Cultivation theory

Cultivation theory is a social theory which examined the long-term effects of television on American audiences of all ages.

Developed by George Gerbner and Larry Gross of the University of Pennsylvania, cultivation theory derived from several large-scale research projects as part of an overall research project entitled 'Cultural Indicators'. The purpose of the Cultural Indicators project was to identify and track the 'cultivated' effects of television on viewers. They were "concerned with the effects of television programming (particularly violent programming) on the attitudes and behaviors of the American public"(p. 281).[1]

Gerbner and Stephen Mirirai (1976) assert that the overall concern about the effects of television on audiences stemmed from the unprecedented centrality of television in American culture. They posited that television as a mass medium of communication had formed in to a common symbolic environment that bound diverse communities together, socializing people in to standardized roles and behaviours. They compared the power of television to the power of religion, saying that television was to modern society what religion once was in earlier times.

Contents

Background

According to Miller (2005: 282), cultivation theory was not developed to study "targeted and specific effects (e.g., that watching Superman will lead children to attempt to fly by jumping out the window) [but rather] in terms of the cumulative and overarching impact [television] has on the way we see the world in which we live".[2] Hence the term 'Cultivation Analysis'.

Television is essentially and fundamentally different from other forms of mass media[3]

Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli (1986) argued that while religion or education had previously been greater influences on social trends and mores, now "[t]elevision is the source of the most broadly shared images and messages in history...Television cultivates from infancy the very predispositions and preferences that used to be acquired from other primary sources ... The repetitive pattern of television's mass-produced messages and images forms the mainstream of a common symbolic environment" (pp. 17 – 18). [4]

Due to its accessibility and availability to the masses, television has become the "central cultural arm of our society." [5]

Television shapes the way our society thinks and relates.

Gerbner and Gross (1972) write that “the substance of the consciousness cultivated by TV is not so much specific attitudes and opinions as more basic assumptions about the facts of life and standards of judgment on which conclusions are based."[6]

Gerbner (1998) observed that television reaches people, on average, more than seven hours a day. While watching, television offers “a centralized system of story-telling”.[7] Gerbner asserts that television’s major cultural function is to stabilize social patterns and to cultivate resistance to change. We live in terms of the stories we tell and television tells these stories through news, drama, and advertising to almost everybody most of the time.[8]

Television's effects are limited.

Gerber’s ice age analogy states that “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, so too can a relatively small ber pervasive influence make a crucial difference. The size of an effect is far less critical tan the direction of its steady contribution."[9]

Definition

Cultivation theory in its most basic form, then, suggests that exposure to television, over time, subtly "cultivates" viewers' perceptions of reality. Gerbner and Gross (1976) say "television is a medium of the socialization of most people into standardized roles and behaviors. Its function is in a word, enculturation" (p. 175). [10] Gerbner draws attention to three entities—institutions, messages, and publics—in his work, which he seeks to analyze. [11]

Hypothesis

Stated most simply, the central hypothesis explored in cultivation research is that those who spend more time watching television are more likely to perceive the real world in ways that reflect the most common and recurrent messages of the television world, compared with people who watch less television, but are otherwise comparable in terms of important demographic characteristics.[12]

Gerbner et al. (1986) go on to argue the impact of television on its viewers is not unidirectional, that the "use of the term cultivation for television's contribution to conception of social reality... (does not) necessarily imply a one-way, monolithic process. The effects of a pervasive medium upon the composition and structure of the symbolic environment are subtle, complex, and intermingled with other influences. This perspective, therefore, assumes an interaction between the medium and its publics" (p. 23).[13]

Cultivation Theory (George Gerbner, 1960’s) is a top down, linear, closed communication model.[citation needed]

Method

In 1968 Gerbner conducted a survey to demonstrate this theory. From his results he placed television viewers into three categories; light viewers (less than 2 hours a day), medium viewers (2–4 hours a day) and heavy viewers (more than 4 hours a day). He found that heavy viewers held beliefs and opinions similar to those portrayed on television rather than the real world which demonstrates the compound effect of media influence.

Advantages and Disadvantages

An advantage to this study is that surveys are able to ask specific detailed questions and can be applied over different demographic groups. Disadvantages to this study is that survey questions can be interpreted incorrectly resulting in inaccurate answers and that participants of the survey may or may not be doing the survey voluntarily which could influence how they respond to the survey and the type of people being surveyed.

