The main purpose of Shrum’s study was to evaluate the impact of television towards the attitudes demonstrated. Although Shrum showed that what could limit Gerbner’s work was the issue on the lack of efficient design, the author approached the study in a similar manner — by comparing the results between heavy and light viewers — as a means to identify differences. The categorization between the heavy and the light viewers would prove to be simplistic yet substantial in the author’s approach especially as the samples he used fell in the same demographic categories which were students.
The study’s result showed that it reflected Gerbner’s cultivation theory; apparently, heavy television watchers were found to have the tendency to perceive a “television world” as compared to the light television watchers. The study examined students who watched soap operas, hence, from the results, the sampled heavy viewers were found to have the tendency to experience more distrust and possibly, more marital problems.
Shrum (1999) utilized regression approaches and analyses in order to come up with this conclusion. A similar study can be also found in Quick’s (2009) assessment of variation among patient response as based on whether they watch the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. The study found that patients who heavily watched the show are most likely to have positive associations in terms of their perceptions towards doctors.
The perception, according to this study, is not necessarily based on the positive portrayal of the doctors but rather the show was seen as a credible reference to what happens in the hospitals and how doctors can be expected to behave in this space. Hence, despite the presence of both positive and negative portrayals of medical professionals, heavy viewers of this particular show count the courageous and compassionate aspects of the fictional characters, hence, the study found that these patient-viewers have a positive perception towards their physicians.
Quick (2009) mentioned, however, that although this context does not necessarily provide harm, the problem is that the sensationalization of the show may further cultivate wrong or high expectations from patients. Quick (2009) further mentioned that the implications of such results can be used to communicate accurate depictions such as, in the case of Grey’s Anatomy, conveying important health-related information. In a sense, by using the fictional channel such as television, viewers are able to be more informed in important issues.
This is discussed by Appel (2008) in which the television plays an integral role in just-world beliefs; as Appel mentioned, the cultivation of beliefs can be specially affective among those who heavily watch television. Appel (2008) supported this posit by conducting a comparison study between Austrian and German television viewers; the main purpose of this research was to determine the degree of just-world beliefs among television viewers.
The study showed that fictional narratives can change the perceptions of the people, and interestingly, these narratives usually feature a world that is just. Basically, what can be attributed to this impact can be pointed at the content of the program. The effectiveness of these messages in the “television world” is due to the following factors: the stimulation of moral evaluation paired with the presence of resolution, and at the same time, the entertainment value of these programs (Appel, 2008).
This is why, according to the author, heavy television viewers especially those who watch a lot of fictional narratives demonstrate a strong belief in a just-world as compared to viewers of infotainment and non-fiction where belief in the mean-world is seen to be more emphasized. From this, content evidently plays a role in the amount of influence to the viewers, but from this study, the fictional programs are seen to be a more effective venue in changing the beliefs of the viewers.
When it comes to content, genre plays a very important role. An important point raised by Cohen and Weinmann (2000) is that the viewers themselves unconsciously “cultivate” themselves through television because the viewers choose which shows to watch. The selection can be based on many factors, from age, education, sex, personality and even life experiences. Since genres vary as based on content and certain plot norms, it can be gathered that social realities in these contexts also differ.
Which is why, according to the authors, the view and representations on the world are not similar, and at the same time, these program contents may also present conflicting perspectives. Hence, in the aspect of cultivation, different attitudes and world-views can be formed; Shrum’s (1999) and Quick’s (2009) studies are only therefore applicable to the specific genres they focused on (soap operas and Grey’s Anatomy, respectively) and the results towards attitudes and viewer response may be different if the study evaluated viewer response towards different shows.