Does Media Matter: Media and Perception of Reality

Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Have you ever noticed that when you watch the news a lot, which is filled with reports of crime and violence, you suddenly become very paranoid, convinced that you would soon be the victim of a violent crime? Turns out, there’s a good explanation for that. George Gerbner developed the Cultivation Theory, which states  “Television makes specific and measurable contributions to viewers’ conceptions of reality” (Gerbner et al., 1980, p. 10).  For more than 30 years, Gerbner led a research group studying the effects of television viewing on the viewer’s perception of reality. He asked questions about what kind of content was on television and the consequences of living with and learning from television. He wanted to understand how television viewing impacted people’s perception of reality.

Gerbner believed that how much television a person watched every day influenced how much their perception of reality was tied to television content. For…

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