Watching TV Makes You Smarter: Critical Analysis
A lazy man’s fantasy is to do nothing and get something out of it. This is precisely what Steven Johnson preaches in his article “Watching TV Makes You Smarter”. And no, he is not talking about the knowledge gained from educational TV. He is saying that after watching The Sopranos, you will have gained intelligence from following a complicated plotline. Although Johnson and fellow couch potatoes would truly love to believe that watching TV works wonders on your brain, it is surely a fantasy with no relation to real life
Johnsons’ main argument is that TV has gotten more complicated over the years and our brains have to compensate for that. The calls this the Sleeper Curve and defines it: “The most debased forms of mass diversion- video games and violent TV dramas and juvenile sitcoms,- turn out to be nutritional after all” (215). More simply put, that even if TV is really bad, it is still a force for good, improving our brains and not making us dumb. Johnson compares what you gain from TV to what you gain from reading: attention, patience, retention, and parsing narrative threads. The complexity of TV places demands on the same cognitive qualities. Johnson gives several charts to represent how TV has changed, and our brains have had to evolve along with it. The charts show all the plots in an episode of The Sopranos, with up to 12 plots all overlapping, and ‘dumb’ old shows like Dragnet with just one simple plot all the way through.
The evidence at first seems sound, but he never gives us examples of how TV may really help your brain. If I watch a lot of TV will it translate to my test scores? Steven Johnson says that watching TV works the same parts of your brain as reading, (attention, patience, etc.). But I find it easy to argue that the instant gratification of entertainment in the complex plot works against these qualities more than for them. Your attention span may improve in terms of knowing...