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Does TV increase empathy?

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The answer is yes. The bigger question is: at what cost?

At a big cost:

People who mainly watched drama and comedy on TV — as opposed to heavy viewers of news programs and documentaries — had substantially stronger “just-world” beliefs. Appel concludes that fiction, by constantly exposing us to the theme of poetic justice, may be partly responsible for the sense that the world is, on the whole, a just place.

It's fascinating that ANY fiction -- not just television -- can have this effect on people.

Cultures brainwash people with our stories.

I make no judgment on that observation. It's a mind-altering thought, though.

Everything we believe grew out of seeds planted in our brains long ago.

We don't have as much control as we think we have.

Some of the effects – empathy – may be nice, but the faith in 'happy endings' may be a growing problem, especially when paired with big democracies.

Why *can't* I believe whatever I want to believe – or whatever soothing affirmations my preferred candidates tell me? It'll all work out in the end, just before the 60:minute mark... unless this episode is a two-parter, in which case it'll all turn for the best by the end of the next episode.

As society becomes wealthier, we are both more insulated from smaller signals of training negative feedback, *and* we spend more of our thinking hours inside crafted entertainment environments that may not be training us for the real world. (At least, as opposed to training us to crave the next sequel or add-on-pack.) That means lots more unwise small actions can be tolerated to indulge our wishful-thinking, piling up until the deeper stores of resources, and soothing entertainment-thinking, are depleted... at which point things get really bad.

Compare: The idea that some kinds of smart people may have a harder time learning from mistakes, because it's easy for them to find other plausible explanations (excuses). Same goes for wealthy, entertainment-addled societies.

Compare also: The 'fallacy of defence in depth', the idea that often small protections, layered on each other, actually make failures more catastrophic because they hide necessary feedback. Your RAID array may make the fact that 2 of your drives have failed so subtle you don't take action until the catastrophic third failure. (Recently highlighted in the flying and financial domains at .)

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