Friday, January 21, 2005

A Disturbing Study

Watching less that 4 hours/day of TV impairs ability to ridicule pop culture:

"An hour or two of television per day simply does not provide enough information to effectively mock mediocre sitcoms, vapid celebrities, music videos, and talk-show hosts—an essential skill in modern society," said Dr. Madeleine Ben-Ami, a professor of cognitive science and chief author of the study. "The average person requires a minimum of four to six hours of television programming each day to be conversant on the subject of The Apprentice or able to impersonate Anna Nicole Smith."

Tracking 800 individuals between the ages of 15 and 39, researchers found that people who watch fewer than four hours of television a day have difficulty understanding the references made on VH1's Best Week Ever, and are often unable to point out the absurdity of infomercial products or the cluelessness of American Idol finalists.
Even more disturbing:
Ben-Ami said study participants who watched fewer than 28 hours per week were unable to ridicule Paris Hilton "with any specificity whatsoever."

"By incorporating Paris Hilton into our oral interviews, we provided participants with an easy opportunity to 'riff' on the heiress," Ben-Ami said. "Nevertheless, non-TV viewers reacted to softball questions like 'What's up with Paris' hair extensions?' with monosyllabic shrugs or bemused silence. It was like they were completely ignorant of her many skanky attributes and laughable traits."
I have not noticed any such deficiencies in my own ridicule, but the Paris Hilton thing kind of bugs me. I mean, of course I know who she is and all, but I can't recall any specific details. I still don't think this is enough of a problem to merit turning on the tube, but you can believe I will be monitoring the situation more carefully from now on. You just can't be too careful, I guess.

UPDATE: I don't think James Dobson watches much TV. Is this a counter-example, or is Dobson the element of pop culture that we should be mocking? I really can't tell. Maybe I'm at higher risk than I thought...

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