Saturday, December 09, 2006

What Television is Doing to You

Several years ago an article was published by Scientific American titled "Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor. It basically states that TV viewing is addictive, and people who watch excessive amounts of TV (as most American's currently do--our national average is 4+ hours per day) exhibit the same behaviors as those addicted to physical substances, gambling, sex, etc. Indeed the shift from left- to right-brain dominance that television viewers undergo releases endorphins into the nervous system. More interesting to me in that article was the mention of a 1986 study done by Byron Reeves of Stanford University, Esther Thorson of the University of Missouri and their colleagues that looks into the brain-wave patterns of people before, during, and after television viewing. I also found talk about a study done by Herbert Krugman, a psychologist and manager of public-opinion research at GE (owner of NBC) which monitored human brain waves to discover what the effects were when watching television.

Here's another a quote from another interesting article entitled "The Nature of Television," which speaks of the effect of the endorphins released into the nervous system by TV viewing.
"These opiates are structurally identical to heroin and opium and just like the drugs themselves, endorphins are habit forming and addictive. Krugman observed that whilst watching television, right brain activity is at least twice as potent as left brain activity. As with many other scientists, psychophisiologist, Dr. Thomas Mulholland, arrived at the same conclusions, notably that alpha waves appear just after thirty seconds of television viewing and that whilst watching television the viewer's brain falls into a virtual trance."

Seems that television viewing moves the brain from a beta-wave state, where it is active in cognitive processing, deep into the alpha-wave state where it is passive, free-associating, no cognitive activity to speak of. Basically, what this tells us is that during television viewing, your cognitive mind is more-or-less turned off and you have no process of rational judgment or filters between what you are seeing and hearing on the TV and what enters your subconscious mind.

Here's another quote from "The Nature of Television": "all relevant research points to the fact that whilst watching television the brain is in a similar state as when under hypnosis."

So our adults and kids are sitting in front of the TV for 4 hours a day, brains in an alpha-state, susceptible to subconsciously absorbing anything they see and hear. Images are flashing in front of the brain, scenes are changing every 5 seconds, celebrity worship is implanted, programmed news is implanted, desire for intrinsically useless products is implanted, political opinions are implanted, gender, ethnic, religious, and racial stereotypes are implanted, etc., etc.

It's not just a waste of your time, it's putting you in a trance and programming your subconscious mind. The television is called the idiot box for a reason. Read the above research again... The General Electric Corporation, owner of a major media network, NBC, and a large cog in the military-industrial complex, funded a study in the 60s that shows that the television is a hypnotic device.

For fuck's sake, turn the fucking thing off.

"The fact that TV is a source not actively or critically attended to was made dramatically evident in the late 1960s by an experiment that rocked the world of political and product advertising and forever changed the ways in which the television medium would be used. The results of the experiment still reverberate through the industry long after its somewhat primitive methods have been perfected.

"In November 1969, a researcher named Herbert Krugman, who later became manager of public-opinion research at General Electric headquarters in Connecticut, decided to try to discover what goes on physiologically in the brain of a person watching TV. He elicited the co-operation of a twenty-two-year-old secretary and taped a single electrode to the back of her head. The wire from this electrode connected to a Grass Model 7 Polygraph, which in turn interfaced with a Honeywell 7600 computer and a CAT 400B computer.

"Flicking on the TV, Krugman began monitoring the brain-waves of the subject What he found through repeated trials was that within about thirty seconds, the brain-waves switched from predominantly beta waves, indicating alert and conscious attention, to predominantly alpha waves, indicating an unfocused, receptive lack of attention: the state of aimless fantasy and daydreaming below the threshold of consciousness. When Krugman's subject turned to reading through a magazine, beta waves reappeared, indicating that conscious and alert attentiveness had replaced the daydreaming state.

