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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Does Television Make You Smarter?

I was reading an article that contends television makes you smarter. The thesis goes that before television was land of no think. Mary Tyler Moore and shows of the seventies while smarter than the average (see Brady Bunch) variety still gave you the answer and were very simple myopic story lines. The shows of today are different. House of Cards. Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Modern Family require people to think with multiple characters and story lines.

Even shows of the ER variety made us think because even though we don't know the medical nomenclature we are a lot better off just hearing it and sort of figuring it out. The writer says that we have to keep our head in the game or we cannot figure out what is going on without referring to  what happened the week before. In this way we are being pulled along by a hidden proctor saying PAY ATTENTION.

Now the television makes us smarter thesis has a couple problems. One is that we don't always watch the smart shows. In fact a lot of times we watch the dumb shows or reality television. We do this because we get distracted and end up some other place than our smart show destination. One could make a case that Cake Boss has intelligence that it is very hard to make a prize winning cake..yeah..but no.

Probably the biggest fallacy is intent. We just don't go to television to learn. We go to relax and yes we do learn along the way and television is probably essential just for cultural reference points. But smarter...ah...maybe. Maybe not.

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