Three Parts of Research

Gerbner created the cultivation theory as one part of a three part research strategy, called Cultural Indicators. The concept of a cultural "indicator" was developed by Gerbner in order to be a common concept of a social indicator. The first part of this strategy is known as the institutional process analysis. This investigates how the flow of media messages is produced and managed, how decisions are made, and how media organizations function. Ultimately, is asked: What are the processes, pressures, and constraints that influence and underline the production of mass media content? The second part of this strategy is known as message system analysis, which has been used since 1967 to track the most stable and recurrent images in media content. This is in terms of violence, race & ethnicity, gender, and occupation. It asked: What are the dominant patterns of images, messages, and facts, values and lessons, expressed in media messages? The final part of the research study is the cultivation analysis. This asked: What is the relationship between attention to these messages and audiences' conceptions of social reality? (Morgan, p. 70) and (Shanahan and Morgan p. 6 -7).

Violence

Gerbner looked specifically at the effects that the violence portrayed on television has on Americans because he believed violence is TV’s primary message.[14] Gerbner and his team speculated that violence had an effect on the way Americans portray the world, but they wanted facts rather than just having an opinion. Therefore, they measured dramatic violence, which Gerbner defines as “the overt expression or threat of physical force as part of the plot.”[14]

Cultivation Differential

This term is what Gerbner sought to discover in his research. Griffin defines this as “the difference in the percentage giving the television answer within comparable groups of light and heavy TV viewers.”[14] Gerbner wanted to find how often individuals who watched a significant amount of television were influenced to have the same opinion as what the media is feeding them. Gerbner believed there was not a before-television stage in a person’s life. He alleged the media influences a person the moment they are born. There are four attitudes that Gerbner focused on: (1) the chances of involvement with violence, (2) fear of walking alone at night, (3) perceived activity of police, and (4) general mistrust of people.[14] When a person watches more television, that person is more likely to think he or she has a higher chance of getting into violence. The individual is likely to have a greater fear of walking alone at night. Griffin notes that people who view heavy amount of television think, “that five percent of society is involved in law enforcement,”[14] which is four percent higher than actuality. Finally, heavy television watchers are more mistrusting of people than light or medium television viewers. This suspicious view on the world is called the mean world syndrome. Griffin sums this up as “the cynical mindset of general mistrust of others subscribed to by heavy TV viewers.”[14]

Products of Cultivation Analysis

Mainstreaming and Resonance

Television plays a central role in society. While there are many diverse cultures in the United States (and the world) contributing the variety of beliefs, values, attitudes and practices creating our unique cultures, there is one thing that ties us all together: television. Of course there are many people that do not have access to television, but the underlying truth is, the reach of television is so expansive that it has become the primary channel responsible for mainstream in our culture. Mainstream is more than the sum of all cross-currents and sub-currents, it represents the broadest range of shared meanings and assumptions in the most general, functional and stable way[15]. Heavy television viewing may override individual differences and perspectives, creating more of an American (and increasingly global) "melting pot" of social, cultural and political ideologies[16]. Essentially, the more TV a viewer watches, the more likely it becomes that their opinions of various items in the world will start to mirror those the media portrays. In fact, most heavy TV viewers do not even know they are starting to bend their views to those of the media.[17]

According to Gerbner et. al, mainstreaming is the process of blurring, blending, and bending. Television blurs traditional distinctions of people’s cultural, political, social and regional views, blends people’s realities into television mainstream, and bends that mainstream to the institutional interests of television and its client institutions.[18] Griffin offers this definition of mainstreaming: “the blurring, blending, and bending process by which heavy TV viewers develop a common socially conservative outlook through constant exposure to the same images and labels.”[14] This blurring, blending, and bending refers to the values people hold. People’s values can be seen to blur between reality and fiction. Heavy viewers believe that what happens in the world of television happens in real life. Blending takes blurring one step further when heavy television viewers cannot draw a line between parts of life that are real and fiction. Bending happens when people’s perception is completely changed from their original views or opinions.

