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The cultivation theory was proposed by George Gerbner. It is one of the core theories of media effects. According to the theory, people who watch television frequently are more likely to be influenced by the messages from the world of television. The influence goes to such an extent that their world view and perceptions start reflecting what they repeatedly see and hear on television. Television is,therefore, considered to contribute independently to the way people perceive social reality.

cultivation theory

Hallgerd/dollar photo club


The theory postulates that watching television frequently influences an individual to develop certain ideas of reality or beliefs and assumptions about life that mirror the most consistent or universal values that are showcased on television. The more a person watches television, the more likely he is to be influenced by what he watches when compared to others who watch less but share other similar demographic characteristics.

Cultivation Theory

The theory argues that the media generally presents an image of the world that does not reflect reality. Television images are an exaggeration or fantasy of what actually exists. There is a disproportionate number of handsome gentlemen,beautiful women, crime, wealth and violence. As a result, people end up perceiving the real world in a distorted manner and viewing actuality through a ‘television perspective.’

Television offers a plethora of ideas and conceptions on a variety of social and cultural dynamics like race, gender, sexuality, etc. Over a period of time, a fixed image of various groups of people is formed and viewers start to absorb these ideas which they then use as a map to navigate through life. This constant exposure to the media content cultivates specific values, beliefs, attitudes and desires in people. These newly preconceived notions shape their perception of the world and they ultimately influence how others perceive them. People, therefore, end up unconsciously shaping their thought processes and behaviour based on what they consume. In today’s world, people are increasingly starting to depend on television more than any other medium to understand the intricate web of the norms, values and mindset of the society in which they live.

Cultivation theory research views television as a system of messages and tries to understand its function and consequences on an audience. These messages complement one another and are organic and coherent in nature. Cultivation analysis focuses on the impact of long term cumulative exposure to television.

Application of Theory

Various studies have supported the claim that those who watch television more frequently, often display higher tendencies of being depressed and lonely, sense of alienation, have feelings of mistrust and think that the world is a malicious place. A study conducted in an experimental setting saw the outcome, at the end of the test period, that students who watch more action-adventure programs during a six month period are more likely to believe that the world was a very dangerous place. They also believe that there is a high chance that they would be personally involved in a violent incident. This is in stark contrast compared to the attitudes of other students who did not watch as many action-adventure shows as the test group.

Research by L.J.Shrum has shown that people who watch television frequently are more likely to answer questions faster as well. They also give answers that reflect the messages or images that are the most common or repeated on television.

The cultivation theory has been widely used in the study of violence in television. The theory has been used to explain how children who watch violent cartoons become violent themselves. Repeated exposure to violence on television reinforces existing beliefs that the world is a dangerous and unsafe place. Exposure to television further strengthens the position that acts of violence are a natural response to situations of conflict. Over the years, research in the field has diversified and today, cultivation theory is applied to studies on health, religion, sex roles, political orientations, etc.

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Khadija Kanwal January 28, 2012, 3:24 pm

    thumbs up

  • Maya February 15, 2012, 12:24 pm

    It gives full detail about communication theory. Thanks…….

  • ndonwie bruno March 3, 2012, 4:39 pm

    thanks,all i wanted to know ,i’ve known it all

  • Mirza Ahmed Baig April 5, 2012, 3:30 am

    It is a wonderful idea to study the audience as a passive and shut up from what is going on around them. I think the opposite is to consider them very much active in the congnative process and mental upgradation which media poses to be champion. If you try ot hide the facts then you are expecting rather more damaging effects. But the concept that when you say a thing many many times the audience at least want to try it and it is all about consumption and advertisement. When audience are selective over programs they will become the agenda setters, have an upper hand and in this way try to think independently over the view point being described over any medium of mass communication. The theroy of uses and gratificaitons explains it. But you cannot have escape form undaunted advertisements of one product or the other. Zippig is the way to get rid of this menace for the time being but agin the audience have to see another advrtisement which means more and more consumption, spending, may be law lessness and an immoral activity.

  • eddyyubz July 7, 2015, 9:31 pm


  • Brian Owens July 13, 2015, 8:31 pm

    Hi, I am seeking clarification on the question below.
    How can you relate Cultivation theory and the use of picture in communication.Some authors have proposed that visual communication has a higher impact in individuals as compared to written texts.Do you think the theory supports the use of pictures in communicating messages more than texts and why?

  • Priscilla Gouldbourne September 29, 2015, 7:11 am

    The fact that this is even allowed to happen should be a crime. It was stated earlier in the reading that in today’s world people are starting to depend on television to figure out what the norms of life are, but how can you really do such a thing? They use t.v. to understand the values and mindset of the society in which they live in which is comical in a way just for the simple fact that the society in which they live in, is totally different then what they are watching and trying to understand. It makes no sense to me at all but it is working on a lot of folks.

  • pamela May 20, 2016, 5:04 pm

    Thanks l have fully understand the theory

  • Hasnain Raza September 27, 2016, 2:00 am

    What is mainstreaming and resonance?

  • Shane April 17, 2017, 9:17 pm

    please how does cultivation theory related to commercial interruption?

  • kath November 30, 2017, 7:31 pm

    this is a very big help for my thesis study, thanks! but i also wanna ask if when was the exact year cultivation theory was published? hoping for your reply ASAP.

  • Noman Nawaz March 29, 2018, 11:13 am


  • Kemal March 21, 2019, 12:26 am

    That was really helpful for my presentation. Thank you.

  • Tycoon Typhoon June 27, 2019, 2:42 pm

    Wow, Thank you my scholar, because you’ve enlighten me about the “Cultivation Theory” and now I know more about it. I’ll make sure that I get 100% in my assessment.

  • Nandita Gon September 26, 2019, 8:58 pm

    Very understandable

  • Adama Hawa January 6, 2020, 9:50 pm

    Thanks for the full date of cultivation theory
    I really enjoy reading it.

  • Naresh Kumar Sahoo April 26, 2020, 6:28 pm

    Article is very very educative and useful.

  • Kispass ug April 10, 2021, 7:02 pm

    thanks for the helpful information

  • Mwenda Elias April 19, 2021, 6:22 pm

    Thanks, it’s an authentic info to me. The theory is true and I have been a victim of it myself

  • hilder May 20, 2021, 3:44 pm

    thnks xo much hv truely understood the cultivation theory

  • haya June 10, 2021, 8:20 pm

    how cultivation theory relate with the viewer perception regarding political talk shows

  • olaniyi akinola June 21, 2021, 1:36 pm

    This really rocks me, so understandable. The impact of tv in human reality.


  • MERINDA August 2, 2021, 4:03 am

    Pls How can I analyse the cultivation theory using one’s personal television viewing habits. Is an assignment m battling with pls help

  • Afra November 29, 2021, 11:02 pm

    You’re sure know how to explain the theories.
    It’s so good that when I need any theory explained I just search for your site…
    Keep it up love.

  • Hari April 26, 2022, 6:00 pm

    Would be great if the article included details regarding “mean world syndrome”, a concept related to Cultivation theory.

  • diyar jabar April 14, 2023, 1:42 am

    if you are an English native speaker? think how lucky you are. I’m from Kurdistan(Iraqi Kurdistan) focusing to know the meaning is really annoying! and it won’t be like my native language! but yeah let’s talk about Cultivation Theory, I think it’s a weapon media can use for bad purposes or for good! and this article should include the positive sides and the negative sides

  • Gedion Sakao April 23, 2023, 6:04 pm

    Using this Resource for a university project-

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