4It Alters Your Dreams
Television can change your dreams, and not just by making you wish you could master time travel to become an advertising executive in the 60s.
"The time machine is in my pants."
According to science, television can alter your actual dreams, the kind that happen while you're asleep. Research has found that some people have monochrome dreams (that is, they dream in black and white), and it's apparently all their televisions' fault.
"Tonight you'll be playing badminton on a pirate ship in magnificent shades of gray!"
In a study of 50 people, half under 25 and the rest over 55, the subjects filled out a questionnaire related to the color of their dreams, their contentedness with their marriages and the colors of their televisions in their formative childhood years. Then the subjects were asked to keep a dream diary. Researchers found that while hardly any of the younger people dreamed in black and white (around four percent), a quarter of the older-than-55 group did. That is, the people who grew up with black and white televisions.
Artist's depiction of every male over 55.
Scientists attribute this to hours of exposure to black and white images during the subjects' formative years, but there is no way to know if the actual dreams were in black and white, or if the subjects just remember them as such due to years of visual training by their TV sets.
It's pretty weird either way.
3It Cures Loneliness
You might know people who get so wrapped up in a show that they forgo social interaction until they've caught up to the latest episode. The rest of us are probably waiting for the day when they realize they need actual friends for fun and emotional support, but that day may never come. Scientists have found that television, specifically the pseudo-relationships formed with TV characters, can drive away feelings of loneliness and rejection.
Because Jack Bauer accepts you for who you are.
Using a combination of four studies, scientists have shown that television shows can instill a sense of belonging in people with low self-esteem who have been rejected by friends or family. This is called the social surrogacy hypothesis, which figures that in order to fill the emotional void of social deprivation, a person will establish relationships with fictional characters (as teenagers, many of us had a similar type of relationship with late-night Cinemax).
And Heidi from Tool Time was the first love many young boys in the 90s ever knew.
One study showed that subjects who were experiencing feelings of loneliness felt better after turning on their favorite television programs. Another had subjects writing essays about either their favorite shows or some other random subject as a control. The subjects who wrote about their favorite shows used fewer words expressing loneliness than the control group.
Scientists are not sure whether establishing relationships with television characters suppresses a need for human interaction or actually fulfills that need, but they generally advise against dumping all human contact in favor of the cast of Carnivale.
Except for maybe the dwarf.