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TV may cause attention deficit


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My father called me about that this morning. I don't know what to think or do about it. No tv? Elmo is my daughter's favorite "person." No "Sleepy Baby Songs" before bedtime? I think I'll need to see a study that identifies what programs these kids watched, and how. Plopping the kids in front of MTV and holding my daughter while we sing "Journey to Ernie" are different things in my mind.

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Originally posted by adamsappel@Apr 5 2004, 01:45 PM

The remainder watched at least five hours daily.

Shouldn't this be considered neglect? :? The quote was referring to 1 year olds who probably sleep 12-14 hours a day.

Some parents NEED to be shot.

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This needs more research, but it's believable.

 

Instead, he said, unrealistically fast-paced visual images typical of most TV programming may alter normal brain development.

 

When you think about the conditions that the brain evolved in, television is totally unlike anything. Of course, so are cars and microwaves, but those devices don't grab our attention like TV does. They don't represent people, which babies are hard wired to pay attention to...

 

This reminds me of a paper written by Robert Wright called "The Evolution of Despair" where he talks about the incongruity of modern technology with our stone-age brains (our brains haven't changed much in the last 100,000 years). He even mentions TV:

 

As the evolutionary psychiatrist Randolph Nesse has noted, television can also distort our self-perception. Being a socially competitive species, we naturally compare ourselves with people we see, which meant, in the ancestral environment, measuring ourselves against fellow villagers and usually finding at least one facet of life where we excel. But now we compare our lives with "the fantasy lives we see on television," Nesse writes in the recent book Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine, written with the eminent evolutionary biologist George Williams. "Our own wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters can seem profoundly inadequate by comparison. So we are dissatisfied with them and even more dissatisfied with ourselves." (And, apparently, with our standard of living. During the 1950s, various American cities saw theft rates jump in the particular years that broadcast television was introduced.)

 

Not that this has anything to do with why preschoolers might be harming their attention spans due to TV, but the root cause is the same, we evolved in an environment very different from the one in which we live now.

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While I certainly wouldn't deny that tv has an impact, what I'd really like to see is a study like this that also breaks down things like family income, makeup of household (stay at-home parents vs. daycare), etc. Also, actually having professionals evaluate the kids' behavior rather than their parents would be a little more consistently subjective.

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Yeah, there's so much NOT mentioned in that article to consider. One thing I've learned about scientific papers, because I have had to review a load of them in my program, is that you need to consider the methodology and make sure it's pretty iron clad before you start drawing conclusions.

 

Like was mentioned, tv programs, important to know what. How was development of ADD tested? Was it a standardized test? Were they continuous hours? Same program? Yadda yadda, list goes on and on. That reads to me like a news bite worked out of a scientific study rather than a report, but I'm trained to be heavily skeptical of that sort of thing :).

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Originally posted by Pharmboy@Apr 5 2004, 12:04 PM

Like was mentioned, tv programs, important to know what. How was development of ADD tested? Was it a standardized test? Were they continuous hours? Same program? Yadda yadda, list goes on and on.

Well, you'll never get that kind of detail out of CNN, it reads like a news bite because it is.

 

But you're right, to judge whether the conclusion is warranted, you need to know more about how it was arrived at. You can also assume right off the bat that a single study is rarely well funded enough (and sometimes not well enough executed) to cover all of it's bases, so they work with what they have.

 

But there are good reasons for believing that what they posit might be possible. We do know that the brain doesn't come fully formed (although a good deal of structure is present at birth), but develops during the first few years of life, literally creating and destroying neuronal pathways in direct response to experience combined with the ongoing expression of genes.

 

Then there is tons of linguistics research that shows that kids learn language by forming 'attentional frames' with adults, a skill that is developed by ~6 months of age. They aren't taught to clue into the social world, they do so automatically. If they are being socialized for a few hours a day by TV, I can't imagine what kind of splintered input they are getting. Of course, you have to prove that youngsters actually can be socialized by the people they see on TV first - something it appears the study didn't address given the importance the on researcher put on 'fast paced images' - which I frankly doubt has much to do with it.

 

As Keith and Allen pointed out, there are many variables, and those need to be spelled out. It's very likely that participating *with* an adult watching TV is entirely different from plopping a kid down in front of it and leaving the room.

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Well, you'll never get that kind of detail out of CNN, it reads like a news bite because it is.

 

Oh, I agree completely, Ed, and I think you're right in your reasons for why what they're saying could be possible. I'm not saying that the study is wrong, hell, it could easily be right. I'm just taking what's said with a healthy degree of skepticism just in case.

 

The thing is, most people are unfortunately not smart enough to do that. They read that news bite and now they'll go quote to their friends ad nauseum as if that's the cold-hard truth. That's why I went off on science in the news, since it covers the bullet points but when you're dealing with a topic as complicated as this one you can't just cover the bullet points and expect to give the whole picture :).

 

I'd like to know what constitutes a fast-paced image though. And for that matter, wonder what would happen to a child raised on a constant diet of Michael Bay films ;).

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Ed, I have a question about the part you excerpted from Wright's essay. This is old news in other disciplines like sociology. Is this a case of BBB-types deciding the theory is okay now that it can be explained in a BBB context? This isn't a loaded question; it just surprised me to see it presented as a sort of novel idea and I'm wondering what accounts for it.

 

-j

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Originally posted by Robot Monkey@Apr 5 2004, 02:38 PM

Ed, I have a question about the part you excerpted from Wright's essay. This is old news in other disciplines like sociology. Is this a case of BBB-types deciding the theory is okay now that it can be explained in a BBB context? This isn't a loaded question; it just surprised me to see it presented as a sort of novel idea and I'm wondering what accounts for it.

 

-j

Sorry, I have no idea what 'BBB types' are :?

