Television and the Brain
The common research and criticisms about television viewing are in regards to the affect of content: affect of watching violence, advertising etc. However, research, both old and new, reveals that television as an electronic device has certain affects on viewers' brains, regardless of the content that is playing.
In the 1960's a researcher named Herbert Krugman performed experiments in which he analyzed the brain waves of patients who watched television (Nelson, 1992). What he found was that within a short time of watching television, that patient's brain waves would switch from being beta waves ( the normal, conscious and alert state), to alpha waves (somewhere between conscious and unconscious state, lack of focus and alertness). The technical explanation for what causes this is outside the scope of this essay, but it has to do with the radiant light produced by cathode-ray tube televisions. Upon switching from watching television to reading text, the patient's beta waves returned. The speed with which the brain switched to alpha waves upon watching television astonished Krugman. His other interesting finding was that of how the left and right hemispheres of the brain responded during television viewing. His research showed that the left hemisphere of the brain (responsible for logical, critical information processing), was unfocused/idle during television viewing, and that the right hemisphere brain (information process affected by emotion; overall less critical/logical thinking than left hemisphere) exhibited twice as much activity as the left hemisphere (Moore, 2001). The implication of this phenomenon is that when watching television, the information that is being perceived and processed can easily be misinterpreted and because the critical thinking and logical parts of the brain aren't active, advertising has a greater affect because it plays towards irrational/subconscious feelings. Memories of products are stored, and when those products are seen again, they elicit an emotional response because they were processed with the right hemisphere at the time they were viewed on television.
Recent research indicates that television can actually be addictive. Endorphins (natural opiates) are released in the brain as the switch from left hemisphere to right hemisphere is made when one watches television (Moore, 2001). The release of endorphins is something that can be habit-forming, and the startling thing is that people who go...