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10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Television

Did you know that over 4 billion people around the world own a television? And did you know that nearly 80% of households in America have at least one Smart TV in their home? For most families, a television is a staple in their home. They watch the news with their morning coffee. They watch their favorite shows after dinner. They set their children up to watch cartoons while they get chores done. They binge watch reality tv shows when they’re feeling down. However, while a television is a staple that most of us are used to, it does play a hand in our inner psychology, in quite a few ways! Let’s learn more. Here are 10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Television…

Television can appeal to any person.

People who create and market television shows and movies have considered human psychology. They aim to create something to stimulate for an extended period of time. Because of this, television can appeal to quite literally any human. Regardless of age, gender, culture, or personality type, there is something on television that likely anyone will find appealing. These networks were designed to entertain people of all interests, as long as they continue to change the channels and find something that they enjoy. Because of this tie to our inner psychology, television is one of the most common forms of entertainment in the world. 


Television may have a powerful influence on our inner psychology. 

The human interactions that we often have may be with friends, family, coworkers, church peers, classmates, etc. These can strongly influence the way people see the world. It can also influence the way children and young adults develop their values and morals. However, experts actually believe that television can be just as big of an influence on us as these human interactions can. Television may have a powerful influence on our inner psychology. It can influence and alter the way that we think about society and culture. It can play a major role in how we view social issues such as gender, race, and class. It can also promote dangerous stereotypes due to many television shows and movies being created for entertainment, not education. 

Television can increase dopamine production in our brains.

Dopamine is a chemical that is produced in our brain. It’s responsible for our feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. When something makes us feel pleasured, satisfied, dopamine is released and is essentially telling us “we enjoy this!” Since children and adults watch television as a form of pleasure and enjoyment, dopamine is released in their brains. Their brains feel happy and satisfied and it keeps them wanting more! This “high” can feel like an addiction once our brains feel it and crave it. 

People seem to be obsessed with reality tv shows.

Reality television became a genre in the early 1990s and has been rapidly growing since. While it is likely the most popular form of television today, the draw and obsession with the genre is fascinating! What makes humans so attracted to the lives of other humans? Why can’t they stop watching these shows?

Experts believe that one of the main psychological reasons why people today are so obsessed with reality television is because of empathy. People feel drawn to the characters on the show and actually have a sense of familiarity with them. It feels personal. When a show is not technically scripted, the viewers may feel connected and far more engaged. Another psychological reason is because of the excitement and arousal. Shows like these release endorphins and increase heart rates.


Sometimes people may purposely rewatch television shows and movies.

Have you ever binge watched your favorite show? Or watched a movie that you’ve already seen a million times? If so, you’re not alone in this. Many people claim to be guilty of this and they may not even know why they do it. The truth is, it’s comforting and it makes us feel good! For many people, they feel a sense of euphoria when watching their favorite shows and movies over and over. When they have already seen something, they know what is going to happen in the show or the movie. This may give their brains a rest from too much thinking and configuring. 


Too much television can be damaging for the human brain. 

While television can entertain and stimulate the human brain, it can also cause damage. Studies have shown that people who watch copious amounts of television experience more drastic cognitive declines in their older years. They also seem to have lower volumes of “gray matter” in their brains. Gray matter is related to brain function that are responsible for vision, muscle control, hearing, decision making, and more. When people have more gray matter in their brain scans, they may have stronger cognitive skills. Exports believe that this damage is caused by television because it is sedentary and doesn’t involve any cognitive stimulation. 

Television can promote certain mental health disorders. 

Mental illness is unfortunately very common in the United States, with studies showing that nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness. While television may be an activity that some of us can freely enjoy, it isn’t as simple as an activity for others. Whether someone lives with a mental health disorder full time or has moments where it flares up, television could be a slippery slope for them. Television has actually been proven to increase the feelings related to mental illnesses such as:

-Depression 
-Anxiety
-Eating disorders
-Hoarding
-Loneliness 
-Insomnia
-Fatigue
-Mood disturbances

Many people use the television for education.

Some television shows are intended to be educational and informative. Teens and adults may watch news channels, documentaries, interviews, and more to educate themselves and stay informed. 
Parents often use television as a tool to open their child’s mind to a wide range of topics. Educational television shows can help them learn new topics before they are in school, topics that are not covered in the classroom, and as a supplementary learning tool for topics that are covered in the classroom. There are many benefits to a healthy amount of educational programs such as:

-Increasing academic skills
-Improving attitudes around learning
-Boosting motivation to learn
-Learning social skills


Television can have negative effects on children.

While educational television programs can be extremely beneficial for children, normal television programs may not have the same benefits. Television can also have negative effects on children. Studies have shown that allowing a child to watch television before they are around 18 months old can have long term negative effects. These may include:

-Struggles with language development
-Reading skills
-Short term memory
-Sleeping problems
-Attention retention issues

As we mentioned, television can be harmful for children who are older than this as well. When children watch shows that aren’t appropriate for their age they may show aggressive behavior, say inappropriate things, etc. Children who spend copious amounts of time in front of a screen may suffer from long term negative effects such as:

-Obesity
-Poor language skills
-Struggling with holding attention elsewhere 
-Slow or stunted cognitive development 
-Lack of social skills

News programs can affect us psychologically. 

We’ve all watched the news. This means that we all know most news programs can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Some news programs can help us feel connected to others. They can promote feelings of empathy, educate us on other cultures, put a spotlight on social issues, and so much more. However, negative news programs can cause significantly affect our mental health. Studies have shown that watching intense and negative news programs can:

-Lead to significant mood changes
-Increase risks of anxiety, depression, PTSD
-Enhance personal worries and struggles
-Affect physical health (heart issues)


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