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Effects Of Television On Humans83
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While controversy continues to surround the way the content screen media affects our thoughts and behaviour, a growing body of empirical evidence is indicating that watching television causes physiological changes, which are really not for the better. Most of these effects occur irrespective of the type of programme that people watch - whether it is violence or teletubbies (fun, games, etc). It is the medium, not the message.
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New brain-imaging studies have found that different parts of the brain deal with different types of attention and so there can be types of attentional damage.
Television elicits our instinctive sensitivity to movement and sudden changes in vision or sound. The orienting response to television is apparent almost from birth: infants, when lying on their backs on the floor, will crane their necks around 180 degrees to watch. Twenty years ago, studies began to look at whether the medium of television alone - the stylistic techniques of cuts, edits, zooms, criticism, sudden noises, not the content of the programme - activates this orienting response. This was done by considering how electroencephalogram (EEG) responses were affected.
It is known that these stylistic techniques can indeed trigger involuntary physiological responses of detecting and attending to movement - dynamic stimuli - something television has in abundance. These techniques also cause us to continue to pay attention to the screen.
Most of our stares at a television screen are highly prone to termination, lasting less than three seconds. But as we continue to stare, it becomes progressively less fragile, gaining a powerful attentional inertia after about 15 seconds. By increasing the rate of edits - camera changes in the same visual scene - one can increase the subject's physiological excitement along with attention to the screen.
Others have compared the attentional demands of children's programmes made in the public and private sectors, that is, commercial television. Children's television programmes increasingly demand constant attentional shifts by their viewers but do not require them to pay prolonged attentional shifts to given events.
Researchers are now asking if it is possible that television's conditioning of short attentional span may be related to some school children's attentional deficits in later classroom settings and whether the recent increase of attention deficit disorders in children of school going age might be a natural reaction to our modern, fast culture - an attention deficit culture.
Compared to the pace with which the real life unfolds and is experienced by young children, television portrays life with the fast-forward button fully pressed. Rapidly changing images, scenery and events and high-fidelity sounds are highly stimulating and extremely interesting. Television is the flavour enhancer of the audiovisual world, providing unnatural levels of sensory stimulation.
The actual currency used to pay off and corrupt the reward system may come in the form of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. The release of dopamine in the brain is associated with reward. In particular, dopamine is seen as rewarding us for paying attention, especially to things that are novel and stimulating. This underfunctioning of dopamine may fail to reward the brain's attention systems, so they do not function effectively.
Interestingly, adults with attention...