Television Destroys Us Mentally

Lowers IQ and attention span.
Turns us into sheep(le).

by Joel Ramshaw

Watching television from a young age causes the brain’s physical structure to alter and change shape for the worse. Each extra hour spent in front of television also directly corresponds to reduced verbal IQ scores.[1] Attention span is also destroyed by TV watching.[2] Even the ‘Baby Einstein’ series was discovered to be a fraud. Despite its educational goal, it was discovered that it was actually dumbing down the youngsters who watched, resulting in a smaller vocabulary. Disney was forced to offer full refunds to any parent who had purchased these. [3]

The problems go beyond just children however.

Orienting Reflex and Attention Span

A secret trick in television programming is the manipulation of the “orienting reflex” to retain viewer attention. The orienting reflex is a part of human biology and kicks in when bizarre changes in surroundings occur. The viewer becomes transfixed as their brain tries to comprehend the rapid frame cuts, and the constant zooming in and out of the scene angles. This causes a hypnotic effect where it is hard to break away from the activity going on on the screen.

          Average film scene lengths are decreasing to take advantage of this. In the 1930’s the average shot lasted 12 seconds. Many movies included long scenes of dialogue without switching filming angles or location of characters. The modern average scene however, last only 2.5 seconds.[4] With such a short frame rate, our psychology results in a fixation to the screen.

          It is often quoted that the attention span of the modern human is now lower than that of a goldfish. Television has much to do with this change. “Real life” does not feature rapid scene changes, flashing colors, constant goofy characters. Normal life moves at a far slower pace than on television. Events taking months in a story are compressed into 90minutes for TV. It is not a surprise, watching this rapid pace of programming since childhood, we have trouble holding attention in real life, which becomes simply dull by comparison. Attention span was never considered to be a problem in the pre-electronic era. In former times it was normal for people to gather and listen to a speech or sermon for hours. Nowadays, there are many popular Youtube channels offering “one minute lessons” on various subjects. Obviously not much can be learned in one minute, no perspective of both sides of an issue can be shown, no details or depth, but we have learned to lack the patience to sit and listen to someone talk while retaining information.

TV News is just as bad as other programming

Some people believe watching news on TV is better than viewing other programs. This is a dangerous mindset however. TV news tends to be very politically biased is favour of left wing social issues. They also promote unimportant issues such as sports and actors/actresses relationships and ignore the trends which are actually meaningful. Alternate views besides the mainstream are left out from programming.

          An excellent example of the danger of relying on TV news is the gulf war coverage. This was the first fully televised war. People who watched news programs about the gulf war were less informed about the conflict than those who abstained from watching.  “Researchers found that heavy TV watchers were more likely to support the war. They were also less likely to be well informed about its causes and consequences.” It goes to show the usefulness of TV news when people rely on it to be informed and come out less informed. We can also see a danger in the propaganda-like effects TV news has, in that the continuous viewing of these news programs ended up influencing many to support war and ignore the government and military’s poor decisions. For instance, prior to the war the US communicated to the Iraqis that America would not become involved in a war with Kuwait.

[Quoted from: "Justin Lewis, Sut Jhally, and Michael Morgan"]

“What our study revealed, in fact, is that TV news seems to confuse more than it clarifies. Even after controlling for all other variables, we discovered that the correlation between TV watching and knowledge was actually quite often a negative one.

Our respondents were divided into three groups based upon how much television per day they reported watching -- light viewers (less than 1.5 hrs), medium viewers (1.5 to 3 hrs), and heavy viewers (more than 3 hrs). Using these divisions we found that overall, the more TV people watched, the less they knew.

For example, light viewers were more than twice as likely than heavy viewers to know that in the pre-invasion discussions between Iraq and the U.S., the American position had been to indicate that no action would be taken against Hussein should he invade Kuwait. Conversely, 70% of heavy viewers versus 59% of light viewers thought that the U.S. had informed Iraq that they would protect Kuwait with the use of force. Concerning past U.S. relations with Iraq, heavy viewers were less likely than light viewers (46% to 67%) to know that the U.S. had supported Iraq during the Iran/Iraq war. On the issue of the political structure of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, heavy viewers were more than twice as likely to wrongly identify them as democracies than light viewers. In regards to the question of other occupations, 40% of light viewers versus 23% of heavy viewers were able to identify Israel's occupation of other lands in the Middle East. Light viewers were twice as likely to know about the Palestinian uprising on the West Bank (the Intifada) than heavy viewers. Overall these results are a sad indictment of television's priorities regarding the conveying of relevant information at a time of national crisis.

