According to Cultivation Theory, television viewers are cultivated to view reality similarly to what they watch on television. No one tv show gets credit for this effect. Instead, the medium of television gets the credit. Television shows are mainstream entretainment, easy to access, and generally easy to understand. As such, they provide a means by which people are socialized into the society, albeit with an unrealistic notion of realty at times, particularly with respect to social dangers. Television seeks to show and reinforce commonalities among us, so those who regularly watch television tend to see the world in the way television portrays it. Compared to actual demographics, women, minorities, upper-class, and lower-class people are under-represented on television shows. At the same time, the percent of people who work in law enforcement and violent crime are over-represented. People who are heavy watchers of television assimilate this information and believe that the world is a dangerous, scary place where others can’t be trusted. This is known as the “mean world syndrome.” Further, heavy watchers of tv blur distinctions between social groups such as the poor and the rich, urban and rural populations, and different racial groups. Those tv watchers also identify themselves as political moderates but answer surveys similarly to how political conservatives answer the surveys.
Not everyone is successfully cultivated by television. Those who watch little television are not affected. Likewise, people who talk about what they see, especially adolescents who talk with their parents, are less likely to alter their view of reality to match what they see on television.
Gerbner’s cultivation theory says that television has become the main source of storytelling in today’s society. Those who watch four or more hours a day are labeled heavy television viewers and those who view less then four hours per day, according to Gerbner are light viewers. Heavy viewers are exposed to more violence and therefore are effected by the Mean World Syndrome, an idea that the world is worse then it actually is. According to Gerbner, the overuse of television is creating a homogeneous and fearful populace.