Gerbner's hypothesis that heavy television viewing tends to cultivate attitudes towards the social world that are based on the world represented onscreen. The mass media act as a socializing agent, cultivating values which are already present in a culture. Gerbner argued that the over-representation of violence on television constitutes a symbolic message about law and order (see symbolic violence). For instance, the action-adventure genre acts to reinforce a faith in law and order, the status quo, and social justice (baddies usually get their just deserts). Cultivation researchers have argued that television has long-term attitudinal effects which are small, gradual, indirect, but cumulative and significant: viewers come to believe the television version of reality the more they watch it, most notably over-estimating the amount of violence in everyday life. The difference in the pattern of responses between light and heavy viewers is referred to as the cultivation differential, reflecting the extent to which an attitude seems to be shaped by watching television. However, critics note that correlation is not proof of a causal relationship (see causation). See also effects; mean world syndrome; violence debate.
http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/cultiv.html Cultivation theory
Subjects: Media Studies.