Cultivation, also known as cultivation theory or cultivation analysis, is the area of communication research that investigates relationships between exposure to television and beliefs and attitudes about the world. Briefly, cultivation hypothesizes that heavy viewers of television will be more likely to hold beliefs and conceptions about the world that are congruent with what they see on television. For example, television programs are often seen to be highly violent; cultivation hypothesizes that heavy viewers of television will be more likely to see the world as a violent place.

Cultivation was an outgrowth of the Cultural Indicators project, a research program begun by George Gerbner at the Annenberg School for Communication in the late 1960s. The Cultural Indicators project began by documenting levels of violence and other socially relevant information 254 Cultivation Theory (such as portrayals of women and minorities) in prime-time and children’s programs. As the project began to assert that, for instance, television was overtly and overly violent, cultivation was developed as a way to ascertain whether viewing contributed in any way to viewers’ conceptions and beliefs about the world.

The basic hypothesis of cultivation, though questioned by some, is that watching a great deal of television will be associated with a tendency to hold specific and distinct conceptions of reality, conceptions that are congruent with the most consistent and pervasive images and values of the medium. Yet there has been a great deal of interest in, criticism of, debate about, and support for the basic idea of cultivation, a research tradition that continues to be strong over 30 years after its inception.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.322-323

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