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Cultivation Theory



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    Cultivation Theory: Reality Versus Fiction Cultivation theory is a social theory, which examines the long-term effects of television on American audiences of all ages. Developed by George Gerbner and Larry Gross of the University of Pennsylvania was the Cultural Indicator project, which was used to identify and track the ‘cultivated’ effects of television on viewers. At a very basic level, cultivation theory focuses on the role of the media in shaping how people perceive their social environment.

    Research in social psychology has highlighted many variables that can influence how people interpret their social environment, including attitudes, social norms, and accessible constructs (Higgins, 1996). So the idea that various psychological and sociological factors influence how people understand their social environment is well established. However, cultivation theory maintains that TV operates as the primary socializing agent in today’s world (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, Signorielli, and Shanahan, 2002).

    In other words, the culture that people learn is influenced heavily by the culture portrayed on TV. This is especially so for heavy viewers of TV. Cultivation theory suggests that the effects of television on users can be categorized in two groups: the first order effects and second order effects. First order effects refer to general view that one holds about life. Second order effect refers to the specific attitudes that one acquires as a result of exposure.

    Heavy viewing of television is perceived as ‘cultivating’ attitudes, which have high correlation to life presented on the television rather than the actual occurrences of everyday life. In other words, the more time a person spends watching television, the more likely he or she will believe in the social realities presented in the media. Television tends to create a general mentality about sexuality and violence, which in essence may induce such deviant behavior on the viewers.

    Cultivation theory also maintains that culture influences what is shown on TV so that there is a dynamic between TV and culture in that they can be mutually reinforcing, although this aspect has not been emphasized in previous research. However, it will become more important from a mental models perspective. Much of the early research on cultivation theory focused on the influence of TV violence on perceptions of social reality. According to cultivation theory, heavy viewers of TV should see the world as a more violent and hostile place than light viewers of TV.

    Literature Review Fear of Crime Cultivation theory suggests that widespread fear of crime is fueled in part by heavy exposure to violent dramatic programming on prime-time television. Although local television news sources presumes to give viewers factual stories about their media region, it relies heavily on sensational coverage of crime and other mayhem with particular emphasis on homicide and violence. This coverage could well increase fear of crime by cultivating expectations that victimization is both likely and beyond our control (Romer, Jamieson & Aday, 2003).

    The results from this study showed that the increases in crime coverage on national television news also appeared to increase fear. It therefore seems that the casual direction flows from local and national news coverage needs not reflect trends in crime as reported by the police. Also, the findings show that exposure to television news is strongly associated with the perception that crime is an important problem. The findings are consistent with the results, indicating that television news viewing is related to fear of crime (Romer, Jamieson & Aday, 2003).

    Crime coverage may not only condition viewers’ fears of victimization but may also affect perceptions of places were crime is likely to occur and the persons stereotypes as typical perpetrators (Romer, Jamieson & Aday, 2003). Media portrayals of sexual violence thus offer an image of the frequency and the nature of the crime, the people most likely to be at risk of becoming the victim and the people most likely to be the perpetrators. This treatment of the frequency and nature of the sexual violence suggests that sexual assault is committed mainly by strangers who attack their victims unexpectedly.

    This is a considerable misrepresentation. In the real world, most sexual offenders are intimates of the victim(s) (Custers and Bulck, 2013). The relationship between violent narratives and fear of crime is a major focus of cultivation theory. The principle proposition of cultivation theory is that over time the worldview of heavy television viewers starts to resemble the picture the world presented by television. This distorted worldview may then affect cognitive and emotional states such as people’s perceptions of crime risk victimization and fear of crime (Custers and Bulck, 2013).

    The results of this study showed that there were no direct, significant paths from either overall television exposure or exposure to specific television genres to fear of sexual violence. There were, however, indirect relationships between TV viewing and fear of sexual violence. The relationship between watching crime drama and perceived risk was much stronger in women who had no direct experience with crime (Custers and Bulck, 2013). This study was conducted in Belgium, which it is important to know that different cultures may have different may have another view of society presented through storytelling.

    Body Image Over past studies scholars have observed how health and body sizes are perceived all through the media, in particular how viewers compare their body image to the ones they see throughout television (Dutta, 2007; Gentles & Harrison, 2006; Khajehnoori, 2011; Nabi, 2009). Dutta did this study based off two separate studies. One study showed individuals that learned health information from multiple television programs were most likely to be healthier than those who did not learn any health information from television programs.

