Television and Its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research

Television and Its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research

Television and Its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research

Television and Its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research


How does television influence people? "Cultivation" research examines the relationship between how much television people watch and what they believe: avid viewers' beliefs are very different from those of occasional viewers. James Shanahan and Michael Morgan, leading scholars in this field, explore the differences in viewers' beliefs on issues such as violence, sex roles and political attitudes. Their compelling account, the first book-length study of this important and controversial area, will be of interest to students and scholars in communication, sociology, political science and psychology.


Supreme among the many available symbols of postmodern progress and alienation–more than political assassinations, microwave ovens, gene splicing, moonwalks, family breakdown, AIDS, ozone depletion, youth culture, suburban sprawl, the Cold War, feminism, the computer explosion, Watergate, ethnic conflicts, fast food, homelessness, minivans and economic globalization–the ultimate icon for the final half of the twentieth century is television. Although television predates the 1950s and will certainly survive the millennium, there is no gainsaying that for roughly fifty years the medium has permeated every corner of public and private space, shaping consciousness, defining our “reality, ” drawing us together, and pulling us apart, in ways that will uniquely enshrine this historical period as The Age of Television.

Over the past five decades, television has been a perennial and vexing object of passionate debate. Upon it has been heaped immense cultural and intellectual scorn. Feared by the righteous and not-so-righteous, ridiculed by those who never fail to miss their favorite shows, television is continuously lambasted, lampooned and impugned, serving as the culture's straw-man and whipping-boy; yet it is also consumed–assiduously, diligently, almost religiously–by most of us, and in massive doses. There is no better example of a “love-hate relationship” than that between television and contemporary society.

Parents, teachers, academics, politicians, moral guardians, social critics, those who work in the medium, and those who simply watch it without thinking much about it, have all offered a vast array of charges, counter-charges, complaints, defenses, interpretations and opinions about just what this device is and what it may be doing to us and our children. Although other media “panics” may pop up from time to time, such as those surrounding raunchy rock lyrics, horror comics, gory films, violent video games, and pornography on the Internet, television usually remains the most likely suspect, the focus of the most recurring social concern and the medium to which we are most–in the end–devoted.

Television, both as technology and institution, has changed on many . . .

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