Date of Award

2011

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

John C. Sherblom

Second Committee Member

Claire F. Sullivan

Third Committee Member

Sandra Sigmon

Abstract

Cultivation analysis assumes that television has the ability to influence its viewers' social perceptions depending upon the time spent watching television. Cultivation scholars focus on the consequences of long term exposure to television, arguing that people are exposed to repetitive patterns of messages over a long period of time. One dominant message commonly studied in cultivation analysis is violence. The present study was designed to test the cultivation hypothesis along with the variables of participant reported sex and crime rate within Maine. The State of Maine was chosen, because it has the lowest reported crime rate in the nation. Data were collected from three samples (N=206; in-person, n= 53; in-class, n— 89; online, n=65) of Maine residents. The present study shows that participant sex is an influence on fear, but not on crime estimates. The crime rate area of the participants' place of residence by itself had no significant influence on participant expressed fear of victimization or crime prevalence estimates. However, the participants' place of residence interacted with amount of television watching showed significant effects. This finding highlights the critical importance of context upon participants' responses. Further, Maine is a relatively safe state, and data collected from residents provide empirical evidence that television increases fear of victimization. Findings on fear support previous cultivation literature. Interestingly, the amount of television viewing also appears to affect crime rate estimates, but it is moderated by other influences such as place or residency. Results suggest that watching more television leads to lower crime rate estimates, and the more television that you watch the more homogeneous your estimates. The results further suggest that the place of residence does influence crime estimates as well as television watching. The overall findings of this study suggest the importance of context in cultivation research data collection.

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