Cultivation effect refers to “the negative effects that watching television has on attitudes of both its heavy and light viewers” (Chandler, 1995). People have come up with many theories to explain the implication behind cultivation effects of television. From his article, CultivationTheory, Gerbner argues that viewers of television tend to cultivate attitudes that exhibit consistence to the television world rather than the actual world.
The cultivation effects of violent television programming are initially minute and have no serious impacts on viewers. However, with repeated viewing, the small effects accumulate to form pronounced implications and this explains why the violent scenes in television are arguably responsible for the violent attitudes that heavy viewers exhibit. Besides violent programming, immorality, substance abuse, gender disparity and petty (bad) politics attitudes hinge on television watching for both light and heavy viewers.
Other Cultivation Effects of Television
The cultivation effects of immoral programming affect the viewer in his/her attitude towards true morality. In most television programs, each program has an age bracket to its recommended viewers because of the fear of cultivation effects of immoral programming that the programs might carry.
Heavy viewers of soap operas, for example tend to have different attitudes about relationships than light viewers. Conventionally, premarital sex, adultery and prostitution among other moral decadence elements are wrong. However, television content has been blurring the line between what is moral and immoral over time; actually, when one watches television for the first time the attitude about moral decadence holds the aforementioned conventional perspective.
However, after repeated television watching, the attitude changes slowly because it seems right to cheat on a partner or prostitute according to the televised programs. The scenes in these programs usually cover such scenes and repeated appearance to the viewers makes it a “normal” thing. The time an individual brands such programs “normal” thing, his/her attitude has completely changed and conformed to what s/he sees on the screen from time to time.
Television may also evoke the cultivation effects of drug and substance abuse. Isom (1998) laments, the drug and substance abuse cultivation effects mostly affect the youth because they are the main target audience of such movies. Practices such as smoking, alcoholism and any other kind of drug abuse are against principals that govern morality.
Take for example, the first time an individual watches a program in which one of the characters smokes and finds pleasure it; his attitude towards smoking as a bad habit will not change, but he/she will develop some curiosity towards the act. Repeated scenes and continuous watching of such programs slowly changes the individual’s attitude albeit by a small magnitude until the cumulative effect is big enough to cause a complete attitude change.
Generally, a heavy viewer gets slowly tuned into initial experimentation of the drugs, followed by attempted use and finally, addiction. The funny thing about cultivation effects, drug and substance abuse included, is that, the affected parties do not realize that the cultivation effects have changed their attitudes. As a result, they live a harmful life they would have never lived.
Television also causes cultivation effects of gender disparity. Gender disparity is a sensitive issue and it makes members of one gender feel inferior, unfairly treated, or discriminated against.
If, for example the television broadcasts a program where the acting professionals are only men, the female viewers of this program may start changing their attitudes about gender equality without realizing it. If, in another program, there are acts of violence whereby only a male actor beats up the female actor, the female viewers would also feel that the female gender is weak.
Continuous exposure to such scenes would increase the impact of the cultivation effects on their attitudes (Livingstone, 1990, p.16). Since they do not realize when their attitudes are undergoing such a transition, a complete change of attitude becomes inevitable. As a result, viewers end up having misconstrued attitudes towards men, not knowing that what they watch in television is far from reality.
Finally, television imparts cultivation effects of negative politics in the society. Many at times, politicians appear in news conferences, public meeting or any other functions selling their policies to the multitudes through television.
In news conferences, for example, the people viewing such functions make different interpretations about what the politicians intended to communicate. In other cases, politicians misguide viewers in their speech by making utterances that make them change their (people’s) attitudes towards an individual or a given issue.
The impact is greater when the speaking politicians are favorites or role models of their audiences. In such a case, the people will always take as true what the politicians say and readily discard what they already knew about the same issue. The intense trust that people have for such politicians slowly changes their attitudes concerning a given issue. As a result, they end up treating the same issue differently and wrongly hence losing their moral values.
Television programs play a major role in shaping people’s attitudes towards different issues in the society. According to Gerbner’s cultivation theory, the attitudes of heavy viewers of television always streamline themselves to what the televisions broadcast. The change in attitude is very slow and unnoticeable by the party involved but the cumulative effect fully changes their attitude. Besides violence, television causes cultivation effects such as immorality, drug and substance abuse, bad politics and gender disparity.
Chandler, D. (1995). Cultivation theory. Retrieved 14 April 2011, from
Isom, M. D. (1998). The social learning theory. Retrieved 14 April 2011, from
Livingstone, S. (1990). Making Sense of Television. London: Pergamon