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Can Television Make You Smarter? Essay

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In Steven Johnson's article "Watching TV Makes You Smarter" he discusses the intellectual merits of television programs. The essence of Johnson's argument is that the complexity of certain current shows can get one to think at a higher cognitive level, and that shows have become more "cognitively demanding"of their viewers over the past few decades. Johnson's argument, that is in favor of watching quality television and the benefits that one can get from it, is reinforced by some good points the author makes. Johnson is effective in his argument and was very convincing. Viewing certain television programs can in fact benefit one's cognitive capacities, especially in children.
Johnson article effectively states that watching programs such as "Hill Street Blues", "24", and "Lost" can make one smarter because they require a lot of thinking on the part of the viewer. Johnson asserts, that when watching these programs "you have to focus to follow the plot, and in focusing you're exercising the parts of your brain that map social networks, that fill in missing information, that connect multiple narrative threads"(228). He believes that shows have come a long way in past years, explaining that shows from the 30-40 years ago were not as complex as are some of the shows on television these days. In his article, he explains that shows from decades past, such as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "All in the Family" essentially did all the thinking for you. In those shows the plot was spelled out for you, and watching them required little brain function, whereas shows today require much more mental participation from the viewer. Similar to reading, when watching complex television shows you can gain "cognitive benefits conventionally as...


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... not all reality show contestants are worthy of such degradation. It seems as though some people become so preoccupied with the themes that are blatant and obvious rather than really give some shows a fair shake, a point that Johnson also states in his article.
Is it true that is a common, widely accepted belief that books can make one a smarter person? Yes
It is also true that certain programs make your brain function similar to the way reading a book does, so I truly believe that watching certain televisions programs can make someone smarter. I believe for parents, television can be utilized as a useful educational tool for their children. In fact, anyone who is looking to give their brain a "cognitive workout" can simply click on the television and navigate to programming that will supply the brain with good quality input, which will make them smarter.



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