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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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Cultivation Theory

Television Fiction as a Vector of Socialization

Jan Van den Bulck

ABSTRACT

Cultivation theory was developed by George Gerbner of the Annenberg School for Communication and his colleagues in the late 1960s. The theory argues that by overemphasizing certain aspects of social reality (such as violent crime) and underrepresenting other aspects, television drama affects people's perceptions of reality. Even though it has attracted a lot of criticism, it is one of the three most generative theories in the field of communication research. In recent years much attention has focused on the study of psychological processes. This chapter argues that there are many challenges cultivation theory will face in the coming years. Both the fact that television viewing behavior is changing rapidly and the fact that only small relationships have been found need methodological attention. Developing a sociological theory of the long-term impact of television stories on culture and socialization may be the way forward.

George Gerbner and his colleagues of the Annenberg School for Communication started to develop the cultivation model of media effects in the late 1960s. In 1976 Gerbner and Gross, writing in the Journal of Communication, called the cultivation perspective a “new approach to research.” By the time this article was published Gerbner and his team had been collecting and compiling data for nearly 10 years.

Gerbner based his theory on the observation that much socialization ...

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