TV Effects On The Brain

by Julia Hall

Television rose to prominence in the early 20th century, and since then, experts have debated the effects of television on the brain. Many take television watching for granted and just accept that every home in the United States should have a television set. Babies are exposed to television waves from within the womb and many mothers and childcare givers routinely place children from birth in front of a television set for a variety of reasons. But are these practices helpful or harmful? Are there psychological, physiological, and biological effects that may arise as a result of regular exposure to television waves? Though there are many childcare providers that swear by the benefits of television as a form of entertainment and even an instant babysitter, experts disagree and state that television viewing isn’t the most healthful activity children should engage in.

Hypnotic State

Television viewing, particularly in the forms of media advertising, may induce a hypnotic state in viewers. It is believed that frequent television watching lulls the mind and makes the subconscious easy to access. It has been theorized that this hypnotic state is why many people feel they can have difficulty falling asleep, yet once they turn the television on, they easily drift off. Some studies show that the repetitive flicker of a television screen induces this hypnotic state in which the mind then becomes palpable. Marketing, advertisers, even subliminal messages may then be transmitted through television shows as well as commercials.

Lack of Critical Analysis

Because television viewing lulls the mind into a hypnotic state and transfers thought processes from the left side of the brain to the right side; one effect of TV viewing is the lack of critical analysis. The left side of the brain is revered for being the logical, reasoning center. Because thought process shifts to the right side, it is further argued that the mind becomes more programmed, controlled, and open to suggestion through the use of television. It is theorized that those who watch a large amount of television have a distorted view of real life as their perceptions have been shaped and influenced by television.

Physical Addiction

Like many addictive substances, television releases endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are known as the “feel good” chemicals, and it is believed that due to this chemical release, people may become physically addicted to watching television. Those who become addicted may suffer withdrawal symptoms just as with other addictions. It is believed that physical addiction to television results in people needing to watch it on a daily basis.

Reduction in Higher Brain Function

Some studies indicate that excessive television viewing reduces the ability to use higher brain function. This is seen as an actual lowering of intelligence and is used by advertisers to persuade consumers to buy. Many theories have been developed that show advertisers target the primitive needs of consumers in order to make a sale. Combined with the natural, hypnotic state induced through television and the reduction in higher brain function, many find it difficult to reason that they do not need another product.

TV Rots Your Brain

When television first came to prominence, many believed that too much television would rot your brain. There has been truth to this as scientific imaging has shown more brain activity when someone is asleep opposed to someone watching television. The lack of brain stimulus means that the brain is not being properly exercised; therefore, it may lose some of its capabilities. Activities such as doing word puzzles help strengthen and exercise the brain, while television watching actually lowers brain activity.

Short Attention Span

Some studies show a correlation between excessive television watching and a short attention span. It is also believed that there may be a connection between Attention Deficit Disorder and excessive television viewing. As television reduces the amount of critical thinking one performs, so too is the attention span affected. The shortening of attention spans has not been without notice by advertisers either. Marketers are well aware that they have a short amount of time to capture a consumer’s mind and make a sale.

Increased Risk of Death

As television viewing increases, so do habits such as mindless eating and sitting on a couch all day. Couch potatoes have a high risk of developing obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. The more television someone watches, the less activity they have outdoors. This culminates in a greater increase or risk of sickness and ultimately increases the risk of death.

Reduced Brain Development

Many studies have shown that children between the ages of birth and two-years-old may suffer from diminished or reduced brain development if they watch an excessive amount of television. It is believed that television viewing may hinder the development of the frontal lobe and can lead to problems with concentration. Other problems associated with television and brain development include difficulties with impulse control. Some believe that conditions such as anti-social personality may be linked to excessive television watching.

Mind Programming/Subliminal Messages

As television viewing creates an environment conducive to mind programming, it is a frequent host for subliminal messages. Television commercials may use subliminal messages in order to try to make a person buy a product they may otherwise have rejected. Television show producers also use mind control and programming as they may have an agenda behind the shows they create. If a show becomes popular, there is a good chance that the family values or lack thereof will soon become accepted by society.

TV and Aggression

More studies have been conducted in the past 50-years to determine the correlation between television violence and violence in children. The results have been overwhelming that TV violence promotes aggressive behaviors and violence in children. The more children watch television, the greater they are exposed to violent acts. These acts filter in through the mind and subsequently are acted upon in their behaviors.

Reversing TV Effects

One of the best ways to reverse television effects is to engage your brain in other activities. It may not be possible to stop watching television entirely, but you can limit how much you watch and promote healthy activities for the mind. Reading is one of the best ways to empower your brain and activate higher learning skills. Use your mind for tasks that require concentration and deep thought. Work on puzzles, learn a new language, or perform other tasks that you find enjoyable but take brain power. Make certain that children have plenty of time away from the television set so their brains will develop in the best manner possible.

  • The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute discusses the effects of television on teenagers, including repeated exposure to violence and stereotypes.
  • This research paper from the University of California, Berkeley, examines hypnosis closely and discusses its role in psychology.
  • This report by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System discusses the negative impact that television may have on children.
  • The University of Michigan Health System examines the impact of too much television and children.
  • A report published in Human Communication Research showed that television may negatively affect a child’s relationship with his or her parents and reduces literacy and language.
  • Television, Learning, and the Cognitive Development of Young Children: The University of Florida IFAS Extension examines the impact of television on children’s cognitive development.
  • Children and Electronic Media: The Future of Children looks at the impact of media and pro-social behavior.
  • The United States Department of Health and Human Services discusses the impact of a University of Pittsburgh study connecting teenagers with television and depression.
  • The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology examines the correlation between television violence and children’s behavior in this PDF document.
  • The Iowa State University Department of Psychology discusses the effects of media violence upon society as a whole in this PDF document.
  • Brynmawr examines the negative effects of television associated with brain development.
  • : The University of Illinois Extension examines the impact of TV violence on family values.
  • ? The American Diabetes Association studies the connection between television viewing and Diabetes.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration discusses the effects of television radiation.
  • Television, Health, and Development: The University of Washington examines the negative effects of television on the health and development of children.


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