Category Archives: Media

Television, Cognitive Ability, and High School Completion

That is the title of a just released working paper by Simen Markussen, Knut Røed, and myself. We show that access to commercial television channels during childhood and adolescence from the 1980’s onwards in Norway reduced cognitive ability scores and high school graduation rates of young men.

In a comment, Pat Sharp apologizes (true story! thanks to @JFiva).

Less reading, more television

I have always liked time use surveys and would love to use them more, for example to write posts like this one at Vox. Now I have recently begun working a little with some such Norwegian surveys, so here is a little about recent developments in how young Norwegians spend their leisure time.
(Apologies for the unsatisfying look of some of the graphs, they are simply lifted from an online resource.)


Percent spending time on various leisure activites an average day, 1970-2010.

In short, since 1970 fewer of us are reading an average day (turquoise), while more area watching television (light blue), and recently using internet (included in “Other” (dark brown)).

A bit more detailed look on average time for 1991-2005 confirms that television time is increasing; figure_media_minutesTVwatched1991_2005

and although there might be somewhat of a Harry Potter effect for the youngest in the beginning of the 2000’s, time spent reading is quite consistently going down, figure_media_percentagebookreaders1991_2005

including time spent on newspapers, figure_media_percentagnewspaperreaders1991_2005

magazines,    figure_media_percentagemagazinereaders1991_2005

and even cartoons. figure_media_percentagecartoonreaders1991_2005

Is that a bad thing? Well, that depends, but if it is passive television entertainment that crowds out reading, I would not be surprised if that had some long term consequences.

The Kitty Genovese witnesses story is fabricated – and so may everything else be

From Nicholas Lemann in the New Yorker, I learn that the famous story of how 38 people witnessed the brutal rape and murder of Kitty Genovese in New York in 1964 but failed to do anything for half an hour, was basically fabricated by the New York Times under editor A. M. Rosenthal.

The story was recounted uncritically as an example of how the presence of many bystanders can lead to a diffusion of responsibility in such a way that everyone fails to act in my introductory psychology textbook from a few years back. In reality, there were only one or two people who unambiguously witnessed the attack without doing anything about it, and two who did intervene. This was also known at the time.

The true story is less spectacular and would probably not have had the good consequences of the fabricated one, but this could not be known at the time, as mentioned in the article. More importantly, however, the real cost of fabricating good stories like this is that when the truth comes out, it diminishes confidence in all else that is written as well.

H/t: Andrew Gelman

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