The "one eyed monster" sequel...
Posted on 12th May 2021 at 12:00
It’s been a while – 2016, to be precise – since we’ve devoted an entire blog post to the “one eyed monster” or, as we heard it described recently, the “idiot box”…
While it may not have taken centre stage for a while, it has been mentioned in passing on a number of occasions in our posts. The main reason for this is that it still seems to be the primary source of information for many people. Dare we even say the majority of people. This always strikes us as rather strange, given how easy it is to obtain information these days, not least with a little googling. Even more so as it usually results in a much more rounded picture of whatever topic you’re interested in, as well as being more convenient – and quicker (!) – too.
Perhaps this owes more to “custom and practice” or, as the slightly cynical among us may observe, our preference for taking the easiest option available… However, as we’ve repeatedly pointed out before, relying on someone else to do ANY research for you is fraught with pitfalls. And that includes us, which is why we always encourage you to go and do your own research, rather than automatically assuming something is true or accurate. We’ll leave those thoughts with you to mull over before we get too side tracked – or into too dangerous waters…
With how integral television has become in our lives, it’s not surprising there’s been so much research about its impact on us. Much of this dates back to the 1960’s and a gentleman we’ve mentioned before when we looked at the power of advertising in 2016. Herbert Krugman. You can find this post here.
If you’re wondering why we’re looking so far back at this research – it’s practically prehistoric by today’s standards (!) – it’s for one simple reason. It shows just how long opinion makers – and we’re not just talking about companies here, but ANYONE who wishes to channel our opinions and behaviour in a particular direction – have been aware of the power of television on both our perceptions and behaviour.
So why is Krugman still so important?
Quite simply because he was a pioneer in this field with a broad range of experience, qualifications and influence. To start with he had both a degree and PhD in Psychology. Years of experience in Corporate Public Opinion Research at General Electric Company, as well as other well known American companies. And, finally, he was President of the American Association for Public Opinion Research; as well as of Consumer Psychology at the American Psychological Association and the Market Research Council of New York. Phew!
From our own experience, we’re all aware of the seemingly hypnotic effect television can have on us. Finding ourselves sitting in front of a programme, with no idea of why we’re watching it, let alone what’s been happening (!). Or finding ourselves agreeing with a point of view that’s very different to our normal one, without any idea why. And that’s assuming we’re still awake and haven’t drifted off into the Land of Nod… All of which leaves us wondering what on earth is going on and takes us straight back to Krugman.
During our – non television (!) – life, activity occurs in both sides of our Brain; although it tends to be focussed on one side or other, depending on what we’re doing or thinking about. If it involves more logical – or linear – thinking or activities, then the Left Hemisphere is dominant. Conversely, if it’s more creative – or intuitive – then the Right Hemisphere is most active. However, the important thing to bear in mind is that, regardless of the relative proportions, both sides of the Brain are involved, not just one.
Not only are the thinking processes in each hemisphere different, so is the way they each process information coming in from our five senses. The Left Hemisphere breaks information down into its component parts and then critically analyses it. It looks at the details, the “nuts and bolts.” By contrast, the Right Hemisphere simply accepts incoming data uncritically and processes it as a whole, responding in an emotional way – “it feels right or wrong (!)” – rather than a logical one. This then leads to the release of hormones, whether endorphins, the so called “happy hormones”, or Adrenaline and Cortisol, the “fight or flight hormones.”
Research has repeatedly found that television completely shuts down logical, Left Hemisphere activity and switches us over to Right Hemisphere thinking. This means that all incoming information is simply accepted, without any logical thinking being involved, along with the release of the appropriate hormones. This explains why television is so addictive and people can find it so difficult people to kick the “television habit.”
However, it doesn’t stop there. As activity switches to the Right Hemisphere, activity in the Higher Brain also reduces, while that in the Lower Brain increases. Put another way, our thinking becomes simpler and more basic. Centred on survival, rather than more higher level or critical thinking.
The Lower Brain is often referred to as the “Reptilian Brain”, as it’s responsible for the most basic survival functions. In particular, the “fight or flight” response, as well as other basic body processes such as heart rate, breathing and body temperature. And here’s the crucial similarity it shares with the Right Hemisphere. Information is simply accepted without any logical thought.
So, here's the important bit. To the Reptilian Brain, if it looks real, then it’s real. Which, as far as television is concerned, means that the Reptilian Brain can’t distinguish between reality and what is on the television. From its perspective it’s all real, end of story. And you may like to read those last couple of sentences a few times and let the implications soak in…
While we may know on a conscious level it’s “only a film” – or make believe – our Reptilian Brain will react as though it’s really happening right in front of us. Causing our “fight or flight” instincts to come into play as we watch a thriller and feel our heart begin to beat faster.
Similarly, while we know advertising is trying to manipulate us into wanting the latest “must have”, we still find our basic emotions being triggered. Feeling inadequate without whatever it is, craving the “happy hormones” fix, from getting it. And, because, it’s stimulating our unconscious and deepest levels of response we find it almost impossible to resist.
The only thing you need to remember is that it’s exactly the same process each time. Whether it’s an advertiser wanting our hard earned cash or a television programmer – or Politician (!) – wanting to “encourage” us into their particular point of view. This is why emotions are so powerful and easy to take advantage of. All anyone has to do is trigger them in one particular direction – or other – to get the outcome they desire.
So, where are we going with this?
Well, once again, it’s all about being aware of the game being played right in front of your eyes, so you don’t fall for it before you’ve realised what’s happening.
Noticing when you’re sitting slumped in front of the television, with no idea of what’s happening. Or finding yourself agreeing – or going along with something – without having applied any logical thought to it. And, if you find yourself being “encouraged” into anything – whether a particular thought or action – then that should sound very loud warning bells.
Humans, by our very natures, are trusting beings. We like to think that everyone acts honourably and has our – and everyone else’s – best interests at heart. Sadly – and increasingly – this is far from the case, so it’s important we don’t just get swept along by the tide. And, if we decide to do so, then making sure we’ve made a conscious decision about it before letting ourselves be carried away.
As always, the choice is yours.
Photograph by unknown author
Share this post: