Cultivation Analysis: an Overview

Cultivation Analysis: On Overview The complete scope of the effects that new media mediums, in particular television, have had on culture and individuals in society are hard to identify. However, it would be hard to argue that television has had no impact on society and how individuals form their values, beliefs, cultural identity and social norms. Cultivation Analysis is a leading theory that explains how television has shaped individual’s and society’s perspective on reality, truths and the world in general.
The theory was developed over a number of years by George Gerbner and his colleague Larry Goss at the University of Pennsylvania while they were researching the cultivated impacts that television has on viewers. Gerbner and Goss found that the more time individuals “live” in a televised world the more they perceive the world television portrays as reality. Gerbner states in his more recent research that television is to the modern world what religion was to earlier generations (Gerbner & Goss, 1976).
The theory of Cultivation Analysis traces back to the Cultural Indicators Project in 1967 and 1968. The study was for the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. The study was sponsored by the U. S. Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, the National Institute of Mental Health, The White House Office of Telecommunications Policy, the American Medical Association, the U. S. Administration on Aging, and the National Science Foundation. Gerbner was the lead theorist of the study.

Gerbner and his team investigated the extent to which television contributed to viewers’ ideas and perspectives on gender, minority and age-role stereotypes, health, science, the family, education, politics, religion and several other topics. The Cultural Indicators Project involved a three-pronged research strategy. The first prong, called institutional process analysis, was designed to investigate how policies directing the massive flow of media were developed. The second prong is an on-going research project that has recorded weeklong samples of U. S. etwork television dramas. A content analysis of the samples is done in order to classify trends and themes in the world that television presents to its viewers. The third prong deals with examining the responses to questions about social reality among individuals with varying amounts of television exposure. The three prongs used in the Cultural Indicators Project were used to help Gerbner and Goss do research for the development of Cultivation Analysis (Gerbner, 1998). Providing explanation for the terminology used in Cultivation Analysis is crucial to understand the theory.
Gerbner uses the concept of “cultivation” to refer to the independent contribution that television has on its viewers as they make sense of social reality. The term “cultivation differential” refers to the marginal difference between heavy and light television viewers and their conception of social reality. The term cultivation cannot simply be substituted for “effects. ” Cultivation also does not imply a one-way process. The cultivation process explains that there is an interaction between the medium, television, and its publics, television viewers.
Television does not simply just create or reflect certain images, opinions or beliefs but rather is an integral aspect of a dynamic process. Institutions that control the creation and distribution of the mass-produced messages on television use the institution’s needs and objectives to shape the views, values and ideas expressed. Gerbner refers to cultivation as a gravitational process. The process depends on where groups of viewers are, viewers style of life and the strength of their personal beliefs, values and view of social reality (Gerbner & Goss, 1976).
Cultivation Analysis begins with a message system analysis that identifies the most recurring, stable and overarching patterns in television content. They are the messages in television that are presented as a system rather than as a specific message in a particular program. Using standard techniques of survey methodology, questions are then posed to sample groups of adults, teens and/or children. Multiple indicators determine the amount of time spent watching television. The difference between heavy and light viewing is made on a case-by-case basis.
Cultivation is also dependent on how much television’s messages dominate viewers’ sources of information. The process of mainstreaming stands out as both an indicator of differential vulnerability and as a general pattern that represents the consequences of living with television (Gerbner, 1998). In 1976, George Gerbner and Larry Goss discuss the findings of Cultivation Analysis, which helped with the development of the theory. Gerbner and Goss found differences between symbolic reality and independently observable reality. For example, they found that television underrepresents elderly people (when at the time the lderly population was the fastest growing). They found that the facts of the television world are learned quite well, regardless of whether the viewer believes what they see on television and claim to be able to distinguish between factual and fictional presentations. In this essay, they develop the term “mean world syndrome. ” The term means that heavy viewers of television believe the world to be much more violent and dangerous than in reality. This is a good example of what the theory of cultivation analysis represents. If people are exposed to high amounts of television, it causes them to have a false sense of reality.
In television, half of all majors characters encounter a violent action each week, when in reality the FBI reported that only one percent of people in the United States are victims of criminal violence (Gerbner & Goss, 1976). Cultivation Analysis is a complex and dynamic process. The theory can be defined as the assumption that television cultivates facts, norms and values of society that are in reality, untrue. Cultivation Analysis focuses on the consequences of long-term exposure to the messages, stories and images presented in television.
Cultivation Analysis should not be seen as a substitute, but as a complement to traditional approaches to media effects. It concentrates on the powerful and lasting effects of growing up in an era of television. The theory is still being challenged, confirmed, added to and expanded on by many theorist and scholars in the fields of communication and psychology (Gerbner, 1998). References: Gerbner, G. (1998). Cultivation analysis: An overview. Mass Communications & Society, 3(4), 175-194. Gerbner, G. , & Goss, L. (1976). Living with television: The violence profile. Journal of Communications, 26(2), 172-194.

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