    The first study was measured by the different programs that informed its viewers about diseases and how to prevent them. The programs that were used for this study included everything from the news to soap operas, indicating that no matter what the content is the messages about it is still the same regardless of the program that comes on. The second study involved 99 students that were randomly chosen. The researches began the study by providing a survey that asked students about how much health information they knew about. Following this they watched a 10-minute news report about health and were asked what they learned from it.

    The two differences in these studies were based on the consumer (viewer) and producer (television programs). Gentles and Harrison (2006) along with Khajehnoori (2011) focused their study on body images and how young adults view their own. Gentles and Harrison scaled their audience down to mainly young African American girls. This study points the television perspective of young African women body type and compares it how these women view themselves. The data collected for this study was based off 61 young African American females, in which all participants cam from all different body types.

    This study was measured based on how young African American females thought their friends think they should appear along with what they thought they should appear as. Khajehnoori took a different approach on body images and connected it with the new media along with the old. Her research indicated that the old form of media did not have much of an effect on people when it came to body images. However, the new form of media had a significant influence on people and their body image. Although these two studies went about their findings in two different ways, their results came back the same.

    Media does play a huge role in our society, and the images that come across the screen help shape the viewers’ images on their own appearance. As some viewers become aware of their body images they begin to start watching programs that highlight cosmetic surgeries. Nabi (2009) focuses this study on how programs televise unnecessary surgical procedures that influence its viewers that it is necessary to have surgery. This study was done in two parts. Part one consisted of a survey of 170 undergraduates, all of whom were either male or females who had seen a makeover or cosmetic show.

    Since most of cosmetic surgeries are done on females, part two was primarily done on 271 women, as like part one most of the participants have seen a makeover or cosmetic show. After the study was done the results indicated that viewers look towards the media as a way for them to improve themselves to be present for the real world. With all four studies, television programs have an effect on how viewers view themselves. With the cultivation theory, the projected audience has a specific reason to why they watch these programs, regardless of them being influenced to a certain extent.

    Perception of Disability This study researches how the media has a substantial impact on public attitudes toward individuals with disabilities. While film is often considered a reflection of society, it also serves a critical education function. Many early movies used disabilities to heighten the effect of comedies and melodramas, and frequently presented the stereotypes of individual as victim or villain, or as seeking revenge for their disability. The disability rights view provides a political perspective to the investigation of film and society.

    It highlights the potential consequences of negative images and how the entertainment industry profits from these often distorted depictions. Using the Monthly Film Review from 1977 to 1979 found that of 287 feature length films, 33 contained disability depictions (Sanfran, 1998). From 1986 to 1988, 67 people with disabilities were portrayed in 53 of 302 films, and more than half were victimized. One hundred and sixty two people completed Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons scale and identified their gender, degree of contact with people with disabilities, and the number of movies viewed featuring people with disabilities.

    Results showed a low positive correlation between movies viewed and attitude (Sanfran, 1998). Sanfran investigated the frequency of Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress awarded to films featuring persons with disabilities. He found that since the Award’s inception, 16% involved “disability” movies. Numbers dramatically increased from just 3% in the 1930s to more than 44% in the 1990s, with psychiatric being the most frequent. Finally, initial imperial data suggests that feature length films can have a positive impact on attitudes.

    Viewers of positive portrayals of the disabled on television programs and in the movies were more likely to perceive discrimination and less likely to say they had negative emotions when encountering people with disabilities, but more often said they were uncomfortable with them. Having a close friend or relative with a disability was generally unrelated to perceptions of discrimination, but was associated with less frequently having negative emotions and more often feeling uncomfortable with disabilities (Farnall, Olan; Smith, Kim A, 1999).

    Viewers of positive portrayals of the disabled on television programs and in the movies were more likely to perceive discrimination and less likely to say they had negative emotions when encountering people with disabilities, but more often said they were uncomfortable with them. Having a close friend or relative with a disability was generally unrelated to perceptions of discrimination, but was associated with less frequently having negative emotions and more often feeling uncomfortable with disabilities (Farnall, Olan; Smith, Kim A, 1999).

    Political Knowledge This study indicates whether or not fictional television programs affect society’s perception on policy issues. Fictional narratives on television hold the potential for persuasive influence on real world political views. Also this study states that audiences of fictional television are more likely to include those with weekly held political views, whereas viewers of nonfictional content are more likely to have high levels of political knowledge and thus stronger opinions.