"What surprised Krugman, who had set out to test some McLuhanesque hypotheses about the nature of TV-viewing, was how rapidly the alpha-state emerged. Further research revealed that the brain's left hemisphere, which processes information logically and analytically, tunes out while the person is watching TV. This tuning-out allows the right hemisphere of the brain, which processes information emotionally and noncritically, to function unimpeded. 'It appears,' wrote Krugman in a report of his findings, 'that the mode of response to television is more or less constant and very different from the response to print. That is, the basic electrical response of the brain is clearly to the medium and not to content difference.... [Television is] a communication medium that effortlessly transmits huge quantities of information not thought about at the time of exposure.'

"Soon, dozens of agencies were engaged in their own research into the television-brain phenomenon and its implications. The findings led to a complete overhaul in the theories, techniques, and practices that had structured the advertising industry and, to an extent, the entire television industry. The key phrase in Krugman's findings was that TV transmits 'information not thought about at the time of exposure.'" [p.p. 69-70]

"As Herbert Krugman noted in the research that transformed the industry, we do not consciously or rationally attend to the material resonating with our unconscious depths at the time of transmission. Later, however, when we encounter a store display, or a real-life situation like one in an ad, or a name on a ballot that conjures up our television experience of the candidate, a wealth of associations is triggered. Schwartz explains: 'The function of a display in the store is to recall the consumer's experience of the product in the commercial.... You don't ask for a product: The product asks for you! That is, a person's recall of a commercial is evoked by the product itself, visible on a shelf or island display, interacting with the stored data in his brain.' Just as in Julian Jaynes's ancient cultures, where the internally heard speech of the gods was prompted by props like the corpse of a chieftain or a statue, so, too, our internalized media echoes are triggered by products, props, or situations in the environment.

"As real-life experience is increasingly replaced by the mediated 'experience' of television-viewing, it becomes easy for politicians and market-researchers of all sorts to rely on a base of mediated mass experience that can be evoked by appropriate triggers. The TV 'world' becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: the mass mind takes shape, its participants acting according to media-derived impulses and believing them to be their own personal volition arising out of their own desires and needs. In such a situation, whoever controls the screen controls the future, the past, and the present." [p. 82, Joyce Nelson, THE PERFECT MACHINE; ., 1992, 800-253-3605; ISBN 0-86571-235-2 ]


Blogger and i said...

Check out this article too:

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Andy for providing the science behind my experiences that led me to throw away my televisions in 1996. I think in general that people don't realize the mind-numbing effects of TV because either they've never experienced or can't remember what it's like to have lively hopping brain. Peter

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about flat screens? Or 100 Hz televisions? I understand this phenomenon here is mainly because of the 50 Hz blinking of the old televisions?

8:51 AM  
Blogger and i said...

Good questions to which I don't have answers to... I would assume that advances in the technology have made this effect more... effective. But that's only speculation.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous neteller casinos said...

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8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TV is one of the worst addiction in the world, and most people can't see it starring them right in the face.

I wrote 4 articles on The Idiot Box and how it dumbs society down.

When you look at the articles that are telling the truth about television it's quite something that so many of them are old and written in the early 2000's or 90's. That's because they WANT you addicted to that crap. I haven't watched television since i was a kid and I feel liberated from the BS. Most the time though, I feel like I'm being attacked by it. Especially advertisements promoting consumerism. I don't get how the average Americans don't see this. I believe today, Americans watch an average of 8+ hours of TV a day. I don't buy the 4+, that's too little. This entire country is basically babysat by the TV, 8 hours or more sounds more accurate to me.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous William Belcher said...

The reason for the tuning out of your left brain is because it is suddenly saturated with DIFFERENT projected light into the eyes with EVERY camera change - this is deliberate. The left brain does not process information well as it's really only used to firelight or starlight shining directly into the eyes as opposed to reflected light which it processes well. Your left brain will not be busy tracking camera angle changes with plain video of a speaker.

8:10 AM  
Blogger satyamraikar17 said...

can you post some way to reverse the effect of tv on brain ? Or is this shit permanent?

12:20 PM  

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