Resonance occurs when things viewed on television are actually congruent with the actual everyday realities of viewers. Gerbner writes that this provides a double dose of messages that resonate and amplify cultivation.[19] Additionally, Gerbner et al. (2002) defines resonance as the combination of everyday reality and television providing a "double dose" that resonates with the individual, which in turn amplifies cultivation. The example they give is of minority groups whose fictional television character is stereotypically more frequently victimized on television, creating an exaggerated perception of violence for individuals who watch more television[20]. Griffin sums it up nicely, when he states, “Gerbner claimed that other heavy viewers grow more apprehensive through the process of resonance.” [14] Furthermore, Gerbner said, “The congruence of the television world and real-life circumstances may ‘resonate’ and lead to markedly amplified cultivation patterns.” [14] This cultivation could have a large effect on our society if these viewers insist on receiving more security from the government, their work place, family, friends, etc. Resonance seeks to explain why heavy TV viewers often have an amplified vigilance about the world.

As either mainstreaming or resonance, cultivations produces first order or second order effects. First order effects refers to the learning of facts. Second order effects involve “hypotheses about more general issues and assumptions” that people make about their environments.[21]

Mean World Index

Gerbner, et. al (1980) developed the Mean World Index. The Mean World Index consists 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 Mean World Index finds that long-term exposure to television in which violence is frequent cultivates the image of a mean and dangerous world. More frequent viewers had a perception of reality in which greater protection is needed and reported that most people “cannot be trusted” and are “just looking out for themselves."[22]

Variations in Cultivation

Effect of Personal Interactions

A 2002 study by Gerbner et al. expanded on previous research about Cultivation Theory to include variations in cultivation. It is noted that personal interactions have an impact on cultivation. For example, parental co-viewing, and family and peer support can impact the level of cultivation for adolescents--more cohesive support, results in more resistant adolescents are to cultivation[23].

International Cultivation Analysis

International cultivation analysis attempts to answer the question of whether the medium or the system is the message. Gerbner et al. (2002) found that countries where the television programs were less repetitive and homogenous than the United States produced less predictable and consistent results[24]. The variety of television content is also an important factor. Increased diversity and balance within television channels or programs leads viewers to report similar preferences. Further, importing television programs internationally can illicit variable responses depending on the cultural context and the type of television program. For example, exposure of U.S. television programs to Korean females resulted in liberal perspective of gender roles and family. However, in the Korean male television viewers, U.S. programs brought out increased hostility and protection of Korean culture. Another study showed that Australian students who watched U.S. television programs (especially adventure and crime shows) were more likely to view Australia as dangerous[25]. However, they didn't transfer this danger to America, even though they were watching U.S. television programs. A study conducted by Minnebo and Eggermont (2007) found that heavy television viewers, over the age of 30, in Belgium “were more likely to believe that most young people are substance users.”[11]

Criticisms of Cultivation Theory

Scholars think that cultivation research focuses more on the effects rather than who or what is being influenced. Jennings Bryant agrees and says that the research to date has more to do with the “ ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ of a theory as opposed to gathering normative data as to the ‘what’s’, ‘who’s’, and ‘where’s’.“[26]

Many also question the breadth of Gerbner’s research. When using the Cultural Indicators strategy, Gerbner separated his research into three parts. The second part focused on the effects of media when looking at gender, race/ethnicity, and occupation. Michael Hughes writes about this process that “it does not seem reasonable that these three variables exhaust the possibilities of variables available…which may be responsible for spurious relationships between television watching and the dependent variables in the Gerbner at al. analysis”[27] Also, the variables Gerbner did choose can also play a factor in the amount of time a person has available to watch TV. For example, a person who works part-time is likely to have more time on their hands than someone who works a fifty-hour workweek. Just based on this example alone, one can see how correlating these variables specifically to the way a person views violence in the world can be problematic. Another piece of evidence comes from Chandler is that “those who live in high-crime areas are more likely to stay at home and watch television and also to believe that they have a greater chance of being attacked than are those in low-crime areas.” He claims as well, “when the viewer has some direct lived experience of the subject matter this may tend to reduce any cultivation effect.”[28] So, if an individual identifies with the media’s message, they are less likely to let it affect their beliefs. This is probably due to the fact that they already have their own opinion on the matter.