    Only adult participants were recruited through a temporary employment agency in Philadelphia, PA. All participants were paid for their participation in the experiment, and each filled out a previewing background questionnaire, viewed television for 40 minutes, and then answered the post-test questionnaire. A total of 86 participants watched one of the programs, one person at a time. The participants were specifically asked how the program they watched had portrayed the legal system and law enforcement officials.

    The experimental design included four conditions in a 2×2 factorial design. The researchers contrasted episodes of the crime series Law and Order, one that negatively portrays the criminal justice system and another that positively portrays the criminal justice system. The results established that the experimental participants viewed the factional content of the crime programs as providing different portrayals of the criminal justice system. Television Exposure The purpose of the present study is to develop and test a scale for measuring long term television exposure.

    This study goes on to talk about that the more time people spend “living” in the television world; the more likely they are to believe social reality aligns with the reality portrayed on television. Young adults were the main focus for this particular study. The young adult sample allows for a comparison between heavy and light television viewers among people from the same generation. Participants were 207 undergraduate students at a large university. The participants were asked how often they watched television in an average day.

    The major limitation of the present study is the use of a young adult student sample limiting the generalizability of the results, in large part because this particular age group was asked to remember time periods that were relatively recent. It will be more difficult to ask older age groups what they watched when they were elementary and high school. The results still suggest that measuring young adults memories of past television exposure levels might increase the understanding of cultivation effects.

    Ultimately the data suggests that television viewing during early childhood has an effect on people’s beliefs about the social world as young adults. The creators of the cultivation hypothesis, social construction of reality, argue that cultivation is an effect resulting from a person’s total exposure to television. In this study, total exposure is compared with four alternative operationalizations of television viewing: exposure to types of programs, program-type exposure under controls for total viewing proportional exposure among show types, and a weighted proportion (Potter & Chang, 1990).

    Exposure to total patter rather than to specific genres or programs is therefore what accounts for the historically distinct consequences of living with television: the cultivation of shared conceptions of reality among otherwise diverse publics (Gerbner, 1994). The purpose of this particular study is to determine whether those who spend more time with television are more likely to perceive social reality in ways that reflect the potential lessons of the television world than are those who watch less television but are otherwise comparable to the heavy viewers. Gender-Role Stereotypes

    This study investigates whether or not animated superheroes were portrayed in gender-role stereotypical ways. Granted, the use of stereotypical portrayals within television programs are a necessity; viewers must be given shortcuts to understand characters and the roles they play for the narratives to be conveyed in a short period of time. However, stereotypes as standardized images or generalizations, particularly those based on misconceptions, can present a problem, especially to children. Past studies indicate that gender-role stereotyping is prevalent on television in general and in children’s animated programming specifically.

    Studies conducted over the past 40 years have consistently reported a vast underrepresentation of females in animated programming, and when females are features, they typically were portrayed in a stereotypical way (Baker & Raney, 2007). Analysis Recent research has established the stability of the cultivation differential across different variables and populations, showing a remarkable consistency in the direction predicted by theory. Studies consistently demonstrate that animated programs are the preferred format for children starting at 18 to 24 months of age.

    Although many adults contend that cartoons are obviously fantastical, unrealistic, and therefore harmless to children, the research evidence is to the contrary. According to the developmental literature, children before the age of 10 years often have difficulty consistently distinguishing between reality and fantasy (Baker & Raney, 2007). Heavy viewers of television often believe that the world presented in the media is a depiction of the actual reality. Cultivation theory also suggests that watching television for an extended period of time is likely to induce certain attitudes towards sexuality and violence.

    The viewers cultivate such attitudes based on the existing societal attitudes. However, the media re-package attitudes so as to catch the attention of the audience. It is sad that many viewers are ignorant of the extent to which they absorb the attitudes presented in the media. They may perceive themselves as moderate viewers yet in essence they are heavy viewers/users. The more a person absorbs the notion of the media, the more he/she is influenced. The media and television in particular have a significant impact on shaping the beliefs and the attitudes in the society.

    Viewing of television has a strong correlation with the conceptions that a person holds in regard to issues of life. Heavy viewers tend to have more convergent opinions than light viewers. For instance, heavy viewers of incidences of violence tend to believe that the world is insecure while light viewers may not believe it. Methodology Participants have to be 18 years old or older to be included in the study. A two-step randomization model was used for selecting participants. First, 55 cities or towns in St. Louis would be randomly selected. Next, 40 addresses will be randomly selected from the telephone directory of each city or town.

