EFFECTS OF TELEVISION ON THE BRAIN
(Continued from File 23)
X. THE IMAGES WE BEHOLD ON TELEVISION
1. THIRTY-ONE BIASES
- War is better television than peace. It is filled with highlighted moments, contains action and resolution, and delivers a powerful emotion: fear. Peace is amorphous and broad. The emotions connected with it are subtle, personal and internal. These are far more difficult to televise.
- Violence is better TV than nonviolence.
- When there is a choice between objective events (incidents, data) and subjective information (perspectives, thoughts, feelings), the objective event will be chosen. It is more likely to take visual form.
- Cars (and most commodities) are more visible on television, and come across with less information loss, than any living thing, aside from human faces. The smaller a plant or creature, or the more complex an image it presents, the harder it is to convey and the less likely it is to be chosen. Cars, like most urban forms, offer a clean, straight, uncomplicated message. They communicate their essence more efficiently than plants do. We are bound to have more images of cars and urban forms on television than natural environments and creatures.
- Religions with charismatic leaders such as Billy Graham, Jesus Christ, Reverend Moon, Maharishi or L. Ron Hubbard are far simpler to handle on television than leaderless or nature-based religions like Zen Buddhism, Christian Science, American Indians, or, for that matter, atheism. Single, all-powerful gods, or individual godlike figures are simpler to describe because they have highly defined characteristics. Nature-based religions are dependent upon a gestalt of human feeling and perceptual exchanges with the planet. To be presented on television, they would need to be too simplified to retain meaning.
- Political movements with single charismatic leaders are also more suitable and efficient for television. When a movement has no leader or focus, television needs to create one. Mao is simpler to transmit than Chinese communism. Chavez is better television than farm workers. Steinem is better than women. Graham is better than Christianity. Erhard is better than the "human potential movement." Hitler is easier to convey than fascism. Nader is easier than consumerism.
- The one is easier than the many. The personality or the symbol is easier than the philosophy. The philosophy requires depth, time, development, and in some cases, sensory information. This remains true unless the many are made into copies of each other. Then, the one is the same as the many.
- For the same reasons, hierarchy is easier to report upon than democracy or collectivity. The former is focused and has a specific form: leaders and followers. Only the leaders need to be interviewed. Democratic or collective forms involve flow processes with power constantly shifting. Television reporters don't have time to interview everyone.
- Superficiality is easier than depth.
- Short subjects with beginnings and ends are simpler to transmit than extended and multifaceted information. The conclusion is simpler than the process.
- Verbal information is easier to convey than sensory information since television can deliver words with little information loss. Sensory information is easier to convey than intuitive information, if the former is confined to the two operative senses of television. Intuitive information, which has no form at all, can barely be sent or received.
- Feelings of conflict, and their embodiment in actions, work better on television than feelings of agreement and their embodiment in calm and unity. Conflict is outward, agreement is inward, and so the former is more visible than the latter.
- Lust is better television than satisfaction. Ebullience and anxiety are better than tranquility. On the other hand, anger is better than anxiety. Jealousy is better television than acceptance. All of these work more easily than love. Passionate love is more communicable than brotherly and sisterly love.
- Competition is inherently more television material than cooperation as it involves drama, winning, wanting and loss. Cooperation offers no conflict and becomes boring.
- Materialism, acquisitiveness and ambition, all highly focused attitudes, work better than spirituality, non-seeking, openness and yielding. The medium cannot deal with ambiguity, subtlety and diversity.
- Doing is easier to convey than being. Activity will always be chosen over inactivity.
- When dealing with primitive peoples, objective events such as hunting, building, fighting or dancing are easier to convey through television than subjective details of qualities of experience, ways of mind, alternative perceptions. The latter qualities, which form the heart of life for primitive people, are dropped out in favor of the former.
- Loud is easier to televise than soft. Close is easier than distant. Large is easier than small. Too large is harder than medium. The narrow is easier than the wide.
- Linear information works better on television than information that comes as a matrix or has dimension. The singular is more understandable than the eclectic. The speculative is easier than the ambiguous.
- The fixed is better than the evolutionary; the static is better than the fluid.
- The bizarre always get more attention on television than the usual.
- Facts concerning the moon are better television than poetry concerning the moon. Any facts work better than any poetry.
- The tree is easier to convey than the landscape. The bus is easier than the street. The street is easier than the forest path. The river is easier than the mountain. The flower is easier than the field. The road is easier than the river.
- The specific is always easier than the general.
- The expression is easier than the feeling, and so crying is better television than sadness. Verbal is always better than nonverbal.
- The desires of black people for jobs, housing, integration makes for better television, because they are objective desires, than the conveyance of black culture itself, which is subjective, multifaceted and sensory.
- The business relationship to natural landscapes as resources is easier to present than the Indian relationship to nature as the source of being.
- The advertising relationship to life as consumption is easier to get across on television than the spiritualist relationship to life as expression.
- A rocket scientist's understanding of the space and cosmos can be filtered through the medium; a mystic's understanding of space and cosmos as creature, or power, cannot be.
- Quantity is easier than quality.
- Death is easier than life. It is specific, focused, highlighted, fixed, resolved and has meaning aside from context. Life, on the hand, is fluid, ambiguous, process oriented, complex, multileveled, sensory, intuitive. Cutting down redwood trees is better television than trying to convey their aura and power.
EFFECTS OF TELEVISION ON THE BRAIN, PAGE 21