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Primate Brains vs. TV

A defense mechanism we no longer need.
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I'm one of those people who believes that his ancient ancestors were a clever yet excitable species of tree-dwelling primate, who lived in constant fear of big cats, big birds, big dogs, their own shadows, and not finding enough to eat. Concentrating on conversation was low on their list of priorities.

Now the tables have been turned. I could go my entire life without having to worry about being ambushed by something that wants to eat my scrawny body. However, it is much more important that I stay focused on work or conversation, or I'll find myself ambushed by an angry boss or girlfriend.

Well, the forces of evolution are against me. My brain is still very much like the brain of my frightened ape progenitors. If something moves or sounds near me without me expecting it, it gets my immediate attention. After I have figured out what it is, it's usually not scary and I can relegate it to the back of my awareness, so long as it continues to do what I expect.

Enter TV. The sounds on TV aren't that big a deal. They're largely like other day to day sounds one might encounter. The images are a different matter, though. The primitive part of the brain sees something moving in the peripheral vision. It turns to get a better look and make sure whateveritis isn't going to scream and leap any time soon. After the look, the brain can go back to talking, working, picking nits, whatever.

Then the scene changes on the screen. This happens in a way that the primitive brain can't anticipate, so it thinks that something potentially dangerous is going on. It turns to look again. Maybe it looks longer this time, just to be totally sure.

There's no way out of this loop, except to block the TV from all view. Otherwise the vision will continue to return to the screen, even if what is on it is a commercial or a football game or something else that holds no interest for me or my primitive primate brain.

It's the only thing I can think of, except that I might have ADD.

centauri, Dec 20 2000

4-Way Television http://www.halfbake.../4-Way_20Television
[bookworm, Jul 01 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       In restaurants, where this is really a problem, the TV is not mine to turn off.
centauri, Dec 20 2000

       I am continually mesmerized by TV. I regularly aggrevate my brother when we go out to eat, because I cannot draw my gaze or attention away from the moving pictures, whether I can hear the sounds or not. He forces me to sit with my back to the giant TV so that we can have conversation. 'course, then, he ends up watching it himself, and I move around to his side of the table. We grunt at each other and quietly gnosh away.   

       (btw, PeterSealy, that's the only TV I ever get, is Cartoon Network on Saturday morning at Ceci's. I completely agree with you. Video games are *much* better than TV. heh.)
absterge, Dec 20 2000

       Distract your hypervigilant friends by playing with an ice cube on the table. To attempt to change the world any more would be a violation of trust.
reensure, Dec 20 2000

       Centauri has picked one of the reasons TV is 'addictive'. I recommend going cold turkey. i havn't owned a TV for some years now (and my net connection is far too slow to stream anything but text). Gains outweigh losses so far! And what TV program is better than the halfbakery?
pfperry, Jun 30 2002

       Is there an idea in the HB sense here?
bookworm, Jun 30 2002

       OK bookworm! here's an idea, a filter to cut out the TV! Simplest method wd be those glasses that alternate L&R shutters, so you see alternate frames of stereo tv. But you could rewire so every second frame of the TV is blank, and people in the room are wearing glasses that sync to the moving image, or the blanks. (also possible as a way to stop kids seeing unsuitable material). Perhaps the halfbakery should have a list of 'starter' ideas, problems needing a solution, so halfbakers can get external stimulus?
pfperry, Jul 01 2002

       That's a variation on the 4-way television idea. See link.
bookworm, Jul 01 2002

       This would explain the banana-goo splattered against my TV then...
RayfordSteele, Jul 01 2002

       Evolution against you? - despite TV being a distraction at times (particularly when sports are on, or ladies) I can generally manage to be single minded enough to ignore it. This means that I am the NEW BREED! MORE EVOLVED THAN EVERYONE ELSE! THE WORLD IS MINE. MWA HAHAHAHAHA! Or it could mean I am a liar...oh look its a crappy random daytime TV show...what was I saying?
Jinbish, Jul 01 2002

       Maybe thats why we all like those reality shows. Because we're afraid something like that might happen and well we're afraid so we have to watch it to prepare. but what about when a guy is watching a porno. And once the guys "done" he can turn it off easily. Or we always LEAVE to get food during comercials.   

       That idea may have some truth in it, as we all like scary movies and suspense.
VeryCoolCat, Dec 23 2002

       Reminds me of a Film class I took in college, where the professor came in somewhat late, pushing cart with a TV and VCR on it. He pushed it up next to the desk, ready to show us some clip of something to illustrate a point, no doubt.   

       He then sat on the front of his desk (as was his custom) and looked at us, then at the TV, then at us again. He got up and rotated the cart so that the TV screen faced _away_ from the students. We all laughed.   

       He explained that he found that whenever there was a TV in the room, even an _inactive_ one, that all the students would instinctively look at it. He theorized that this was some sort of Pavlovian reaction, probably ingrained at an early age by a mechanism similar to what you describe, centauri. In any case, he didn't want us distracted from his lecture, so he turned the TV around until he was ready to use it.   

       Since then I have noticed this same effect many times. If there is a TV in a room, even if it is turned off, many folks will instinctively glance at it occasionally.
krelnik, Dec 23 2002

       krelnik gives a good example. As for my elf, when I quite porpoisely went TV-less for a few years - I was mesmerized by TV's which were *on* in other places, but if they were *off* I was smug and congratulatory to the TV owner, and not distracted.
thumbwax, Dec 23 2002


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