Gerbner is also criticized for the fact that he “lumped together” all forms of violence; he did not split up the different types of television programs. Chandler argues, “different genres—even different programmes—contribute to the shaping of different realities, but cultivation analysis assumes too much homogeneity in television programmes”[28] When considering different programs that are on television, it makes sense that scholars would criticize Gerbner’s lack of categories. For example, Saturday morning cartoon “play” violence is in combination with a murder on Law and Order. This does not seem to logically fuse together. Morgan and Shanahan understand this dispute, but they contend “that people (especially heavy viewers) do not watch isolated genres only, and that any “impact” of individual program types should be considered in the context of the overall viewing experience.”[11]

Chandler maintains, “Cultivation theory focuses on the amount of television viewing or 'exposure', and does not allow for differences in the ways in which viewers interpret television realities.”[28] This interpretation can vary from innocent viewing to getting ideas for carrying out an act of violence. There should be a way to continue research into this area of study.

Links to Other Research

In their article titled “The State of Cultivation”, Michael Morgan and James Shanahan argue “that cultivation has taken on certain paradigmatic qualities” and that they “consider the future prospects for cultivation research in the context of the changing media environment” [11] What this means is that Morgan and Shanahan join in the conversation that this Cultivation Theory has started to take on a new form, which is starting to shift the way scholars view media affects on the general public. Morgan and Shanahan claim that the concept of cultivation is “vibrant, thriving, and branching off into areas Gerbner could not have imagined”[11]

Morgan and Shanahan highlight several ways the cultivation theory has influenced other research.

  1. Schroeder (2005) used the Elaboration Likelihood Model to try to determine whether cultivation was better explained cognitively by an active learning/construction model or an availability heuristic model.
  2. Salmi et al. (2007) examined cultivation with reference to social capital.
  3. Diefenbach and West (2007) drew upon the third-person effect in their analysis of the relationship between amount of television viewing and attitudes toward mental health.[11]

These are only a few highlights of what scholars have done with the research of Gerbner. His work has penetrated into other fields of study and has furthered research beyond what Gerbner could have expected.

The Future of Cultivation Theory

Neilsen informed the general public that “television viewing had reached an all-time high” in November 2009.[11] With this new age of technology, we have access to television at our fingertips at almost every moment of the day. The introduction of the Internet has multiplied our viewing capabilities and we can be more selective than ever. Hulu, YouTube, TiVo, On Demand, and other computer-mediated technologies are making this process affordable, quick, and easy. We should, therefore, be looking at the cultivation theory with even more respect. In the same breath though, we should be focusing on the cultivation theory in other forms of media. The Internet plays a huge role in our communication and the way we, as Americans, receive information. Those who study the cultivation theory should consider extending it to various other media outlets.