Our own monitoring of the coverage suggests that the problem here is one of proportion. All the facts that we asked people about have, at one time or another, been reported. Their overall presence in the news coverage is,

nevertheless, very low. When compared to the presence of information about the mechanics of war or the Administration's view of the situation, it is clear that information gets lost. Whatever else this signifies, it is not good journalism.

Television's tendency to present a one-sided view is compounded by the economic imperatives of a system funded by advertising. The upbeat tone of the coverage was seen as necessary to retain advertisers, since nobody wants their product surrounded by images of death, pain and destruction. The problem, from the point of view of journalistic objectivity, is that this upbeat tone has played into the hands of the Bush Administration's attempt to sell the public the war policy.

One of our most striking findings concerned the perception of how much damage the intense bombing of Iraq and Iraqi troops had caused. When we asked people to estimate the number of Iraqi deaths thus far, light viewers gave a mean estimate of 9,848 deaths (by February 4, 1991), while heavy viewers gave a mean figure of 789 (8% of the light viewers' estimate). The question here is not about accuracy but about relative perceptions -- clearly heavy viewers were more inclined than light viewers to buy into the idea that the war was being fought cleanly and efficiently with "smart" bombs that were only damaging buildings. The lack of visual pictures of actual dead people no doubt helps to cultivate this image of cleanliness.” [5]

SOURCE: The Gulf War: A Study of the Media, Public Opinion, and Public Knowledge

Displacement of Creativity:

Just as ‘junk food’ may not be toxic in and of itself, but poisons through displacement of nutritious foods, even seemingly ‘good’ television shows operate in the same way be using up the time we would otherwise spend on creative hobbies. Many businesses and entrepreneurial activities began with someone becoming skilled by means of their hobby activity. Doing something creative with our recreation time exercises the mind.

We can see a metaphor from the farm. Farmers have mentioned how sometime out of sympathy certain of them will try to help a baby chick that is struggling to hatch from its egg. This does more harm that good however, because it needs to struggle for its life to break free from the egg in order to exercise its limbs and gain its strength.

Television coddles us in the same way in that it offers passive entertainment without requiring any exercise of creativity on our part. Like the assisted baby chick, rather than struggle against boredom by using our creative faculties, we are assisted with this dead activity, causing our creative energy within to die.

Even video games can be mentally healthy in comparison to the television, as long as there is discipline and moderation in time spent. A computer game can be like a puzzle, in that it requires our creative input and exercising our problem-solving ability. If you are wanting to give up the TV watching but want a similar recreational activity for times of feeling tired and not wanting to do much physically, you must want to look at gaming as one activity. Many jobs today also require screens or hand-eye coordination. It wouldn’t hurt for everyone to game a little, especially if it helps displace TV-watching time. Obviously all screen time needs to be in moderation however, because many of the negative aspects of television will still apply although gaming is not as mentally passive.

Displacement of Literacy: Priesthood of all believers

We also have to consider how the pastime of reading fiction for entertainment has become less and less popular. Fiction exercises our imagination. We have to imagine each scene read about and go into another world in our mind. It is an exercise compared to television but far more of a joy. Television feeds us images rather than making us imagine them in our own mind. It kills our imagination ability to rely on this so much. I believe everyone should read fiction once and a while for this reason. Fiction also helps us with vocabulary just as much as realistic non-fiction so it is not a waste of time by any means.

It is a major struggle to get literacy rates up despite massive funding for public education. This is largely due to television displacing reading in leisure time. Suppression of literacy is historically one of the main means of control over the human race. It is well known that slaves in America were forbidden to read or write, as their masters understood it would cause them to realize there is more to life. The protestant reformation was successful largely due to the invention of the printing press and the ability to bypass the established Roman Catholic church system and communicate truth directly to the masses. One of the reformation's great objectives was to teach people that rather than relying on someone else to be a priest, each of us is created to be a priest in our relationship with God

2 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation,”

Literacy is a function of the priesthood. Historically, in all cultures it was the priests that would be learned in reading and writing. Priesthood of all believers means literacy is an important skill for all followers of Christ. We are all meant to be a priest with access to God.

Television destroys us mentally. It lowers IQ and attention span, causes our creativity to wither, distracts us with unworthy and biased 'news'... last but not least it destroys our literacy which is a foundation of us being a community of priests.

[<< Part 1] [Part 3 >>]

Support Gateways of His Light by sharing this page on social media

Throw away your TV

Main Page