Cultivation theory emerged in the late 1960s as an alternative to the predominant theoretical approaches of the time that emphasized relatively short-term and direct effects of the mass media. The theory was first articulated by George Gerbner of the Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania. Cultivation itself was seen as part of a larger three-part framework called “cultural indicators.” Gerbner's perspective focused on the more long-term, subtle, and indirect impacts of media messages.

In Gerbner's view, every society has methods of storytelling—ways of passing along ideas about one's culture, including underlying ideas about science, scientists, and the environment. These ideas are not communicated in a single program or even a short-term series. Rather, they are often buried in the stories that everyone is exposed to, and they ...

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