    A random walk protocol will be used to select houses starting from the selected addresses. The interviewers have to interview the member of the household who was the first in line to celebrate his or her birthday. If nobody answers or when the person thus selected is not home, the research will have to return at a later date and try to initiate contact three times before they are allowed to use a replacement address. This procedure is designed to avoid under sampling of active people and those not listed in directories. Interviewers will follow this procedure until they have 20 successful interviews (Custers & Bulk, 2013).

    Demographic variables were controlled such as age, relationship status, income, and level of education. An example of a question that will be asked regarding education will be to choose from the following five categories; a) no education, b) secondary education, c) primary education, d) college education, and e) university. Another example would be regarding income by simply asking what their net monthly family income is. Overall television viewing would be measured by asking the respondents to estimate the number of hours they watch television during a weekday. A similar question will be asked regarding Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

    Friday is included as a weekend because that is when the weekend starts. To measure selective television exposure a Likert Scale will be used 1 (never) to 7 (almost every day). The main question will be, “How often do you watch the following television programs? ” The genres that will be used would be news, crime drama, and reality crime. The reason these were chosen is because within these genres there is crime, gender-role stereotyping, and politics. Television news presented local and national news. Reality crime will consist of Most Shocking and LA Forensics. Crime drama shows would consist of CSI NY, Law and Order, and NCIS.

    A questionnaire would be given to find out how people feel after watching the particular shows that were chosen. A few examples: “While watching these shows gender-role stereotyping was blatant? ” “While watching these show, you felt this is what happens in real life? ” “While watching these shows you felt this is how cops and detectives act in reality? ” The answers will be averaged to give the researchers some idea of how people feel when it comes to fiction versus reality. Conclusion The purpose of this project was to research how cultivation theory is applied. I only used a few examples throughout the paper.

    The argument that drove my research was arguing what cultivation theorists’ drive their research on. I do not feel that people cannot make out the differences between fiction and reality. The more I did the research the more I could see where cultivation theorists were coming from. The goal of the project is to further study whether or not people are influenced by television or not. References Baker, K. & Raney, A. A. (2007). Equally Super? : Gender-Role Stereotyping of Superheroes in Children’s Animated Programs. Mass Communication and Society, 10(1), 25-41 Brown, J. D. (2002). Mass Media Influences on Sexuality.

    The Journal of Sex Research, 39(1), 42-45 Custers, K. & Van Den Bulk, J. (2013). The Cultivation of Fear of Sexual Violence in Women. Communication Research, 40(1), 96-124. doi: 10. 1177/0093650212440444 Gerbner, G. , Gross, L. , Morgan, M. , Signorielli, N. , & Shanahan, J. (2002). Growing up with Television: Cultivation Processes. In Bryant, J. & Zillmann, D. , Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research (43-51). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaun Associates, Inc. Holmstrom, A. J. (2004). The Effects of the Media on Body Image: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 48(2), 196-217 Myers, Jr. P. N. & Biocca, F. A. (1992). The Elastic Body Image: The Effect of Television Advertising and Programming on Body Image Distortions in Young Women. Journal of Communication, 42(3), 108-133 Olan, F. & Smith, K. A. (1999). Reactions to People with Disabilities: Personal Contact Versus Viewing of Specific Media Portrayals. ProQuest, 76 (4), 659-672. Potter, W J. , & Chang, I. C. (1990). Television Exposure Measures and the Cultivation Hypothesis. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 34(3), 313-333 Riddle, K. (2010). Remembering Past Media Use: Toward the Development of a Lifetime Television Exposure Scale.

    Communication Methods & Measures, 4(3), 241-255. doi: 10. 1080/19312458. 2010. 505500 Romer, D, Jamieson, K. H. , & Aday, S. (2003). Television News and the Cultivation of Fear of Crime. Journal of Communication, 53(1), 88-104. doi: 10. 1111/j. 1460-2466. 2003. tb03007. x Safran, S. (1998). Disability portrayal in film: Reflecting the past, directing the future. Exceptional Children, 64 (2). Stadler, Jane. (2006). ‘Media and Disability’. In: Brian Watermeyer, Leslie Swartz, Teresa Lorenzo, and Mark Priestly (ed), Disability and Social Chang. 4th ed. South Africa: HSRS Press. pp. (373-385).

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