Introduction: My response to both Steven Johnson’s, “Watching TV Makes You Smarter” & Dana Stevens “Thinking Outside the Idiot Box” Articles
Prelude: So Steven Johnson, a published author and contributor for New York Time Magazine, with no apparent background in the science or physiological fields, outside of his 8th grade chemistry class,recently posted a nearly 20 page essay on how TV makes you smarter. Then in good ole’ female fashion, Dana Stevens shoots Johnson’s entire theory down with a short,sweet and to the point- 3 page response.
For those who haven’t read Johnson’s article, he basically is throwing out the notion that too much TV is bad for you. Johnson claims new, fast paced, and action filled TV shows, such as 24,ER and Alias are actually beneficial for viewers, due to their complex story lines and multi-threading. Simply put, these shows are unpredictable and involve more brain activity then the average same old-but plot different character type shows, like the A-team.
I understand the logic behind Johnson’s claim that shows with more complex story lines and loads of multi-threading can have a higher intellectual value when compared to the less complex and intense shows. However I am not convinced that watching these shows, is actually more beneficial then reading a novel, playing a round of chess, or any other activity.
Now on the other end of this argument is Dana Stevens, who insist Johnson’s theory of intelligence only consistence of improved, “attention,patience,retention,[and] the parsing of narrative threads…”. Personally I agree with Stevens. The only benefits received from watching TV are only used to make you a better couch potato. Johnson failed to prove that their were any legit benefits to watching TV over any other intellectual activity. So for all of those hit dramatics, 24 and ER couch potatoes the truth is watching those shows will not increase your IQ anymore than the person who does not watch TV. In closing I will quote Stevens, theses shows such as ER and 24 are only ,”good at teaching you to think…about future episodes..”. So don’t kid yourself into thinking TV will make you smarter.