Cultivation Theory Abstract

A Critical Analysis of Cultivation Theory


Using George Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory, the purpose of this study was to test whether or not the content of things shown on television affect the viewer’s social reality and fears.

There are three premises within Cultivation theory: Institutional Process Analysis, Message System Analysis, and Cultivation Analysis. By applying these premises between television exposure and cultivation indicators, the author states that, “commercial television, unlike other media, presents an organically composed total world of interrelated stories (both drama and news) produced to the same set of market specifications” (Potter, 2014, p. 1018).

The research study that’s conducted each year in the U.S. asked citizens several questions about their media consumption:

  • How many hours of television do you watch a week on average?
  • During any given week, what are your chances of being involved in some kind of violence? (One in ten? One in one hundred?)

The methodology that was used throughout this study was by using the results from a randomly sampled annual national telephone survey of households to represent the U.S. adult population. Respondents were only used once, rather than continually asking the same people to see if there were any changes in the individual’s beliefs or TV exposure.

The test used two procedures when evaluating the answers, “One procedure was to compute the degree of relationship between viewing level and the selection of an answer on the cultivation indicator…the other procedure was to calculate…a cultivation differential, which was the difference between the percentage of respondents in the heavy viewing group who selected the TV world answer compared to the percentage of respondents in the light viewing group who selected the TV world answer.” (Potter, 2014, p. 1019).

The study’s overall findings were that if a person is a moderate or heavy viewer, they tend to develop phobias and views of the world as a result of a program on TV. The author does challenge Gerbner’s studies by saying that the research is rather weak and has not been documented very well, making it difficult to be evaluated over a period of time.

In the future, the author believes that if researchers can deliver a more precise way to articulate its ideas, it will have a stronger argument in how the media can affect a person’s beliefs about the world.


Potter, W. J. (2014). A Critical Analysis of Cultivation Theory. Journal Of Communication64(6), 1015-1036. doi:10.1111/jcom.12128


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