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It was a dark and wintery Plattsburgh night in late December. I went to the monopole to meet George Gerbner. He was the theorist behind the Cultivation Theory. I have grown to become a huge fan of him and his work. After months of begging him he agreed to meet me one night after his speech at a local college. I was going to meet Gerbner at the bar around 9pm. I ran a little late but got there as soon as possible. Gerbner was sitting at the bar by himself. I walked up and introduced myself. He was a small man but had a big and confident voice. He was glad to meet me and discuss his theory but was short on time.
Caught a little off guard I responded: Mr. Gerbner thank you for meeting me I know how busy you must be. To start I would like to tell you more about my interests behind your theory. I have always considered myself an avid television user. One might say that I can be a slave to my TV, always making sure I don’t miss my shows.
Gerbner interrupted me : I agree with you Alex, I believe that TV is becoming very dominant in our culture, but why are you so interested in my work.
I fixed my position on my chair and responded: I am writing a paper for one of my classes on the link between television shows and behavior and see you as the most knowledgeable person on the subject.
Gerbner smiled and started to say: I appreciate you saying that, and I agree with you. I believe that Consumption of media messages shapes perceptions of the world. I believe we are constantly being influenced by the things around us and they definitely have an impact on our behavior.
I quickly respond: That is very true. Would you mind giving me a little background on your Theory? How did this study start?
Gerbner: The cultivation theory was developed by me and Larry gross. It derived from several large-scale research projects to identify and track the cultivated effects of television on viewers. “Why did you choose television?” I responded.
Gerbner: Good question. To start I believe that Television is essentially and fundamentally different from any other forms of mass media. 98% of U.S homes have a television. This is way larger than any other medium. Finally, it requires no literacy so anyone can get the message. We have always been a culture which strives on storytelling and the passing down of stories. TV is quickly becoming the U. S culture’s primary storyteller. Television shapes our society’s ways of thinking and relating.
Me: Wow! I didn’t realize all of that. It makes sense now why Television was your focus. What specifically was your focus about television?
Gerbner: We were specifically concerned with the effects of television programming( particularly violent programming) on the attitudes and behaviors of the American public.
Me: I don’t think I agree with that. So you are saying if I watch Cops once that I am going to go out and commit a crime because I saw someone else do it
Gerber: No! I apologize I was not clear enough with you. The theory believes that the cultivation effect occurs only after long term, cumulative exposure to television. I believe that if you watch Cops everyday multiple times a day that there is a possibility that you will start to carry that behavior into your real life.
Me: I don’t think I get it yet
Gerbner: Let me explain. I see it as there are two types of television users. There are light viewers who occasionally watch TV and are generally unaffected. Then there are Heavy viewers who watch a lot of TV and are more susceptible for creating negative behavior. I believe that because TV contains so much violence, people who spend the most time in front of the tube develop an exaggerated belief in a mean and scary world.
Me: What else can you tell me about these Heavy viewers?
Gerbner: First me and my colleague developed a mean world index. We developed these questions to see how people would respond. We wanted to compare viewers and light television viewers.…