Theory Summary: 

1. "Cultivation analysis concentrates on the enduring and common consequences of growing up and living with television. Theories of the cultivation process attempt to understand and explain the dynamics of television as the distinctive and dominant cultural force of our age. Cultivation analysis uses a survey instrument, administered to representative samples of respondents. The responses are analyzed by a number of demographic variables including gender, age, race, education, income, and political self-designation (liberal, moderate, conservative). Where applicable, other controls, such as urban-rural residence, newspaper reading, and party affiliation are also used.

Cultivation analysis is a part of the Cultural Indicators (CI) research project. CI is a data base and a series of reports relating recurrent features of the world of television to viewer conceptions of reality. Its cumulative content data archive contains observations on over 4,500 programmes and 40,000 characters coded according to many thematic, demographic and action categories."

2. "...specifies that repeated, intense exposure to deviant definitions of ‘reality' in the mass media leads to perception of the ‘reality' as normal. The result is a social legitimisation of the ‘reality' depicted in the mass media, which can influence behavior. (Gerbner, 1973 & 1977; Gerbner et al., 1980.)"

3. Gerbner first introduced cultivation theory in 1969 with his work Toward "Cultural Indicators": The Analysis of Mass Mediated Public Message Systems. Gerbner begins developing cultivation as a structural piece for the long-term examination of public messages in media influence and understanding. He notes in the introduction that "the approach is based on conception of these message systems as the common culture through which communities cultivate shared and public notions about facts, values, and contingencies of human existence". Gerbner clarifies that his objectives are not with "information, education, persuasion, and the like, or with any kind of direct communication 'effects.'" More accurately, his concern remains with "the collective context within which, and in response to which, different individual and group selections and interpretations of messages take place". Nonetheless, Gerbner's works present a social psychology theory on communication effects, and consequently, on persuasion as related to mass media.

Gerbner speaks of the "cultivation of collective conscious" in relation to the rapid growth of media outlets (in particular, television) and the capacity of mass media to transcend traditional "barriers of time, space, and social grouping". Cultivation then describes the process in which entire publics are affected by content on television. Potter (1993) notes Gerbner's intentions for using "cultivation" as an academic term to define his interest in "the more diffuse effects on perceptions that are shaped over a long period of exposure to media messages". "Cultivation," rather than "long-term effects" indicates the emphasis on the constant nurturing, exposure, and consistent incorporation the viewing public experiences through mass media channels.


1. Letter from George Gerbner to The Communication Initiative, December 12 1998.

2.Health Communication - Lessons from Family Planning and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Center for Communication Programs, 1997, by Phyllis Tilson Piotrow, D. Lawrence Kincaid, Jose G. Rimon II, and Ward Rinehart. P. 22. To order this publication, please click here.

3. University of Texas - Austin site - note: this website has since been removed.