Impact of media on COGNITION
Introduction to MASS COMMUNICATION
Rev.Dr Richard Rego S.J
In science, cognition is a group of mental processes that includes attention, memory, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, science and computer science. The term’s usage varies in different disciplines; for example in psychology and cognitive science, it usually refers to an information processing view of an individual’s psychological functions. It is also used in a branch of social psychology called social cognition to explain attitudes, attribution, and group’s dynamics.
Cognition is a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge and changing preferences. Cognition, or cognitive processes, can be natural or artificial, conscious or unconscious. These processes are analyzed from different perspectives within different contexts, notably in the fields of linguistics, anesthesia, neurology and psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, systemic, computer science, and creed. Within psychology or philosophy, the concept of cognition is closely related to abstract concepts such as mind, intelligence. It encompasses the mental functions, mental processes (thoughts), and states of intelligent entities (humans, collaborative groups, human organizations, highly autonomous machines, and artificial intelligences)
“Intuitive cognition of a thing is cognition that enables us to know whether the thing exists or does not exist, in such a way that, if the thing exists, then the intellect immediately judges that it exists and evidently knows that it exists, unless the judgment happens to be impeded through the imperfection of this cognition.”
The Effects of Electronic Media on Cognition and Behavior
Conversely, a person who is playing a complex contemporary video game must first determine the purpose and rules of the game (which typically aren’t provided), and then continually make decisions that can actually alter the course of the game but always with the basic presumed goal of the game in mind. The content of a video game is thus secondary to the thought processes involved in planning and executing game movements, and in predicting the movements of the video game and one’s opponent. The same things would be true of a chess or tennis match, or even of fishing.
Most games (including video games) aren’t really pleasurable when complex challenges loom third and long in football, the loss of a queen in chess. But such situations get the juices flowing in players who seek challenge within the game. Players must quickly and successfully draw on related previous strategies, or make creative risky decisions in order to stay in the game, and this enhances their problem solving abilities within that setting. A recent column described the cognitive systems that process such familiar and novel challenges.
A game must thus have a strong emotional attraction that will maintain the effort the game requires. Last month’s column suggested that competition, violence, and sexuality are innately arousing emotionally, and so it’s not surprising that they’re explicit (or at least implicit) in many games and media narratives. Indeed, even revered childhood fairy tales contain violent and sexual themes. Hansel and Gretel worried about getting baked in an oven, and a princess kissed a frog in The Frog Prince. How kinky can a children’s fairy tale get?
Johnson argues that the challenge and complexity of the most popular newer video games are such that they don’t need a heavy dose of violence and sexuality to initiate and maintain interest. For example, the immensely popular SimCity challenges the player to design a complex metropolis, and the continually popular Tetris forces the player to quickly make decisions about the placement of geometric shapes.
Video games (and other games, such as hockey and football) that require aggressive responses to dangerous situations will obviously strengthen the neural circuitry that processes similar decisions. It’s problematic, though, whether this increased capability makes the player more aggressive generally in the real world. Current commentary on this issue is based more on opinion than solid research. It’s very difficult to do credible cause and effect research on this issue.
I suspect that many folks who decry the violence and sexuality that they believe is endemic in video games watch TV shows and sports that contain violent and sexual content oblivious to the inconsistency between their beliefs and behavior.
With those who observe TV slats described the cognitive systems that process our interactions with natural and electronic environments. Some recent provocative research rejects the conventional wisdom that extensive interactions with electronic media provoke culturally inappropriate behavior and reduce problem-solving abilities — dumb down society, as it were. This month’s column will thus focus on Steven Johnson’s analysis of this issue in his thought provoking book Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making You Smarter (2005). He focuses principally of the effects of video games, TV, film, and the Internet.
Johnson suggests that the principal criticisms of these media focus on their content rather than on the cognitive demands they make on the players/viewers. Further, many of the critics have little first-hand knowledge about the current nature of the formats they criticize, and overestimate the amount of violent and sexual content.
Popular culture is not high culture, and so it shouldn’t be compared to it. Folks typically don’t play video games or watch popular TV programs to broaden their intellectual horizons. Those who golf, fish, solve crossword puzzles, or play cards similarly don’t do it to materially enhance their intellect. What all such activities have in common is that they increase knowledge and/or problem-solving abilities within specific parameters of interest to the players.
Last month’s column suggested that our brain’s defining property is to plan, regulate, and predict movement. Book reading, an activity that electronic media critics consider more intellectually stimulating than video games, is basically the passive observation of someone else’s thought processes. The reader tries to predict what will occur, but has no control over the narrative flow (and this is also the case ows and films)
TV and Films
Like readers, viewers of projected media don’t control or even affect the narrative flow. They will often guess the answers in TV quiz shows, critique the flow of reality shows and contests, call in to talk shows, and discuss the shows and films they’ve seen, but TV and films are much more passive than video games. We sit forward for video games and backwards for TV and films.
Johnson suggests that we should differentiate between intelligent TV shows/films and those that force us to be intelligent. Intelligent productions go beyond clichs and provide stimulating plots and witty dialogue. The basic intelligence portrayed thus exists within the people on the screen and not within the viewers.
Conversely, the plots and sub-plots of many contemporary TV shows and films are complex and convoluted, omit plot information the viewer must insert, don’t clearly differentiate between foreground and background, and require knowledge of law/medicine/etc that goes beyond the conventional. Such programs make real intellectual demands on viewers, and that enhances their appeal. Seinfeld was a TV show about nothing significant that drew a large audience who were stimulated by the show’s intellectual demands. For example, it would set up a joke in one episode and provide the punch line several episodes later without repeating the setup.