 

But in regard to your question, which I think I can still understand without knowing the acronym, I would ask; do sociologists normally frame the theory in evolutionary terms? Maybe that's where the novelty lies, at least for the psychiatrist quoted in the article.

 

Evolutionary psychology is a relatively new discipline, but it is one of these new-fangled synthetic sciences that takes input from various other fields (including biology, economics, genetics, psychology, sociology and anthropology), but looks at them through the lens of evolution.

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Originally posted by FreakTornado@Apr 5 2004, 07:05 PM

But in regard to your question, which I think I can still understand without knowing the acronym, I would ask; do sociologists normally frame the theory in evolutionary terms? Maybe that's where the novelty lies, at least for the psychiatrist quoted in the article.

That's exactly what I was wondering!

 

And BBB: Biological Basis for Behavior. That's what we called it in school, although I don't recall any special emphasis on evoultionary aspects at the time (not that there wasn't; I just don't remember).

 

-j

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Originally posted by Robot Monkey@Apr 5 2004, 07:16 PM

... although I don't recall any special emphasis on evoultionary aspects at the time (not that there wasn't; I just don't remember).

 

-j

Whether it was or wasn't at the time, it certainly is now:

 

SM 441. (PSYC441) Genetics, Evolution, and Behavior. © Norman.

Genetic and environmental components of I.Q., personality, and psychopathology. Evolutionary psychology; basic evolutionary theory; evolution of altruistic, cooperative, and competitive behavior. The course develops and makes extensive use of elementary mathematical and statistical models.

 

-j

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I wonder what the reading list is for that class?

 

It was Robert Wright's book The Moral Animal that opened my eyes to evolutionary psychology. He's a good writer and the book is a classic in the field now. There is a tendency to think that humans have somehow outgrown evolution, that it's all in our past and it simply got us to where we are and now we are free from it's grasp...but nothing could be further from the truth.

 

We are what we have evolved into, as a species, and as individuals. Evolution didn't just shape our bodies, it shaped our minds, from single celled organisms to neuronal complexes to interpersonal relationships. At every level, evolution has left its mark.

 

/off soapbox

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I say bullsheet!

 

I bet most of those kids in the study see their parents ( either one) for less than two hours per day. Studies are funny that way: they study something they are trying to prove.

 

I say video games like the GTAs cause children to be violent. I go and find 10 kids that play games. 3 out of ten get pissed and toss the controller. So there, according to my sample size, 30% of kids that play violent video games are prone to violence.

 

I forget to mention that of those kids, 50% are from single parent homes, the other 10% are products of divorce, and the other 30% are teased ruthlessly at school.

 

It's like eggs; in my lifetime it has been proven through studies that eggs were bad, then they were good and now they are bad again...although they could be good, I lost track and don't pay attention.

 

Funding is another issue: many studies are funded by special interest groups, or groups with something to gain, financially or otherwise. Look at the title: an hour = (1) 10% chance of developing ADD? So, in ten hours your kid is ADD bound? I think not. I do think there is a cause of ADD, and I don't think it is TV. I think it can be attributed to the breakdown of the family, and teh fact that drugs make it easier to deal with kids that act out.

 

I tend not to look at studies.

 

That's just my opinion...

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I forget to mention that of those kids, 50% are from single parent homes, the other 10% are products of divorce, and the other 30% are teased ruthlessly at school.

 

Ah, but given your outlook on studies, which one are you citing that demonstrates that a missing parent, divorce and/or teasing cause violence?

 

A well done study is one that can prove it's initial assumptions false, and it's possible to run a study this way.

 

You're right that various influences can work to bias the result of a study, but that's why it's necessary to go beyond the mass media account of a study to find out if it's valid or not.

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Exactly what Ed said -- the problem is with poorly conducted studies and analysis, not studies in general.

 

This was a common complaint with sociology -- as a discipline it was taken over by quantitative goofs who had little interest or ability for real analysis. Fortunately for me, our department chair was a real scholar and very old school in his approach to the discipline.

 

Ed, Here is a link to last year's syllabus. Prof. Norman's main research areas are "Evolutionary Psychology" and "Individual Differences and Behavior Genetics."

 

-j

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Originally posted by FreakTornado@Apr 5 2004, 07:25 PM

I forget to mention that of those kids, 50% are from single parent homes, the other 10% are products of divorce, and the other 30% are teased ruthlessly at school.

 

Ah, but given your outlook on studies, which one are you citing that demonstrates that a missing parent, divorce and/or teasing cause violence?

 

I'm not citing any as a single cause. What I am saying is, and you stated it as well, that you can't pigeon hole one factor in someone's life that determines a general behavior, or behavioral problem.

 

I just don't buy TV causing (or increasing chances of) ADD. If it did, we'd all be suffering from it. I watched a ton of TV when I was a kid, although I don't watch much now.

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I'm not citing any as a single cause. What I am saying is, and you stated it as well, that you can't pigeon hole one factor in someone's life that determines a general behavior, or behavioral problem.

 

They don't seem to be saying that. They are not saying that TV is the sole cause, or even a primary cause of ADD, they say it appears to contribute to the development of ADD. Additionally they suggest that there is a correlation between the hours of TV watched per-day and the likelihood of exhibiting "attention problems" - but there is not a suggestion that you will get ADD from watching TV, the claim is that if you watch X hours a day, you are Y percent more likely to have attention problems. This leaves plenty of room for children who watch TV and have no problems.

 

Again, in order to really judge the study, one would need to go get the April issue of Pediatrics and see the methodology. The main weakness I see, as Parrish pointed out, is that they are asking the parents to decide whether their kids are having 'attention problems' or not. Although even so, it's interesting that the number of parents who say their kids are correlates with how much TV they watch.

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