But here's the kicker:
In his talk, Dr. Stixrud had described how TV super-stimulates the brain by continually setting off its “orienting response” — a primitive neurobiological process that keeps people alert. This orienting response is hard-wired; it’s a survival thing, and, with a quickly changing screen, it kicks on again and again — kind of like my dog, who barks every time a truck goes by, or someone parks a car down the street, or a squirrel breathes, or someone opens a mailbox in Kansas.
The experience of having your orienting response incessantly stimulated is draining. When it ends, you are exhausted, but also left with the memory of how much better you felt when it was happening.
Now I asked him by e-mail, “Given all the violence, the jump cuts, the surprises and the multi-screen, multi-socket, emotional roller-coaster ride of each action-packed episode, could ‘24’ itself actually be addictive?” (“If you want to give me a quote saying that this is a ridiculous line of inquiry, that’s fine,” I signed off. )
“It’s a reasonable thing to assume,” he responded. “Anything that’s intensely stimulating has an addictive quality.”
Neuroeconomics has already been growing in popularity and importance (see Tyler Cowen over at MR), but if we really do get addicted to TV, then it seems to me like this is a line of research that is going to be extremely influential going forward.