Sociology 2172A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: George Gerbner, Cultivation Theory, Expectancy Theory

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SOC 2172A – Advertising and Society
Week 9: Advertising & Other, Part I
Nov 10
Stereotypes are pervasive throughout advertising – have become to be expected
Will continue to be controversial for a number of reasons
Our society is becoming more segmented, making it harder to create a meaningful stereotype
that the audience can resonate with
It has become increasingly difficult to get a viewer’s attention – has caused advertisers to use
more daring and risky strategies
Consumers have become more aware of the messages put forth in advertising
Rihanna/Ford advertisement:
oSuggests that a woman and an automobile are equal in value
oSuggests that if a man does not select the car, the women or both, his masculinity and
his Americanism will be in question
oStereotypes both men and women, reducing them to characteristics that are
represented as being fixed by nature
Stereotypes aren’t necessary to sell products
Restrict individuals to predetermined and artificial roles
Construct the way we see the world around us before we have a chance to look for ourselves
Stereotyping often occurs where one group is more powerful than another
Difference is emphasized as the less powerful group becomes the other
Stereotypes are often justified as the fastest way to communicate in the blink of time that an
advertiser has to capture audience attention
The way men see women determines their value, so women evaluate themselves according to
how they think men will evaluate them
Cultivation theory (George Gerbner) – media have power over the way we see the world;
gradually leads to the adoption of beliefs about the nature of the social world which conform to
the stereotyped, distorted and very selective view of reality
Media expectancy theory – over time, we not only believe that certain behaviours are normal,
but we expect all people in that group to conform to them
Not all stereotypes are communicated visually – accents are also used to stereotype and reflect
particular values
oSouthern accents – convey “Americanness”
oBritish accents convey class and intellect
Trade characters such as Aunt Jemima, Uncle Rastus, and Uncle Ben are visual reminders of the
subservient occupational positions that Blacks have been relegated to as a result of the course
of history
Dyer distinguished between stereotypes and social types
oSocial typing suggests that there are many different ways of seeing oneself within the
realm of being a woman, man, boy, girl
oStereotypes limit possible definitions
oTo some extent, you are able to choose your social type, whereas you are condemned to
a stereotype
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Advertising teaches us how to see the world and ourselves
As a result of the increased number of ads we see each day, and our inability to pay attention to
all of them, advertisers have only seconds to capture our attentions and must make the most
use of this time
Often use devices such as catchy headlines, popular music, quick edits, and metaphorical
devices – and stereotypes
“Stereotype” today refers to an oversimplified idea about a group based on some preconceived
We use stereotypes to help make sense of all aspects of our lives
Schema theory is particularly useful in understanding how stereotypes work
A schema is a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information;
allow us to take shortcuts in interpreting a vast amount of information, yet can also cause us to
ignore pertinent information in favor of information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs and
Ex: prejudice – prevents people from seeing the world as it really is and inhibits them from
taking in new information
We tend to gravitate towards images that reinforce what we already know about the world,
making it difficult for us to be receptive to or to retain new information that does not conform
to what we already believe
Stereotypes can be both negative and positive
oAfrican Americans are good at basketball
oGermans are cold and rigid
oMothers are loving and nurturing
oBest friends are loyal
Common Stereotypes
oBoys are rough and aggressive, more likely to be seen in sporting or athletic roles and
are more independent than girls
oGirls are portrayed as dainty and feminine, often shown playing house or cooking and
they play with dolls
oBoys like blue, girls like pink
Shallow or incompetent men:
oFixture of many beer commercials
oMales are often portrayed as incapable of performing household tasks
Senior citizens:
oOften portrayed as infirm and doddering
oOut of touch with reality
oDepicted as being in charge of household chores
oNative Americans are portrayed as wild, primitive, and uncivilized, living in harmony
with nature
oAfrican Americans are great athletes and superb singers and dancers
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