Electronic media, particularly television, have long been criticized for their potential impact on children. One area for concern is how early media exposure influences cognitive development and academic achievement. Heather Kerkorian, Ellen Wartella, and Daniel Anderson summarize the relevant research and provide suggestions for maximizing the positive effects of media and minimizing the negative effects.
One focus of the authors is the seemingly unique effect of television on children under age two. Although research clearly demonstrates that well-designed, age-appropriate, educational television can be beneficial to children of preschool age, studies on infants and toddlers suggest that these young children may better understand and learn from real-life experiences than they do from video. Moreover, some research suggests that exposure to television during the first few years of life may be associated with poorer cognitive development.
With respect to children over two, the authors emphasize the importance of content in mediating the effect of television on cognitive skills and academic achievement. Early exposure to age-appropriate programs designed around an educational curriculum is associated with cognitive
since television first appeared in the nation’s living rooms in the middle of the twentieth century, observers have voiced recurrent concern over its impact on viewers, particularly children. In recent years, this concern has extended to other electronic screen media, including computers and video game consoles. Although researchers still have much to learn, they have provided information on the links between electronic media, especially television, and children’s learning and cognitive skills. The message is clear: most (if not all) media effects must be considered in light of media content. With respect to development, what children watch is at least as important as, and probably more important than, how much they watch.
The networking that permeates the Internet makes it potentially the most intellectually challenging of the new media forms, and probably also the most dangerous. Consider what email, websites, and search engines could do five years ago and what they can do now. Blogs didn’t even exist. Project ahead five years, and it’s obvious that many new interactive forms will emerge that will force sophisticated thought.
Print media are expensive and so publishers typically check sources to insure credibility. A student who cites a print source in a course paper is thus more certain of its credibility than a student who clips information off a website. The Internet is a free for all, and so sexual predators, con artists, and folks who want to spread misinformation can do it as easily as those who act responsibly. It takes intelligence to stay one step ahead of Internet schlock and treachery.
Pac-Man and Donkey Kong almost defined the videogame genre a half-generation ago, and other forms of electronic media have similarly exploded within our culture. We won’t return to what was. The challenge for parents and educators is to prepare the next generation for the natural and electronic environments in which they will live. Steve Johnson’s thought provoking contribution has been to suggest that the challenge isn’t as hopeless as it seems, that the electronic media developments many consider to be culturally negative may actually be intellectually positive.
Why COGNITIVE IMPACT is the right choice
Advertising is the most time-tested method companies use to help craft an image and build brand awareness. If used correctly, advertising can alert, inform and educate potential customers on your company’s services or products. Advertising is also an effective vehicle to help your company develop an image in the public forum and create or reinforce a brand identity to separate it from your competitors.
As technology abounds, there are currently more advertising options available than ever before. These include traditional print and direct mail outlets, but now have also grown to encompass the web, multimedia, television and radio and filmed shorts.
With all of the choices available, advertising is also one of the most misused and misunderstood promotional vehicles. Effective advertising must work in seamless conjunction with a company’s marketing and PR engines. The messages must be powerful, clear and consistent – across all of these disciplines. Bad or ineffective advertising is more than a waste of money and valuable resources, it can actually damage your company’s image, branding or confuse the market. And if the market or the customers are confused about your company, where do you think they are going to look next? The answer is to your competition.
Media and Young Children’s Learning
And academic enhancement, whereas exposure to pure entertainment, and violent content in particular, is associated with poorer cognitive development and lower academic achievement.
The authors point out that producers and parents can take steps to maximize the positive effects of media and minimize the negative effects. They note that research on children’s television viewing can inform guidelines for producers of children’s media to enhance learning. Parents can select well-designed, age-appropriate programs and view the programs with their children to maximize the positive effects of educational media.
The authors’ aim is to inform policymakers, educators, parents, and others who work with young children about the impact of media, particularly television, on preschool children, and what society can do to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs.
Attention to Electronic Media
Until recently, research on media effects did not focus on infants and toddlers. Early studies reported that children younger than two paid little attention to television, perhaps because little television was produced for them.8 the early 1990s, however, saw a virtual explosion in the production of television
Media Effects on Attention and Other Cognitive Skills
Among their other charges, critics have often accused television of being a negative influence on the development of children’s co effect of television on cognition concerns the development of attention. The most common hypothesis has been that frequent changes in scenes and content disrupt young children’s ability to sustain attention.31 One reanalysis of longitudinal data collected during the 1980s found a small correlation between early television exposure at ages one and three years and subsequent symptoms of attention problems at age seven.32 Findings from studies since then have been mixed.33 genitive skills. Much of the debate about the one possible mediating factor in the link between early television viewing and attention skills is program content. Most correlation studies do not measure the types of programs to which children are exposed, making it impossible to draw any conclusions regarding content effects. However, a recent co relational study suggested that content is an important mediator of the relation between exposure to television before age three and suspecifically, early exposure to violent and non-educational entertainment programming was positively associated with later symptoms of attention deficit but exposure to educational television was not related to attention problems.34bsequent attention problems.
- ^ Sensation & Perception, 5th ed. 1999, Corn, Ward & Inns, p. 9
- ^ Cognitive Psychology, 5th ed. 1999, Best, John B., p. 15-