending” that those with heavy viewing habits undergo.
  2. Gerbner illustrated the mainstreaming effect by showing how heavy TV viewers blur economic and political distinctions.
  3. TV glorifies the middle class, and those with heavy viewing habits assume the label, no matter what their income, and label themselves as political moderates.
  4. Even though those with heavy viewing habits call themselves moderates, Gerbner and his associates noted that their positions on social issues were decidedly conservative.
  5. The mainstream is not middle of the road— it’s skewed to the right.
  6. Resonance: The TV world looks like my world.  
  1. Gerbner thought the cultivating power of TV’s message would be especially strong over viewers who perceived that the world depicted on television was very much like their own.
  2. He described this resonance process as these viewers getting a “double dose” of the TV message.
  1. Surveys to measure the cultivational differential.
  1. Gerbner viewed the process as one that unfolds gradually through the steady accumulation of TV’s messages. Cultivation takes time.
  2. Gerbner turned to survey research, seeking to discover evidence of a cultivation differential, the “difference in the percent giving the ‘television answer’ within comparable groups of light and heavy viewers.”
  3. Two hours a day of television watching was the upper limit for a light viewer while he labeled heavy viewers as those who watched four hours or more.
  4. Gerbner’s comparisons between light and heavy viewers revealed some provocative findings.
  1. People with heavy TV viewing habits drastically overestimated criminal activity, believing it was 10 times worse that it really is.
  2. Heavy television viewers perceived higher activity of police.
  3. Those with heavy viewing habits were suspicious of other people’s motives.
  1. He called this cynical mindset the mean word syndrome.
  1. Cultivation effects are small and ambiguous.
  1. Most cultivation research today continues in the mold Gerbner established.
  2. In cultivation analysis, researchers have found a reusable tool for explaining a seemingly endless list of media effects.
  3. Cultivation analysis research suffers from two common problems.
  1. The first is small effect sizes. One meta-analysis on Gerbner’s work calculated the average correlation over 82 different studies to be significant but very small—less than 1 percent.
  2. The second problem with survey research is that it doesn’t provide definitive evidence that viewing TV causes fear of violence.  All we know is that TV viewing and fear go up and down together, but we can’t say why.
  1. “Who makes TV this way and why?”—The third prong.
  1. The third prong of the theory, institutional process analysis, tries to get behind the scenes of media organizations in an effort to understand what policies or practices might be lurking there.
  2. The centralized control of media content remains a reality in the twenty-first century.
  3. Media producers aren’t chiefly concerned with ethics, morality, diversity, or the greater good; they are interested in connecting audiences to advertisers and consumer products.
  4. Gerbner believed that media companies want to export content globally for maximum profit at minimal cost.
  5. Violence speaks a visual language that is universally understood.
  6. The third prong was deeply important to Gerbner, but it has inspired far less research than the other two prongs have.
  7. Traditionally, such questions of power have been the province of critical interpretive theories rather than objective theories.
  1. Critique: A simple idea that may need revision or retirement.
  1. Gerbner assumed that most heavy viewers watch similar content, that people consume TV passively, and that they view with other people in their household, often during prime time. He also assumed that TV content ignores minority groups in favor of the mainstream majority.
  2. Both assumptions many not hold up in the twenty-first century.
  3. If the theory’s assumptions no longer hold, that raises questions about its ability to predict and explain media use today.
  4. Some critics’ concerns about the theory’s testability may mean that further research will not clarify things.
  5. When both differences and lack of differences are interpreted as supporting the theory, the theory isn’t falsifiable.
  6. The theory’s relatively simple claims have generated much quantitative research.
  7. But when the theory is reduced to a basic association between viewing and attitudes, it loses the grand scope and potential for social change that Gerbner championed.
  8. Some critics point out that cultivation analysis would be stronger with experimental and longitudinal studies that provide clearer evidence for the cultivation differential.
  9. We would benefit from more recent message system analysis studies that examine what content appears on the internet and streaming services.
  10. The time is ripe for a revision of cultivation theory that provides a more practically useful account of the role of media in shaping the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of twenty-first century audiences.    


You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

Back to top



The screen on this device is not wide enough to display Theory Resources. Try rotating the device to landscape orientation to see if more options become available.

Resources available to all users:

  • Text Comparison—theories covered in A First Look and ten other textbooks
  • Theory Overview—abstract of each chapter
  • Self-Help Quizzes—for student preparation
  • Chapter Outlines
  • Key Names—important names and terms in each chapter
  • Conversation Videos—interviews with theorists
  • Application Logs—student application of theories
  • Essay Questions—for student prepatation
  • Suggested Movie Clips—tie-in movie scenese to theories
  • Links—web resources related to each chapter
  • Primary Sources—for each theory with full chapter coverage
  • Further Resources—bibliographic and other suggestions
  • Changes—for each theory, since the previous edition
  • Theory Archive—PDF copies from the last edition in which a theory appeared

Resources available only to registered instructors who are logged in:

  • Discussion Suggestions
  • Exercises & Activities
  • PowerPoint® presentations you can use
  • Short Answer Quizzes—suggested questions and answers

Information for Instructors. Read more


 

Copyright © Em Griffin 2022 | Web design by Graphic Impact