From Cultivation to Self-Cultivation: Alternative Media and Reinforcing Spirals in a Fragmented Media Environment

Angelica Cöster, Adam Shehata


Media environments have changed rapidly since cultivation theory was proposed in the 1960s. This study analyzes whether growing opportunities for media choice reinforce and polarize public perceptions of crime development. This is done by synthesizing cultivation theory with the reinforcing spirals model. The study relies on a combination of a quantitative media content analysis (N = 904) and a three-wave panel survey (N = 1,508) conducted in Sweden. The findings suggest that there are significant differences between violent crimes news content in alternative media and traditional media and that there are reinforcing effects between alternative news orientation and crime perceptions but not between traditional news media use and crime perceptions. We propose self-cultivation as a new concept that can be used to understand cultivation processes in today’s high-choice media environment.


cultivation, reinforcing spirals model, media effects, crime perceptions, mean-world syndrome

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