The Cultivation Analysis Theory

Cody Tackett

The Cultivation Analysis Theory proposes that we (as media consumers) shape our perceptions of the world based upon what we read and watch in the media. This theory applies mostly to television, where images of war, crime, and turmoil can be seen in movies, TV shows, and of course the news. There is a popular saying that goes, “Turn off the TV, and all the problems of the world will go away.” This is obviously an idiotic statement as the same problems will be present regardless of if we listen to the media or not, but it shows that the media can have a profound impact on a person’s feelings and moods. George Gerbner first introduced the theory in the 1960s in response to the increasing number of television sets in homes. Through the lens of this theory, people view the world based on what they see on TV and through other mediums.

I’m a person that loves watching the news; both on the local and national scale. When I was growing up, my late father would always encourage me to watch the 11 pm news with him each night so that I could remain “up to date” with the times we were living in. Therefore, the news is something I’ve appreciated and valued since an early age. Briefly when the COVID-19 pandemic first began, I stopped watching the news on TV because the news seemed to turn into a “broken record,” and if I had continued watching the evening news during the Spring and Summer months of that year, I would’ve had to replace my TV due to me having busted it with a bad (I’m joking of course).

I say all of this to show how the Cultivation Analysis theory of mass communication has been evidenced in my own experiences. I’ve moved past my hiatus from news media, and I strictly force myself to watch at least 30 minutes of TV news every day. I consume other types of media though; primarily Youtube and Facebook, but in those cases (especially when considering Youtube), I’m able to control what I view so that my perceptions are within my normal “comfort zone.” The Cultivation Theory is put to work on my Facebook though, however, when someone is too negative, I’m able to hide their posts from my feed.

The Cultivation Analysis Theory explains why so many people are reluctant to consume news media or even documentaries about certain subjects. It has a damaging effect when a large number of people aren’t able to describe what is happening in their society. Sadly, a lot of people are unaware of what is taking place in their government, which trickles down to impact them at home. As for the point on documentaries, I don’t like watching documentaries about murders and how they’re solved. They’re depressing to me and it leaves me wondering “How many people are out like that that would potentially want to harm me or my family?” My consumption of entertainment media accounts for the hours of news I watch each day. I watch several different shows; Friends, Frasier, Cheers, Everybody Loves Raymond (yes I know I’m “old school”) and all of these shows help “transport” me to a different reality where the current events don’t exist, which allows me to escape from the harsh realities of life.

The Cultivation Theory also explains why people seek to have the “ideal” everything; home, body, etc. It can be argued that the American dream of the 1950s was a result of the psychological effects of TV shows of that era. Even today people idolize movie stars for their bodies and lifestyles by making attempts to resemble even a mere aspect of a celebrities’ life. Media consumers then compare themselves to the celebrities that they watch and follow, and in turn, their perceptions are altered which leads to people finding little joy in what they have as they try to attain unreasonable levels of fame and fortune.

This theory does a great job of explaining the big question of “why” when it comes to people preferring certain mediums over others. This theory could be further analyzed and studied by surveying the students on a college campus about which medium they prefer, as well as the simple question of “Do you watch the news?” I would follow up this question by asking, “How would you describe how you feel after reading or watching a report on current events?”

The Cultivation Theory is no more evidenced in our society today, with the virus situation as well as political polarization in our country; many are turning away from news and are spending more time watching shows and movies on Netflix and Hulu so as to feel that they are in a safe environment. As I’ve stated above, I’ve experienced sadness and fear that has been instilled from the media, but I’ve learned to watch something funny or relaxing afterward to return my perceptions to their original state. I’ve now become more fearful of not knowing what is going on in the world than knowing, and therefore I watch the news daily.


  1. Perera, Ayesh. “Cultivation Theory”. Simply Psychology. 26th May, 2021. Retrieved from:
  2. Mosharafa, Eman. “All you Need to Know About: The Cultivation Theory.” Global Journal of Human Social Science: A Arts & Humantities – Psychology. City University of New York. Retrieved from:
  3. Rhinehard, CarrieLyn D. “Cultivation Theory, Media Socialization, and Adolescents’ Identity Formation”. It’s Playing; Just With Research. 2003. Retrived from:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: