NT Times - TV Makes you Smarter....

Then I must be a genius! My parents will be so proud.

This weekend in the NY Times Magazine, an article by Steven Johnson reports why modern television shows are helping us develop our minds. He explains that shows are so detailed these days with multiple characters and story lines, or threads, that one must really pay attention - and we as the audience are demanding these more intelligent programs.

Forget your parents Starsky and Hutch, Mary Tyler Moore and even Law and Order shows - each episode has the same formula and while we are comfortable laughing and enjoying them, they are nothing like the 24's and Soprano's we have today to engage us in some serious viewing. As Johnson wrote, “Think of the cognitive benefits conventionally ascribed to reading: attention, patience, retention, the parsing of narrative threads. Over the last half-century, programming on TV has increased the demands it places on precisely these mental faculties. This growing complexity involves three primary elements: multiple threading, flashing arrows and social network."

He even points out how this relates to the world of reality TV. He said, "...in fact the most significant change in the last five years of narrative entertainment involves reality TV. Does the contemporary pop cultural landscape look quite as promising if the representative show is ''Joe Millionaire'' instead of ''The West Wing''?...This is the ultimate test of the Sleeper Curve theory: even the junk has improved.... If early television took its cues from the stage, today's reality programming is reliably structured like a video game: a series of competitive tests, growing more challenging over time. Many reality shows borrow a subtler device from gaming culture as well: the rules aren't fully established at the outset. You learn as you play."

So the lesson we learn this weekend is that we should watch TV.... all kinds, reality, drama, and comedies as long as they contain multiple plotlines, characters, challenges etc. It also means we can play video games since this also develops our minds. So mom and dads, behold, the new x-box. It will teach your child more than you an imagine.

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