Watching TV Makes You Smarter – Steven Johnson

Does watching television makes you smarter? What makes good television? What is it about good television that can make you smarter? These are all questions I asked myself before reading the story, “Watching TV Makes You Smarter,” by Steven Johnson. He promotes that although watching mindless television is not going to be good for you, there is television that will make your mind think and force it to follow events throughout the show. I agree with Johnson in a sense that the “right” television will increase brain activity and make people think while they are watching TV. Children and adolescents need to be exposed to “good” TV, because it will help them learn about social issues as they go through life. Good TV, according to Johnson, can be described as when, “you focus on the plot, and in focusing you’re exercising parts of your brain that map social networks, that fill in missing information, that connect multiple narrative threads,”(292). When choosing shows to watch it is important that people pick shows were they have to engage and submerge themselves into the action. He also defines “good TV” with a basic criteria, “whether a given show engages or sedates the mind,”(293).

I feel that this writing would have been more effective if Johnson had compared shows that were more recent. Although his article was post 2001, many people who read this article in the future are not going to know most of these shows. They only way I knew what most of these shows were is because I heard my parents and grandparents talk about them. I believe that TV today is not as great as it was in the past, but there are still some educational shows that help develop the brain, deal with everyday social issues, and overall make people think. Changes scenes and using good information make the show worth watching. Watching the “right” TV can make everyone smarter. Shows like the news, CSI and Law and Order, mostly geared towards adults, Teen Mom and Glee deal with the social issues of teenagers & Between the Lions, Dora and Super Readers are all educational for very young children learning to read, write and speak. Even though I feel that Johnson writing would have been more effective if he used more recent shows as examples, I agree that watching TV can make a person smarter and more aware of their social surroundings if they choose the “right” TV shows to watch.


3 thoughts on “Watching TV Makes You Smarter – Steven Johnson

  1. I hated that about the reading! How am I supposed to get the the points Steven Johnson was making when he was using such old television shows to get them across to me? Out of the ten or so shows he mentioned in his writing, I knew one, maybe two, of them! This did not help his cause at all.
    To be honest, this is probably why I didn’t really agree with him. I actually have the same view on this matter that you do; in a way. I agree with you that if you do watch the “right” television you can become smarter. however, I think we disagree on what the “right” television is. You mentioned it to be Law and Order, CSI, and Glee (to name a few) while I think these shows are strictly for entertainment. I don’t see how we can gain knowledge from these shows? They create fake scenarios that are extremely hard to follow through the forty four minutes of the show airing.

    • ***** This somehow posted before I was done, and I didn’t know how to edit it, so this is my continuation. Sorry*****

      Instead, I find the “right” television to be the obvious shows; like anything on the History Channel or Discovery Channel.
      I couldn’t agree with Steven Johnson here. In general, I feel there are a lot better things to do in order to stimulate your mind to become smarter than watching TV.

  2. I agree when you say TV helps people to be more aware of their social sorroundings. However I don´t think it makes you smarter. What I mean is that, just becouse you know the rules, do you really know why are the rules there? who would invent the rules? who would benefit from the rules? who would lose with the rules? For me inteligence is to take an argument and take it as far and as deep as you can in a human way

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