In the mid-1960's, Professor George Gerbner began the 'Cultural Indicators' research project. The purpose of the study was to find if and how watching television may influence viewers' ideas of what the everyday world is like. Cultivation research is in the 'effects' tradition. Cultivation theorists argue that television has long-term effects which are small, gradual, indirect but cumulative and significant (Chandler, 1995). Gerbner's discoveries lead to what is called the "Cultivation Theory."
The Cultivation Theory states that watching television can induce a mindset in the viewer. For example, if a viewer watches violent television, the viewer will develop a violent attitude (Chandler, 1995).
Gerbner and his colleagues believe heavy television viewing has a "significant influence on the attitudes, beliefs and judgments of viewers concerning the social world (Chandler, 1995).
There are arguments against such a theory. Judith van Evra, for example, claims that the inexperience of young viewers may depend on television for information more than other more mature viewers do (van Evra 1990, p. 167).
Gerbner and his colleagues have analyzed months of programming to correlate data from content analyses.
In order to gain information about the viewers, opinion polls were taken nationally. The questions dealt with the respondents view of the world and compared that view with the "television world" to see if there was a correlation.
Answers were compared to the amount of television watched and other demographic data such as sex, income, age and education (Chandler, 1995).
The expected response is for heavy television viewers to give answers more "in tune" with the television world than the real world. The more television world answers given, the more Gerbner inferred his cultivation effect.
In a controlled experiment dealt with the issue of cause-and-effect Manipulating the viewing of college students into heavy- and light- viewing groups, six weeks of controlled viewing of action / adventure programming lead the heavy viewers to be more fearful of everyday life (Ibid. p. 513).
The difference in the response patterns between heavy and light viewers is called the "cultivation differential (Chandler, 1995)."
Gerbner also believes there is an influential effect. Many heavy viewers in the experiments tend to have similar beliefs about society whereas light viewers have widely varied opinions (Chandler, 1995).
A report from the National Institute of Mental Health reported "Violent programs on television lead to aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch those programs (APA Online, 2002)."
The result of these findings lead to the American Psychological Association passing a resolution to inform broadcasters and the public about the potential dangers that viewing violence on television can have on children (APA Online, 2002).
The study shows children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, may become more fearful of the world around them and more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others (APA Online, 2002).
Gerbner's studies were prevalent in this announcement. Gerbner's studies show children's television shows contain about 20 violent acts each hour causing children who watch a lot of television to think the world is a mean and dangerous place (APA Online, 2002).
In a study at Pennsylvania State University, approximately 100 preschool children were observed before and after watching television with aggressive and violent acts. The researchers noticed real differences between the children who watched the violent programs and those who watched non-violent programs (APA Online, 2002).
Leonard Eron or the University of Illinois found that elementary school children who watched violent television show higher levels of aggression when they become teenagers. His study, which ran until the children were 30-years-old, found the ones who watched a lot of television when they were eight were more likely to be arrested for criminal acts as adults (APA Online, 2002).
Despite suggestions that parents should watch "at least one episode of the programs their children watch," there are still groups that believe the violence of television, especially children's programming, should be removed for their children's safety. None is more prevalent than the group to censor Warner Brothers' Looney Toons series of cartoons.
While there are still considerable protests to the removal of the violent "punch-lines" of the Looney Toons series (JumpTheShark.com, 2002), a group of "concerned parents" led to the censorship of the series in the early 80s.
"You might as well censor Santa Claus out of Christmas or cut the Turkey right out of Thanksgiving!" exclaims Ben Fanton, writer of "Bugs Bunny Peaceful Rabbit (1983)?"
Alice Henderson, vice-president of program practices for CBS, the network airing the censored cartoons, claims the blame for the censorship should not fall on her network, but rather Warner Brothers for putting the violence in the cartoons in the first place (Fanton, 1983).
Chuck Jones, director of 250 of the nearly 1000 cartoons being censored, says he does not understand why the cartoons are being censored, especially ones involving the Coyote. He says the coyote is the recipient of many violent acts, but his own ineptitude is what causes them. "Anyone who would try to suggest that a child would try to imitate the coyote must not understand children (Fanton, 1983).
Greg Ford, a New York City film historian, critic and self-proclaimed Looney Toons encyclopedia says, "Heaven knows there are valid reasons why people are terrified of violence and ethnic stereotyping in films, and I guess for some reason cartoons are easy targets (Fanton, 1983).
Dragonball, and indeed most anime in general, seems to be a prime target for cultivation theorist censorship.