Processes and Effects in the Construction of Social Reality: Construct Accessibility as an Explanatory Variable
This study conceptualizes the cultivation effect in terms of the accessibility of information in memory. Contemporary social cognition research indicates that individuals consistenly use the most accessible information in memory as a basis for a variety of judgments. Consistent with this body of literature, the current study demonstrates that, based on a reaction time task, those subjects who watch comparatively more television not only overestimate frequency or probability but also give faster responses to various types of cultivation questions. These results support the notion that relevant information, presumably “cultivated” from television viewing, is more accessible in memory for heavier viewers, and, consistent with predictions made by the availability heuristic literature, overestimations of frequency or probability are associated with this enhanced accessibility. Moreover, when controlling for speed of response in the correlation between television viewing and social reality estimates, the relationship is diminished or disappears entirely, suggesting that enhanced accessibility of relevant information for heavier viewers can at least partially account for the cultivation effect.