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Communication Theory: Chapter 29

Cultivation Theory of George Gerbner
by

Christine Clapp

on 18 October 2012

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Transcript of Communication Theory: Chapter 29

TV's power comes from the symbolic content of the real-life drama shown hour after hour, week after week. At its root, television is society's institutional storyteller, and a society's stories give "a coherent picture of what exists, what is important, what is related to what, and what is right." pg. 366 Cultivation Theory Message system analysis Second prong of Gerbner's cultural indicators paradigm.

Uses content analysis to study the messages that TV project. Gerbner studied violence, but this method can be used to focus on any type of TV content.

Gerbner definition of dramatic violence rules out verbal abuse, idle threats, and pie-in-the-face slapstick.
Gerbner found that the annual index of violence is both high and stable.
Equal violence, unequal risk:
The cumulative portrayal of violence varies little from year to year.
Minority groups are often the recipients of violence on TV, despite their underrepresentation.

Institutional process analysis First prong of Gerbner's cultural indicators paradigm.

Research that addresses scholars’ concern for the reasons why media produce the message they do.

Scholars in this research attempt to understand what policies or practices might be lurking behind the scenes of media organizations. George Gerbner Television has surpassed religion as the key storyteller in our culture.

Violence is television’s principal message, and particularly for devoted viewers. Heavy television viewing creates an exaggerated belief in a mean and scary world.

Gerbner was concerned that violence affects viewers’ beliefs about the world around them and the feelings connected to those beliefs, more than it affects viewers’ behavior.

Cultivation theory is not limited to TV violence, but it can help people theorize about other TV affects and the affects of how people view social reality. Cultivation analysis Third prong of Gerbner's cultural indicators paradigm.

Cultivation analysis deals with how TV’s content might affect viewers.

Television viewing cultivates ways of seeing the world, based on the images, values, portrayals, and ideologies shown on TV.

Two main propositions guided Gerbner's thinking on cultivation: mainstreaming and resonance. Theoretical critiques Critics are not convinced that cultivation research establishes the causal claim that heavy TV viewing leads a person to perceive the world as mean and scary.

Testability is seen as low because there is a lack of longitudinal studies.

Cultivation effects tend to be statistically small.

The theory must adapt to the new media environment of cable and satellite. Mainstreaming is the process by which heavy viewers develop a commonality of outlook through constant exposure to the same images and labels.

TV homogenizes its audience so that heavy viewing habits share the same orientations, perspectives, and meanings with each other causing people to share common perceptions of reality that resembles the TV world.

Gerbner illustrates the mainstream effect by showing how television types blur economic and political distinctions.

1. They assume that they are middle class.
2. They believe they are political moderates.
3. In fact, heavy viewers tend to be conservative.

Traditional differences diminish among people with heavy viewing habits. Mainstreaming:
Blurring, blending, and bending of viewer attitudes. The resonance process causes the power of TV’s messages to be stronger.

Viewers perceive the world depicted on TV as a world very much like their own based on resonance assumptions. Resonance:
The TV world looks like my world, so it must be true. Cultivation takes time, so you can't use experiments to study, must use survey and, ideally, longitudinal studies.


Gerbner’s basic prediction was that heavy TV viewers would be more likely than light viewers to see the social world as resembling the world depicted on TV.

Research has found:
As TV viewing increases, so does the tendency for fear of victimization.
Perceived activity of police – people with heavy viewing habits believe that five percent of society is involved in law enforcement.
General mistrust of people – heavy viewers are more suspicious of people’s motives

Research on cultivation analysis.
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