UNIFORM MESSAGES AND HABITUAL VIEWING: UNNECESSARY ASSUMPTIONS IN SOCIAL REALITY EFFECTS

Authors

  • ROBERT P. HAWKINS,

    1. Robert P. Hawkins (Ph.D., Stanford University, 1974) is associate professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706.
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  • SUZANNE PINGREE

    1. Suzanne Pingree (Ph.D., Stanford University, 1975) is lecturer of women's studies, also at the University of Wisconsin.
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Abstract

Gerbner and his co-authors argue that commercial television content is essentially uniform in its symbolic messages about societal values and that television viewing is essentially habitual (ritual) rather than selective. Their claim that these two assumptions are essential to cultivation analysis is challenged here. Viewing crime-adventure, cartoon, and game programs is related to two violence-related social reality beliefs, while viewing of other content types is not. And based on the intercorrelations of viewing various content types, it seems that some types of content are viewed more or less habitually. Finally, an indicator of selecting to view or not view a given content type—watching more or less of that type than predicted based on the individual's total viewing—is quite differently related to social reality beliefs than is viewing itself. This provides support for considering cultivation effects as actual effects rather than the product of third variables or of reverse causation. Overall, then, the uniform message and ritual viewing assumptions are found flawed, but discarding them serves to strengthen rather than weaken the cultivation hypothesis.

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