Television and its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research
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The cultivation questions posed to respondents do not mention television, and the respondents' awareness of the source of their information is seen as irrelevant. The resulting relationships, if any, between the amount of television viewing and the tendency to respond to these questions in the terms of the dominant and repetitive facts, values, and ideologies of the world of television other things held constant illuminate television's contribution to viewers' conceptions of social reality.
For example, one of the most examined features of television is gender-role stereotyping. Study after study has found that women are under-represented and that most television characters are gender-typed Signorielli, ; Signorielli and Bacue, Two cultivation analyses focusing on gender roles examined children's responses to questions that dealt with gender-role attitudes and behaviors Morgan, ; Signorielli and Lears, b.
The questions that were related to gender-role attitudes asked if certain chores i. Responses to these questions were analyzed to indicate whether or not they reflected traditional gender-role divisions of labor.
The children's gender-role behaviors were also determined by asking which of these seven chores they did. In these studies, the "television answer" was the response that only girls should do "girl chores" i. With regard to the children's own behaviors, the "television answer" was indicating that they did those chores that were consistent with their gender. These studies found that those who watched more television typically gave more gender-stereotyped views about which chores should be done by boys and which should be done by girls.
The most well-known area of cultivation analysis has focused on the manifestation of television violence through the "mean-world syndrome" see Signorielli, These questions with the television answers in italics included the following:.
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Again, the results of these studies indicate that those who spend more time watching television's mean and dangerous world tend to have conceptions that the world in which they live is a mean and dangerous place. Cultivation analyses have also examined relationships between viewing and the conceptions that people have about aging i. As in most studies of media effects, the observable empirical evidence of cultivation tends to be modest in terms of its absolute size.
Consequently, there are no real control groups. Even "light" viewers watch some television and live in the same cultural environment as "heavy" viewers. But, if one argues that the messages are stable, that the medium is virtually ubiquitous, and that it is accumulated exposure that counts, then it seems reasonable that almost everyone should be affected, regardless of how much television they watch.
Television and Its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research
This means that the cards are stacked against finding evidence of cultivation. Therefore, the discovery of a systematic pattern of small but pervasive differences between light and heavy viewers may indicate far-reaching consequences.
Indeed, in study after study, the evidence continues to mount as to the viability of cultivation theory in explaining the cumulative, long-term effects of watching television. In summary, cultivation theory is an attempt to understand and explain the dynamics of television as a distinctive feature of the modern age. Cultivation analysis concentrates on the enduring and common consequences of growing up and living with television: the cultivation of stable, resistant, and widely shared assumptions, images, and conceptions that reflect the underlying dimensions, institutional characteristics, and interests of the medium itself.
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Cultivation analysis examines television as the common symbolic environment— the true "melting pot" of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Gerbner, George. George Gerbner, Larry P.
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Television and its Viewers
Watching alone increases the chance of cultivation. Level of familiarity with the situation portrayed — People who lack first-hand knowledge of reality depend on television to inform them, which makes cultivation likely to occur. Age — Young children who cannot comprehend motives or consequences as shown on TV are less likely to experience cultivation.
Some have argued that education, ethnicity and income level also play a part in the cultivation differential, but cultivation theorists claim that the amount of television watched overrides such factors.
Cultivation theorists focus the majority of their research on heavy viewers, or those who watch more than four hours of TV per day. Researchers approach cultivation studies by first analyzing TV content and how it is produced. Aspects taken into account include production limitations, the portrayal of women and ethnic minorities, and the amount of violence shown.
Researchers have documented some common indicators of cultivation among heavy TV viewers, such as the following:. Exaggerated fear of becoming the victim of a crime 2. General suspicion of people and their motives 3. Inflated perception of police activity. Critics of cultivation theory denounce its breadth and lack of categorization when it comes to content analysis. For example, cultivation theorists make no distinction between genres or types of violence; they view cartoon violence in the same light as realistic violence.
Just because a survey response reveals the presence of an effect does not mean television was the cause. Supporters of the theory contend that heavy viewers watch multiple genres of programming, which demands a cumulative study.
Also, analyzing other variables would be largely meaningless since television is present in American lives from birth. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Notify me of new posts by email. Assumptions Cultivation theory posits the following assumptions: 1. Cultivation Differential The disparity in the degree of cultivation between various television viewers is known as the cultivation differential.