Cultivation theory  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Cultivation theory is a social theory which examined the long-term effects of television on American audiences.

Developed by George Gerbner and Larry Gross of the University of Pennsylvania, cultivation theory derived from several large-scale research projects as part of an overall research project entitled 'Cultural Indicators'. The purpose of the Cultural Indicators project was to identify and track the 'cultivated' effects of television on viewers. They were "concerned with the effects of television programming (particularly violent programming) on the attitudes and behaviors of the American public" (Miller, 2005, p. 281).

Gerbner and Gross (1976) assert that the overall concern about the effects of television on audiences stemmed from the unprecedented centrality of television in American culture. They posited that television as a mass medium of communication had formed in to a common symbolic environment that bound diverse communities together, socializing people in to standardized roles and behaviours. They compared the power of television to the power of religion, saying that television was to modern society what religion once was in earlier times.

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