See also

References

  1. ^ Miller, K. (2005). Communications theories: Perspectives, processes, and contexts. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. ^ Miller, K. (2005). Communications theories: Perspectives, processes, and contexts. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  3. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Jackson-Beeck, M., Jeffries-Fox, S. & Signorielli, N. (1978). Cultural indicators violence profile no. 9. Journal of Communication, 28(3), 176-207.
  4. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1986). Living with television: The dynamics of the cultivation process. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Perspectives on media effects (pp. 17–40). Hilldale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  5. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Jackson-Beeck, Jeffries-Fox, S., & Signorielli, N. (1978). Cultural Indicators: Violence Profile No. 9, Journal of Communication, 28:3, 176-207.
  6. ^ Gerbner, G., & Gross, L. (1972). Living with television: The violence profile. Journal of Communication, 26, 173-199.
  7. ^ Gerbner, G. (1998). Cultivation analysis: An overview. Mass Communication and Society, 3/4, 175-194.
  8. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Jackson-Beeck, M., Jeffries-Fox, S., & Signorielli, N. (1978). Cultural indicators: Violence profile No. 9. Journal of Communication, 28, 176-206.
  9. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1980). The "Mainstreaming" of America: Violence Profile No. 11, Journal of Communication, 30:3, 10-29.
  10. ^ Gerbner, G., & Gross, L. (1976). Living with television: The violence profile. Journal of Communication, 26(2), 172-199.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Morgan, Michael, and James Shanahan. "The State Of Cultivation." Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 54.2 (2010): 337-355.
  12. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (2002). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In M. Morgan (Ed.), Against the mainstream: The selected works of George Gerbner (pp.193-213). New York: Peter Lang.
  13. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1986). Living with television: The dynamics of the cultivation process. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Perspectives on media effects (pp. 17–40). Hilldale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Media Effects Theories." Oregon State University.http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/comm321/gwalker/effectsmedia.htm
  15. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (2002). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In M. Morgan (Ed.), Against the mainstream: The selected works of George Gerbner (pp.193-213). New York: Peter Lang.
  16. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (2002). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In M. Morgan (Ed.), Against the mainstream: The selected works of George Gerbner (pp.193-213). New York: Peter Lang.
  17. ^ Chandler, Daniel. "Cultivation Theory." Aberystwyth University, 18 Sept. 1995. http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/cultiv.html
  18. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1980). The "Mainstreaming" of America: Violence Profile No. 11, Journal of Communication, 30:3, 10-29.
  19. ^ Gerbner,G.(1998). Cultivation analysis: An overview. Mass Communication and Society, 3/4, 175-194.
  20. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (2002). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In M. Morgan (Ed.), Against the mainstream: The selected works of George Gerbner (pp.193-213). New York: Peter Lang.
  21. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1986). Living with television: The dynamics of the cultivation process. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Perspectives on media effects (pp. 17-40). Hillsdale, NJ: Earlbaum.
  22. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1980). The "Mainstreaming" of America: Violence Profile No. 11, Journal of Communication, 30:3, 10-29.
  23. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (2002). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In M. Morgan (Ed.), Against the mainstream: The selected works of George Gerbner (pp.193-213). New York: Peter Lang.
  24. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (2002). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In M. Morgan (Ed.), Against the mainstream: The selected works of George Gerbner (pp.193-213). New York: Peter Lang.
  25. ^ Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (2002). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In M. Morgan (Ed.), Against the mainstream: The selected works of George Gerbner (pp.193-213). New York: Peter Lang.
  26. ^ Bryant, Jennings. "The Road Most Traveled: Yet Another Cultivation Critique." Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 30.2 (1986): 231-335.
  27. ^ Hughes, Michael. "The Fruits Of Cultivation Analysis: A Reexamination Of Some Effects Of Television Watching." Public Opinion Quarterly 44.3 (1980): 287.
  28. ^ a b c Chandler, Daniel. "Cultivation Theory." Aberystwyth University, 18 Sept. 1995. http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/cultiv.html
  • Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., Signorielli, N., & Jackson-Beeck, M. (1979). The Demonstration of Power: Violence Profile No. 10. Journal of Communication, 29, 177-196.
  • Morgan, M. (2009). Cultivation analysis and media effects. The SAGE Handbook of Media Processes and Effects.
  • Morgan, M., & Shanahan, J. (1999). Television and its viewers: Cultivation theory research.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Theory of Deep Democracy — Theory of Deep DemocracyThe theory of deep democracy makes a distinction between merely formal and deeper forms of democracy. Formal democracy is an important part of deep democracy, but it is merely a beginning or a necessary condition. In order …   Wikipedia

  • Cultivation System — or Culture System Revenue system in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) that forced farmers to pay revenue to The Netherlands in the form of export crops or compulsory labour. The system was introduced in 1830 by the colonial governor… …   Universalium

  • Scary World Theory — Infobox Album | Name = Scary World Theory Type = Album Artist = Lali Puna Released = October 13, 2001 (U.S.) Recorded = May June 2001 Genre = electronic, indie pop Length = 37:26 Label = Morr Music Producer = Mario Thaler Reviews = *Allmusic… …   Wikipedia

  • Classical theory of growth and stagnation — Classical economics refers to work done by a group of economists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The theories developed mainly focused on the way market economies functioned. Classical Economics study mainly concentrates on the… …   Wikipedia

  • Carneiro's Circumscription Theory — is an influential theory of the role of warfare in state formation in political anthropology, created by anthropologist Robert Carneiro (1927 ).The theory begins with some assumptions. Warfare usually disperses people rather than uniting them.… …   Wikipedia

  • Concerted cultivation — is a style of parenting that is marked by a parent s attempts to foster their child s talents through organized leisure activities. This parenting style is commonly exhibited in middle and upper class American families. Many have attributed… …   Wikipedia

  • Social development theory — In sociology, social development theory attempts to explain qualitative changes in the structure and framework of society, that help the society to better realize its aims and objectives. Development can be broadly defined in a manner applicable… …   Wikipedia

  • Attachment theory — …   Wikipedia

  • Miasma theory — Bad air redirects here. For the condition of air that does not meet the requirements of one or more biotic species, see Bad air quality. The miasma theory (also called the miasmatic theory) held that diseases such as cholera, chlamydia or the… …   Wikipedia

  • Marx's theory of human nature — Part of a series on Marxism …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.