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Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor Reality is a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs...

The greatest hypnotist on the planet is sitting in the corner of every living room The term TV addiction is imprecise and laden with value judgments, but it captures the essence of a ver real phenomenon! "s chologists and ps chiatrists formall define substance dependence as a disorder characteri#ed b criteria that include spending a great deal of time using the substance$ using it more often than one intends$ thin%ing about reducing use or ma%ing repeated unsuccessful efforts to reduce use$ giving up important social, famil or occupational activities to use it$ and reporting withdrawal s mptoms when one stops using it! All these criteria can appl to people who watch a lot of television! That does not mean that watching television, per se, is problematic! &ithin moments of sitting or l ing down and pushing the power button, viewers report feeling more rela'ed! (ecause the rela'ation occurs )uic%l , people are conditioned to associate viewing with rest and lac% of tension! The association is positivel reinforced because viewers remain rela'ed throughout viewing, and it is negativel reinforced via the stress and d sphoric rumination that occurs once the screen goes blan% again! *abit+forming drugs wor% in similar wa s! A tran)uili#er that leaves the bod rapidl is much more li%el to cause dependence than one that leaves the bod slowl , precisel because the user is more aware that the drug,s effects are wearing off! -imilarl , viewers, vague learned sense that the will feel less rela'ed if the stop viewing ma be a significant factor in not turning the set off! Viewing begets more viewing! A (od at .est Tends to -ta at .est people who were watching TV reported feeling rela'ed and passive! The //0 studies similarl show less mental stimulation, as measured b alpha brain+wave production, during viewing than during reading! &hat is more surprising is that the sense of rela'ation ends when the set is turned off, but the feelings of passivit and lowered alertness continue! -urve participants commonl reflect that television has somehow absorbed or suc%ed out their energ , leaving them depleted! The sa the have more difficult concentrating after viewing than before!

0rabbing 1our Attention &hat is it about TV that has such a hold on us2 In part, the attraction seems to spring from our biological orienting response! 3irst described b Ivan "avlov in 4567, the orienting response is our instinctive visual or auditor reaction to an sudden or novel stimulus! It is part of our evolutionar heritage, a built+in sensitivit to movement and potential predator threats! T pical orienting reactions include dilation of the blood vessels to the brain, slowing of the heart, and constriction of blood vessels to major muscle groups! Alpha waves are bloc%ed for a few seconds before returning to their baseline level, which is determined b the general level of mental arousal! The brain focuses its attention on gathering more information while the rest of the bod )uiets!

In 4589 ( ron .eeves of -tanford :niversit , /sther Thorson of the :niversit of Missouri and their colleagues began to stud whether the simple formal features of television++cuts, edits, #ooms, pans, sudden noises++activate the orienting response, thereb %eeping attention on the screen! ( watching how brain waves were affected b formal features, the researchers concluded that these st listic tric%s can indeed trigger involuntar responses and derive their attentional value through the evolutionar significance of detecting movement!!!! It is the form, not the content, of television that is uni)ue! The orienting response ma partl e'plain common viewer remar%s such as; If a television is on, I just can,t %eep m e es off it, I don,t want to watch as much as I do, but I can,t help it, and I feel h pnoti#ed when I watch television! In the ears since .eeves and Thorson published their pioneering wor%, researchers have delved deeper! Annie <ang,s research team at Indiana :niversit has shown that heart rate decreases for four to si' seconds after an orienting stimulus! In ads, action se)uences and music videos, formal features fre)uentl come at a rate of one per second, thus activating the orienting response continuousl ! formal features affect people,s memor of what the have seen! In one of their studies, participants watched a program and then filled out a score sheet! Increasing the fre)uenc of edits++defined here as a change from one camera angle to another in the same visual scene++improved memor recognition, presumabl because it focused attention on the screen! Increasing the fre)uenc of cuts++changes to a new visual scene++had a similar effect but onl up to a point! If the number of cuts e'ceeded 4= in two minutes, recognition dropped off sharpl ! "roducers of educational television for children have found that formal features can help learning! (ut increasing the rate of cuts and edits eventuall overloads the brain! Music videos and commercials that use rapid intercutting of unrelated scenes are designed to hold attention more than the are to conve information! "eople ma remember the name of the product or band, but the details of the ad itself float in one ear and out the other! The orienting response is overwor%ed! Viewers still attend to the screen, but the feel

tired and worn out, with little compensating ps chological reward! >ur /-M findings show much the same thing! -ometimes the memor of the product is ver subtle! Man ads toda are deliberatel obli)ue; the have an engaging stor line, but it is hard to tell what the are tr ing to sell! Afterward ou ma not remember the product consciousl ! 1et advertisers believe that if the have gotten our attention, when ou later go to the store ou will feel better or more comfortable with a given product because ou have a vague recollection of having heard of it! The natural attraction to television,s sound and light starts ver earl in life! ?afna <emish of Tel Aviv :niversit has described babies at si' to eight wee%s attending to television! &e have observed slightl older infants who, when l ing on their bac%s on the floor, crane their nec%s around 48= degrees to catch what light through onder window brea%s! This inclination suggests how deepl rooted the orienting response is! TV Is "art of Them &e wondered whether heav viewers might e'perience life differentl than light viewers do! ?o the disli%e being with people more2 Are the more alienated from wor%2 &hat we found nearl leaped off the page at us! *eav viewers report feeling significantl more an'ious and less happ than light viewers do in unstructured situations, such as doing nothing, da dreaming or waiting in line! The difference widens when the viewer is alone! ?o people turn to TV because of bored om and loneliness, or does TV viewing ma%e people more susceptible to boredom and loneliness2 more viewing ma contribute to a shorter attention span, diminished self+restraint and less patience with the normal dela s of dail life! >ver time, both adults and children in the town became less creative in problem solving, less able to persevere at tas%s, and less tolerant of unstructured time! the most convincing parallel between TV and addictive drugs is that people e'perience withdrawal s mptoms when the cut bac% on viewing++ individual accounts of families whose set had bro%en++ Tried to interest children in games, but impossible! TV is part of them! reconfiguring themselves around a new set of activities is no eas tas%! cold+tur%e studies++ prevalence of these withdrawal s mptoms! The first three or four da s for most persons were the worst, the regular routines were disrupted, famil members had difficulties in dealing with the newl available time, an'iet and aggre ssions were e'pressed!!!! "eople living alone tended to be bored and irritated!!!! ( the second wee%, a move toward adaptation to the situation was common!

displacement of other activities b television ma be sociall significant -lave to the @omputer -creen on video games and computer use, the same principles often appl ! The games offer escape and distraction$ pla ers )uic%l learn that the feel better when pla ing$ and so a %ind of reinforcement loop develops! The obvious difference from television, however, is the interactivit ! programmed games can immediatel provide a near+perfect match of challenge to s%ill! The offer the ps chic pleasure++what one of us A@si%s#entmihal iB has called flowC++ that accompanies increased master of most an human endeavor! >n the other hand, prolonged activation of the orienting response can wear pla ers out! Dids report feeling tired, di## and nauseated after long sessions! Eapanese children were rushed to the hospital, man suffering from opticall stimulated epileptic sei#ures caused b viewing bright flashing lights in a "o%Fmon video game broadcast on Eapanese TV! -ei#ures and other untoward effects of video games are significant rapid movement on the screen has caused motion sic%ness in oung children after just 4G minutes of pla ! Man oungsters, lac%ing self+control and e'perience Aand often supervisionB, continue to pla despite these s mptoms! how people respond to &eb sites! <ang and -h am -undar of "enns lvania -tate :niversit have been stud ing how people respond to &eb sites! -undar has shown people multiple versions of the same &eb page, identical e'cept for the number of lin%s! :sers reported that more lin%s conferred a greater sense of control and engagement! At some point, however, the number of lin%s reached saturation, and adding more of them simpl turned people off! As with video games, the abilit of &eb sites to hold the user,s attention seems to depend less on formal features than on interactivit ! 3or growing numbers of people, the life the lead online ma often seem more important, more immediate and more intense than the life the lead face+to+face! Maintaining control over one,s media habits is more of a challenge toda than it has ever been! TV sets and computers are ever where! (ut the small screen and the Internet need not interfere with the )ualit of the rest of one,s life! In its eas provision of rela'ation and escape, television can be beneficial in limited doses! 1et when the habit interferes with the abilit to grow, to learn new things, to lead an active life, then it does constitute a %ind of dependence and should be ta%en seriousl ! 3urther Information;

Television and the Hualit of <ife; *ow Viewing -hapes /ver da /'perience! .obert Dube and Mihal @si%s#entmihal i! <awrence /rlbaum Associates, 455=! Television ?ependence, ?iagnosis, and "revention! .obert &! Dube in Tuning in to 1oung Viewers; -ocial -cience "erspectives on Television! /dited b Tannis M! Mac(eth! -age, 455G! I,m Addicted to Television; The "ersonalit , Imagination, and TV &atching "atterns of -elf+Identified TV Addicts! .obert ?! McIlwraith in Eournal of (roadcasting and /lectronic Media, Vol! I6, No! J, pages J74++J89$ -ummer 4558! The <imited @apacit Model of Mediated Message "rocessing! Annie <ang in Eournal of @ommunication, Vol! G=, No! 4, pages I9++7=$ March 6===! Internet :se and @ollegiate Academic "erformance ?ecrements; /arl 3indings! .obert Dube , Michael E! <avin and Eohn .! (arrows in Eournal of @ommunication, Vol! G4, No! 6, pages J99++J86$ Eune 6==4! The Authors .>(/.T D:(/1 and MI*A<1 Ahttp;KKwww!mediastudies!rutgers!eduB!