The act of reading fosters habits of analysis, questioning, comprehension, and rationality. Television, with its emphasis on emotion, image, and speed, fails to contribute to the development of these key skills.
- The NCES (2000)
...pop-culture, it's what people prioritize in their lives. The truth is, as much as we want to focus on politics, the American people would rather watch television. As much as we want to talk about substance, they'd rather listen to music. So I have to know what they are watching, I have to know what they are listening to, and I got to know why.
"According to Olken’s research, in Indonesia, where TV coverage isn’t yet universal, one finds that “better signal reception, which is associated with more time spent watching television and listening to radio, is associated with substantially lower levels of participation in social activities and with lower self-reported measures of trust.” - The American (Jan 2008)
"But it is clear that social interaction matters. Loneliness and being alone are not the same thing, but both are on the rise. We meet fewer people. We gather less. And when we gather, our bonds are less meaningful and less easy. The decrease in confidants—that is, in quality social connections—has been dramatic over the past 25 years. In one survey, the mean size of networks of personal confidants decreased from 2.94 people in 1985 to 2.08 in 2004. Similarly, in 1985, only 10 percent of Americans said they had no one with whom to discuss important matters, and 15 percent said they had only one such good friend. By 2004, 25 percent had nobody to talk to, and 20 percent had only one confidant." - The Atlantic (May 2012)
"The report concluded that 57 percent of those who had proficient reading skills had performed volunteer work, compared with 18 percent of the people with poor skills. It also found that the better a person's reading skills, the more likely that person voted in the 2000 election. The Education Department study showed 84 percent of proficient readers voted, compared with 62 percent of those with basic skills and 53 percent of those with poor skills. " - Bloomberg (Nov 2007) and AL.com (Nov 2007)
"How aggressively stupid is America when it comes to our debates over taxes, budgets and the size of government? That's been difficult to answer with any precision, beyond simply citing the Tea Partier who famously told his congressman to "keep your government hands off my Medicare." But now we have some hard numbers to tell us how deep this ignorance really goes." - Huffington Post (Feb 2011)
"Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment, but more than half can name at least two family members of "The Simpsons" - MSNBC (March 2006)
"Our uninformed electorate - Bennett's research found that "most Americans were 'out to lunch' when it came to basic information about politics" in the most recent election year." - The Carpetbagger Report (Aug 2006)
As noted in Amusing Ourselves to Death, books brought about the "Age of Reason", TV on the other hand has brought about the "Age of Entertainment".
Attention-Deficit Citizenry. As Amusing Ourselves to Death points out debates, during the 1800's would last hours. The example he gave was a 7 hour debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas (and this was considered a short debate). Each speaker given at least one hour to speak at a time. Nowadays, debaters are allowed at most three minutes (so the audience doesn't get bored).
As Robert Putnam pointed out, TV's effects differ from generation to generation. The "Greatest Generation" didn't watch any TV growing up, and was very civically engaged. The "Baby Boomer Generation" grew up with some TV (less civically engaged). And the "GenX Generation" which basically grew up on TV (apathetic and disengaged).
"So when analyses on nationally representative samples of 9 million young people since 1966 suggested the opposite was true—civic engagement is actually lower among the 1982-1999 born group they call Millennials—Winograd and Hais fired back." - Psychology Today Blog (March 2012)
"The participants in the study - aged 18 to 25 -- were found to be "lost" or deficient, not in their moral behavior, but in their ability to think and talk in moral terms. Asked to comment on whether cheating on a school test, cheating on a partner, or driving drunk were morally right or wrong, respondents were noncommittal. Questioned more closely about the moral dimension of these activities, the respondents either remained silent or made statements such as, ‘Thinking about right and wrong is something I don't do every day.'" - Psychology Today (Spet 2011)
"Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University professor of psychology who has studied the psyche of college students, recently found that the ego of incoming college freshmen has become acutely inflated over the past four decades." - Washington Monthly (June 2011)
"College students today are significantly less empathic than students of the 80's or 90's, according to a new study by the University of Michigan. The 30-year longitudinal study of nearly 14,000 students found a 40% drop in empathy from the late 70's, with the sharpest decline occurring after the year 2000." - Psychology Today (May 2010) and Science Daily (May 2010)
"Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see; fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically." - Alternet (July 2011)
- Because people are getting most of their political information from the TV, politicians are forced to spend huge amounts on TV advertising. The result is politicians more, and more beholden to special interests.
- America has become a celebrity obsessed society. What are effects of millions of people emulating narcissistic celebrities ?
Good God, it isn't as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but it is a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be rebels any more. And out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily. Can you dance faster than the White Clown, shout louder than 'Mr. Gimmick' and the parlor 'families'? If you can, you'll win your way, Montag. In any event, you're a fool.
"All the gossip, insults and dirty looks add up fast on popular reality shows, far outpacing the level seen in equally popular dramas, comedies and soap operas according to a new Brigham Young University study. The researchers looked at five reality shows and five non-reality shows and found 52 acts of aggression per hour on reality TV compared to 33 per hour for the non-reality programs." - eScience News (May 2010)
"The type of so-called reality show represented by the "Real Housewives" franchise is the soft-bellied, 21st century American TV version of a gladiatorial contest. It has no agenda except giving viewers the basest sort of entertainment: the spectacle of people doing violence to each other and suffering violence themselves. Instead of going at each other like gladiators with swords and clubs, or like boxers hurling punches, participants in this kind of unscripted show attack each other psychologically. The show's appeal is the spectacle of emotional violence. The participants -- or "cast members," as they are revealingly labeled -- suffer and bleed emotionally while we watch and guffaw." - Salon (Aug 2011)
Regarding the 'mean-world' syndrome, a quote from Television and its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research (1999) page 49: "Gerbner and Gross reasoned that a heightened and widespread sense of fear, danger and apprehension can bolster demands for greater security; this in turn can mean greater legitimacy of the authority that can promise to meet those demands, creating conditions highly conductive to repression and undermining support for civil liberties. It can also mean greater acceptance of the use of violence as an appropriate means to solve disputes of international policy... or greater habituation to violence and passivity in the face of injustice."
"But today, for most middle-class American children, "going out to play" has gone the way of the dodo, the typewriter and the eight-track tape... And forget about walking to school alone. Today's kids don't walk much at all (adding to the childhood obesity problem)... Forget the television fear-mongering: Your child stands about the same chance of being struck by lightning as of being the victim of what the Department of Justice calls a "stereotypical kidnapping." And unless you live in Baghdad, your child stands a much, much greater chance of being killed in a car accident than of being seriously harmed while wandering unsupervised around your neighborhood." - L.A. Times (May 2008)