How Do Media Shape Perceptions of Social Reality a Review on Cultivation Theory?


Vincent White

The media has a powerful influence on how we perceive social reality. Whether we realize it or not, the images, messages, and ideas we absorb through various forms of media shape our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Cultivation theory is a useful framework for understanding how media shapes our perceptions of social reality.

What is Cultivation Theory?

Cultivation theory was developed by George Gerbner and his colleagues in the 1960s to explain the impact of television on audiences. The theory posits that television, as a dominant medium in society, cultivates a shared set of values, beliefs, and attitudes among viewers. This cultivation effect occurs gradually over time as viewers are exposed to a consistent message or portrayal of social reality.

How Does Media Shape Perceptions of Social Reality?

Media shapes perceptions of social reality in several ways. First, it frames what issues are important and how they should be understood.

For example, news coverage that focuses on crime can lead viewers to believe that crime is more prevalent than it actually is. Second, media can shape perceptions by portraying certain groups or individuals in a particular way. For instance, representations of women as passive or sexual objects can influence how women are perceived and treated in society.

Thirdly, media shapes perceptions by creating stereotypes that are reinforced through repeated exposure. For example, television shows often portray certain ethnic groups in stereotypical roles such as criminals or gang members which can perpetuate negative beliefs about these groups.

What Are the Implications of Cultivation Theory?

The implications of cultivation theory are significant because they suggest that media has a powerful role to play in shaping our perceptions of social reality. For instance:

  • Critical thinking: Cultivation theory suggests that we need to critically evaluate the messages we receive from media sources and question whether they accurately reflect social reality.
  • Diversity: Cultivation theory highlights the importance of diversity in media representation to counteract the negative effects of stereotypes and create a more accurate portrayal of social reality.
  • Media literacy: Cultivation theory underscores the need for media literacy education to help individuals understand how media shapes perceptions and how to critically evaluate media messages.


In conclusion, cultivation theory provides a useful framework for understanding how media shapes our perceptions of social reality. The theory highlights the need for critical thinking, diversity, and media literacy to counteract the negative effects of media on our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. As consumers of media, it is important that we remain aware of the influence that it has on our perceptions and take steps to ensure that we are receiving accurate and diverse representations of social reality.