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This is your mind on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Banapana In Brief for 2/5/13

Cognitive Restructuring

First off, some nice thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy finds its roots in the 1970s schism of behavioral psychology and cognitive psychology, and I suppose, in some ways, is an attempt to reconcile the two. In brief, strict behaviorists argue that thinking is merely a side effect of behavior that is driven by external stimulus. If an animal (including humans) receives some stimulus, there will be a resulting physical “output” which includes activities such as thinking. Cognitive psychology research, however, had its roots in reaction to behaviorism by focusing on things like language which appear to be mental activities capable of occurring without external stimulus. To see more on the differences, check out this nice video on the matter. My personal favorite demonstration of the incompleteness of behaviorist theory is Roger Sheppard’s mental rotation problems. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy then, in large part, makes the argument that thinking can change behavior, and in particular, thinking about your thinking. And Psychology Today has a nice summation of some of those techniques. Of interest to the concept of minds on media is that one common tool in all of these techniques is the use of media (yes, that includes paper) record objective measurements of thinking in order to reflect and act on them. The truth is, human memory is pretty shoddy and its easy to remember just the outliers of bad outcomes or be deluded into thinking that bad thoughts and actions are useful. Yet, the simple act of writing down three happy things in a journal at the end of each day improves your overall happiness. And, you guessed it, there’s an app for that and more.

The Monoculture

I’m always grappling with why the concept of the monoculture bothers me quite so much. On the one hand, there is something unsettling about billions of people all going to the same restaurant to eat the same subpar meals. Where is the uniqueness of life in that picture. On the other hand, the idea that even McDonald’s is a homogenous thing the world over is pretty handily dismantled by this entertaining posting over at the Awl petitioning for the creation of a “McWorld” restaurant in Times Square that features all the different food fare from McDonald’s around the world.1. Still though—and I’m still scouring the science on this one—it seems to me that healthy brains like new things and the Monoculture seems to work against the creation of brain healthy environs in that regard. So, if you’re like me—a little suspicious of the monoculture—be sure to increase your awareness of corporate infiltration in your like with this excellent graphic from that illustrates how most of your household products are produced by only five firms: Five companies that make 60 household products

Droning On and On

When taking a McCluhan perspective on media (as this blog frequently does) one sees media developments as extensions of the human anatomy and senses. Writing extended (over distance) our communication and roads extended our legs. It is no wonder that one of the most powerful empires of the ancient world was Rome, which made extensive use of roads and writing. Turning to a more modern empire, we have the United States, and its particular brand of sense extension in the drone. Drones have been quite the trending topic this month with people becoming more and more aware that this is a weapons delivery system out of control of the usual checks and balances of the US government. Let me be perfectly clear: You, as a US citizen, can be put on a kill list by the CIA, by executive order, and executed by drone attack. That’s why there’s a lawsuit. And don’t think this couldn’t happen, it has and other innocent US citizens have been caught in the crossfire. If you want more details on the rise of the drones, I highly recommend this article from Time; “Drone Home.”

  1. Of course, different by no means implies healthy. 

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