March 21, 2006
Talk Shows and Soap Operas Make You Stupid? Or Do They Just Indicate That You Are Losing Your Cognitive Abilities?

For those of you who follow my posts here on the C3 site regarding soap opera, and for those of you who care about the way television is viewed in general, you'll love this gem that was published yesterday evening in a story by Amy Norton on Reuters about an upcoming study to be published in the Southern Medical Journal.

A test proves that watching talk shows and soap operas is somehow tied to "poorer mental scores" in the elderly. Although a causal relationship can not yet be identified, the test indicates that those elderly people who chose "talk shows and soap operas" as their favorite programs tended to have lower cognative abilities than those who chose news programs, for instance.

I don't even think I have to respond for you to know what I think, but I wonder how "talk shows and soap operas" can be considered a category of television in the first place, or if a lot of other factors should be taken into consideration--for instance, as has happened with wrestling in the past, many viewers with a higher education level are less likely to admit their passion for genres like soap opera and talk shows (two separate genres, again, which the study does not distinguish between), even if they are, in actuality, one of their favorite shows.

Among my favorite quotes:

Dr. Fogel, who led the study, says that a preference for talk shows and soap operas "is a marker of something suspicious" in the health of patients and encourages doctors to ask elderly female patients about what might be their favorite TV shows as a way to indicate potential cognitive decline.

Considering, the constant switches, the intricate plots, and the sheer number of characters you have to keep up with, I have a hard time believing that mastering a soap opera can lead to cognitive decline. But I guess we should be happy that people have found such a great new use for television--as a way of proving a lack of brainpower depending on what people's favorite programs are.

Dr. Fogel hypothesizes that elderly people who are losing their thinking power watch soaps and talk shows because of the "parasocial relationships" that the shows encourage, so that people who can't think as clearly can revel in the emotional connection they feel with soap characters and talk shows and can thus pay attention, despite their diminished mental capabilities.

Fogel says that this doesn't mean these shows are bad for you but rather than they could signal "a possible problem."

But don't worry. Fogel finds that, while watching talk shows and soap operas might indicate diminished mental capacities, there might be some television programming out there that can benefit the intellect and help viewers manage stress.

Good. I was starting to get concerned that all our studies were for naught.

Thanks to Jenny on the As the World Turns Media Domain message board for posting the link to this story there.


On March 21, 2006 at 11:56 PM, Elaine Eichelberger said:

This guy has some screws loose! First of all, how could you categorize soaps and talk shows together? I NEVER watch talk shows. HATE them! Game shows, too! Also, I find the night time shows terrible. The people can't act NEARLY as well as the people on the shows. They're pitiful, when you compare them. The night time shows are full of one dimensional, boring characters. The only night time show I'll watch is House, and that's because Hugh Laurie is such a smart *ss on the show. It's so hard to believe that he was the Prince on Black Adder. What a great actor he is! I also find that on most of the night time shows the supposed good guys are nasty, obnoxious tyrants. I haven't sunk low enough to watch that stuff, and doubt if I ever will. If the soaps go off, I will not be watching TV at all. And you can tell the good doctor my cognitive abilities are much above average!!!!

On March 22, 2006 at 10:55 AM, Sam Ford said:

I agree that soaps and talk shows are just such drastically different programs that they make no sense together, other than being on the same time of day.

Interesting point about daytime acting versus nighttime acting. Nighttime shows have a much greater production budget, writing staffs that aren't overworked nearly as badly, and a lot more people working to get the job done. Daytime television is clearly an actor-driven medium, and it does train some awfully good actors because of the degree to which minute acting details matter in the portrayal of character, with so many close-ups being a part of the genre, for instance.

House is one of the C3 "house" favorites, pardon the expression. I've not started watching it myself but plan to at some point, probably collecting it on DVD. There are good nighttime shows, but I think you're right in many ways that at least the vets of daytime television are as good as anyone you can find when it comes to character acting.

On March 23, 2006 at 12:35 AM, Elaine Eichelberger said:

Hey, Sam! Get a copy of Black Adder III and watch, before you watch House. Hugh Laurie was the dumb prince, and he made RA an even funnier straight guy than he is a goofball! I knew House looked familiar when I watched him, but couldn't think who he reminded me of. You'll understand why; there's hardly ANY resemblance between the two of them! THEN I was trying to figure out which accent he was putting on. I finally figured it HAD to be the British one (cuz we can imitate the Brits)! And I didn't see how anyone could put on that US of A accent he used! WRONG again! He's British! (He REALLY is a smart aleck! I LOVE him!!!!) fee

On March 23, 2006 at 5:15 AM, Sam Ford said:

I will have to take your recommendation on Black Adder III and House. It's just received too many high recommendations to dismiss by this point.