This paper therefore aims to evaluate the relationship of Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory with the “CSI effect”, especially as to how this has affected and may affect juror perceptions and judgments. This study addresses this thesis by conducting a review of a series of related literatures that are deemed integral to a better and cohesive understanding between this phenomenon and the theory of cultivation. The findings and implications discuss the degree of impact of the “CSI effect” and whether this is something that the justice system should seriously consider and devote effort to.
Furthermore, approaches towards the Cultivation Theory are also addressed especially in terms of its applicability to the “CSI effect” and juror behavior. The study then concludes with an analysis on how the findings may actually help in the formulation of a more effective jury screening process. Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory, the Media, and the Television A series of studies conducted by Gerbner and his colleagues tackled the effect of the television and its contribution to the formation of reality among its viewers which are, interestingly, found to be similar to the world in these television shows.
Functioning under the umbrella of the Cultivation Theory, the studies also initiated cultivation analyses and the identification of cultural indicators that were also deemed to contribute to reality- and perception-formation among television viewers. As Gerbner (1998) explained these processes, the activity was spawned from the previous examinations on how stories, in general, may be formed for the purpose of manufacturing and marketing purposes. Television is therefore seen as an important medium in story-telling, especially how technological innovations seem to have continuously supported the role of the television in the society.
As Gerbner’s studies (1998, 1999; Gerbner & Gross, 1984; Gerbner, Gross, Morgan & Signorelli, 1984) have emphasized the role and importance of television, the origins of cultivation found its venue in this particular technology and social tool. This is because media messages can be easily accessed through television, therefore the cultivation of social reality may be based on what the media feeds its viewers. However, as Gerbner (1998) noted, although the television may be an important tool, it merely plays an integral aspect in the overall dynamics of information processes and conception-formation.
This is to say that, for instance, a person may be a huge fan of CSI because of its entertainment value, but the same person is also well-aware that what he or she is appreciating is fiction and not necessarily real and factual. Hence, it can be gathered from the cultivation theory that although television plays an integral role, its effect is not absolute as people are continuously exposed to many channels of information and messages (Gerbner, 1998).
The cultivation, on one hand, is seen to be more effective is the viewer is experiences a repeated exposure to particular television images (Gerbner & Gross, 1976). The definition of cultivation is thereby defined as “the independent contributions television viewing makes to viewer conceptions of social reality. The ‘cultivation differential’ is the margin of difference in conceptions of reality between light and heavy viewers in the same demographic sub-groups” (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan and Signorielli, 1994, 23).
An analysis towards Gebner’s theory is presented by Hughes (1980) who presented some shortcomings in the studies presented by the former and his colleagues in the context of the effect of violence in television to the perceived reality. The initial cultivation theory studies conducted by Gerbner in the1970s generally made use of the following controls: age, sex and education. Hughes pointed out that there were more factors that could affect the responses of the sample that participated in the General Social Survey such as race and income.
This shows that the applicability of the cultivation theory is limited; hence, how television content may cultivate certain conceptions among individuals may be more minimal impact than expected. One of the studies that applied the notion of cultivation theory is a study conducted by Shrum (1999) where the author measured attitude strength and attitude extremity as implications of Gerbner’s cultivation theory. Shrum’s initial approach to the study was to weigh in theories along the lines of Gerbner’s work and its critics such as those presented by Hughes (1980).
Basically, the author agreed with the identified shortcomings of Gerbner’s work although the criticisms were mostly based on the process Gerbner and his team used. Shrum also pointed out that one of the probable weaknesses of Gerbner’s work was the identification of the two main categories of samples in addition to the previously identified controls of age, sex and education: participants who were heavy television viewers and those who were light television viewers.