Confession: Sometimes, I like to watch reality TV. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty about it. Yes, watching Botoxed housewives and overly bronzed goons on Jersey Shore may be a waste of time, but there are days (and these are usually particularly stressful days at the office) when these shows really hit the spot. But could my predilection for mindless yet weirdly entertaining reality TV be making me stupid? Perhaps, suggests new research that looked at people’s intellectual reactions after reading a reality-TV-esque screenplay.
For the study, conducted by psychologists at the University of Linz in Austria, researchers asked a group of volunteers to read a screenplay about a "foolish soccer hooligan," MSNBC reports. One group read a longer version of the script in which the hooligan misunderstands an inspirational calendar quote of the day, goes to a bar, gets drunk, goes to a soccer game, gets into a fight and sleeps off his hangover the next day. The second group read a shorter version in which the hooligan doesn’t do anything stupid.The two groups were then asked a series of general-knowledge questions. Researchers found that the group who read the longer version of the screenplay with the hooligan acting stupidly performed worse on the test than those who read the shorter version.
‘What you’ve been thinking about recently or seeing recently (is) at a higher level in your consciousness, so your brain is kind of predisposed in that direction,’ oanne Cantor, a psychologist and member of the American Psychological Association, told MSNBC. This idea that media can affect our behaviour and emotions is called "media priming," and the theory doesn’t stop with reality TV.
So if you’ve just seen a movie about really altruistic people and you get an opportunity to behave altruistically, you’ll probably do it, rather than if you’ve just seen a movie about selfish people,” Cantor told MSNBC.
OK, so maybe my TV-watching is affecting me more than I thought. Will I change my habits? Not likely. I consider my media-consuption habits fairly balanced with a healthy stream of intellectually stimulating books, articles and films and a little junk thrown in for good measure.
Are you happy with the amount and type of TV you watch, or do you want to change your habits?