Monday, April 26, 2010

Cultivation Theory in Harper's

I was skimming a Harper's magazine today and came across their Harper's Index, which is a list of interesting statistics.  Two that fit here are:
  • Percentage change in 2009 in U.S. in violent crime
    is - 4.4 percent (as in negative 4.4 percent)
  • Chances that an American believes crime went
    up last year, 3 out of 4 people.
In other words, even though violent crime went down, the perception of violent crime went up.

Students of mass comm research will not be surprised by this paradox.  Cultivation Theory posits exactly this, that television "cultivates" our views of the world, and especially violent entertainment content which creates the perception of a "mean and scary world."  My favorite result?  The more you watch TV, even if you live in a neighborhood with almost no crime, the more crime you perceive in your very safe neighborhood.  TV essentially teaches us what the world is really like despite TV having little or no connection with what the world is really like. 

So the theory didn't get mentioned in the article, but that's basically what's going on.

We're seeing some aspect of cultivation among viewers of certain cable news outlets.  But this is a post for another day when I don't have a stack of papers needing to be graded.

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