Communication is an indispensable element in human society and media, especially those that implicate the power of technological gadgets—TV shows, movies, TV ads, print ads, music videos and news programs — play an active role in transforming the society members’ beliefs, perceptions, way of thinking and attitude. Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory (1980) stipulates that television plays a ‘central’ role in viewers’ perceptions and that the severity of these effects on human perception is highly dependent on the amount of television an individual watches each day.
Naturally, the ‘perception’ effect extends to the society as a whole. The heavy viewers, those that watch more than four hours of television are more prone to the said effect, virtually monopolizing and subsuming other sources of information, ideas, and consciousness, thus influencing their beliefs and attitudes. According to Gerbner, two important processes are actively involved in media effect—mainstreaming and resonance. Mainstreaming is a concept that is introduced by TV, generating common perspectives amongst different demographical groups through heavy viewing.
People who are more exposed to TV, even though, they may come from different regions in the world, can have similar perspectives. This is highlighted by the integration of commercials in television-viewing, which the people with ‘notions’ of ‘better-branding’, ‘what is good,’ ‘what is appealing,’ ‘what is hot or not,’ etc. Television is tagged with ‘concepts’ and ‘ideas’. Resonance, or connecting or relating these TV concepts with reality intensifies the cultivating effect.
Take for instance, Manga viewers from Japan will expect more instances of boy-to-boy portrayal of romances in their Manga media (e. g. comics) compared to the passive viewers. Thus, the higher the exposure to TV, the more likely that the viewer’s attitude and perception can be shape by the images on TV, especially if the said images are relevant to the viewer’s life. Whereas it is true that TV media plays a huge role in the immediate society and pop culture, there are many instances when the ‘cultivating effect’ is considerably dangerous.
TV commercials, movies and TV ads on ‘what is beautiful’ and ‘what body type is considered sexy’ are heavily fed on by women in general. The TV trend on woman now is that thin women are better looking and sexy than those with medically normal weighted females. Hargreaves and Tiggeman conducted a study on the effect of commercials tagged with thin women on their female viewers and found that they have immediate episodes of insecurity and distress about weight, and exhibited greater body dissatisfaction.
The force of media on ‘body image’ appropriate for females leads directly to inferiority complex. Glamorizing weight loss and nutritional diets is another enforced effect of the commercialization of thin-bodies. Commercials, magazines, and printed advertisements full of waif-like bodies contribute in maintaining the negative effect. What the girls or the females watched have a profound effect on their perception. TV and associated media do not have an effect on ‘body image’ alone; it has an extensive effect covering clothing popularity, styling, fashion, etc.
What is important is that it fosters direct linkage between the viewers and their creation of superficiality. Aging, the normative concept on ‘dressing’ for age is thoroughly ignored by many today as there is the proliferation of age-combating reagents blundered all-over TV commercials and shows (e. g. Olay anti-aging cream). Naturally, we do not forget that there also other intra- and external factors that may effect societal and individual perceptions aside from TV and associated media.
In summary, media is one of the effectors of human perception implicating the process of mainstreaming and resonance. The effect is not entirely beneficial as demonstrated by the thin female body image.
Gerbner, G. , Gross, L. , Morgan, M. , & Signorielli, N. “The mainstreaming of America: Violence. ” Journal of Communication 11 (1980): 10-25. Hargreaves, D. , & Tiggemann, M. “Longer-term implications of responsiveness to thin-ideal television: Support for a cumulative hypothesis of body image disturbance. ” European Eating Disorders Review 11(2003): 465-477.