There’s a perception that books are good, while TV is bad. Spend a day curled up with a book and you’re an intellectual, but spend a day watching your favorite show and you become a couch potato.
Similar to how candy gives you cavities and sun tanning is bad for our skin, it’s common knowledge that reading books is good for you. It increases your knowledge and makes you think. Watching television on the other hand kills off brain cells.
But why is that? Why can’t watching TV be just as educational as reading a book? For example, does watching the show Game of Thrones lower your intelligence, while reading the books does the exact opposite?
After all, there are all sorts of books. Some good, some poorly written. The same applies to shows as well. Is the situation as simple as categorizing books as good and TV as bad?
What Science Says About Books and Television
In 2013, a study was performed at Tohoku University in Japan. A team led by Hiraku Takeuchi examined the effects of television on the brains of 276 children, along with amount of time spent watching TV and its long-term effects.
Researcher Takeuchi found that the more TV the kids watched, parts of their brain associated with higher arousal and aggression levels became thicker. The frontal lobe also thickened, which is known to lower verbal reasoning ability.
The more hours of television the kids watched, the lower their verbal test results became. These negative effects in the brain happened regardless of the child’s age, gender, and economic background.
In the same year, a study was done on how reading a novel affected the brain. Gregory Burns and his colleagues at Emory University wanted to see the before and after effects of reading based on fMRI readings.
College students were asked to read Pompeii by Robert Harriss, a thriller based on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy. The book was chosen due to its strong narration and a dramatic plot based on true events.
After reading the novel, the students had increased connectivity in parts of the brain that were related to language. There was also increased activity in the sensory motor region of the brain, suggesting that readers experienced similar sensations to the characters in the book.
There are also long-term effects from reading books. Reading keeps your mind alert and delays cognitive decline in elders. Research even found that Alzheimer’s is 2.5 times less likely to appear in elderly people who read regularly, while TV was presented as a risk factor.
Six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68 percent, according to researchers at the University of Sussex. Reading beat out other relaxing activities, including listening to music (61 percent), drinking tea or coffee (54 percent), and taking a walk (42 percent).
Why These Activities Have Opposite Effects on Us
So far, reading’s looking pretty good compared to television. We can see that it calms the nerves, increases language and reasoning, and can even keep you mentally alert as you age. TV, on the other hand, has the opposite effect.
But we still haven’t gotten to why that’s the case.
Let’s look first at a study on how preschoolers and toddlers interact with their mothers during TV viewing versus reading a book.
The results found that watching TV resulted in lower amounts and quality of communication between the mother and child. During an educational TV program, mothers made few comments to their children, and if they did, it was unrelated to what their children said.
On the other hand, reading books together increased the amount and level of communication. Mothers were more likely to ask their child questions, respond to their child’s statements and questions, and explain concepts in greater detail.
Beyond mothers and their children, it’s not just an issue of the quality of the TV program or the book. It seems that the nature of the activities themselves is what’s causing the differences.
Television is designed to be…
Read more here: https://medium.com/@melissachu/how-books-and-television-affect-your-brain-differently-according-to-science-34ca8be1493?fbclid=IwAR2CstTUXv5QH4v9Y9RqbEZEkVijm5CJ2on5W081zaqXx3KVhAT6mU6PfsU
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