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Old 12-20-2016, 07:44 AM
Derleth Derleth is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Missoula, Montana, USA
Posts: 20,057
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
I will also guess that a lot of the Flynn effect is, as part of the link suggests, the variety of media available. Compared to a farm boy from 1900 the modern adolescent has experienced so much more. One example I like is horse races. They were everywhere when I was a kid, but I've never been to one. I hazard a guess that 99% of Americans under 50 never have either. Yet, I've seen hundreds of them. The local news used to report them as sport in the 1960s on tv. Quincy went to one in every other episode. National Velvet, The Black stallion, Three Stooges, ... you could not miss them. The world? I've seen places from almost everywhere in the world, in stunning HD.

It's not just visual. The plot line of Law and Order alone, besides giving plenty of fodder for discussions here, has show how many weird twists and turns. The same is true with every drama. We don't watch Romeo or MacBeth over nad over again, we go from the ancient times to a galaxy far far away, we see ever torturous twist of any Greek legend morphed to another day. Checkers is replaced by a variety of board games requiring developing minds to think, grasp concepts and plan - then replaced with video games that demand the same and a break-neck pace instead of all day to play Monopoly or Risk.

Anything that challenges us to learn burns those synapse connections that much faster and wider. Wer'e lab rats running ever more complex mazes. The challenge makes our minds strong.
This was part of the the thesis of a pop-science book Everything Bad is Good For You: Our entertainment media is getting more complex, with denser narratives with more plot threads going at once and less hand-holding to keep the audience from losing track of everything. The author even made the case that reality TV, with its emphasis on personal relationships, was increasing our emotional intelligence because we had to keep track of more personal relationships compared to the scripted shows of yore.

The problem with that specific work was that it was a piece of pop science, as opposed to a reviewed paper, so the reviews it got were from book reviewers, who naturally focused on things like readability more than footnotes and engagement with previous academic literature. A review on Slashdot has this:
By using pseudo-case studies, there isn't really a basis by which the data presented by Johnson is stronger than "because I said so." Work that would help his argument has been done in communication studies, developmental psychology and cognitive psychology, but those fields are largely ignored here. Instead, cranky old guys like Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman are set up as straw men. This disconnect reminds of how well Howard Rheingold incorporates current research into popular press efforts like this book. Johnson does use some decent resources like James Paul Gee, and seems to be widely read in several cogent fields, but it doesn't seem reflected as well as might be expected in the actual text.