Do Twitter And TV Shrink Your Brain?
Ask any marketer what’s hot in consumer television viewing habits, and you’ll likely get “multiple screens” as a top response. Lots of people don’t just watch TV today, they also have a phone and/or tablet active, too. If it’s a live show, they may comment on the program using hashtags to connect with other viewers. Or, they may just load up Candy Crush on their phone while keeping one eye on the big screen.
For brands, this multi-screen action offers new ways to build visibility and interact with consumers, as Oreo famously did when the lights went out at the Super Bowl. (Behind The Scenes Of Oreo’s Real-Time Super Bowl Slam Dunk by Jennifer Rooney at Forbes.com.)
But, multiple screens may have a dark side. New research shows that individuals who frequently use multiple screens at the same time have less gray matter in one area of the brain, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).
This ACC is associated with cognition and emotional control.
Although scientists agree that our behaviors can change our brains (e.g., practicing a musical instrument for hours per day), this research doesn’t conclusively prove that media multitasking shrinks our ACC. It’s also possible that people with smaller ACCs have more difficulty focusing on one thing without being distracted by another device.
Or, perhaps, people with smaller ACCs choose television programming that isn’t overly demanding, making multi-tasking easier.
Take No Chances?
Despite the lack of clarity in the correlation vs. causation question here, if you turn on the TV it might be time to put down the phone or tablet and just focus on the big screen. If the program can’t keep your brain occupied and your hand keeps reaching for your phone, reconsider your choice of programs and grab the remote control instead.
Or, put all the screens away and read a good book!