Turn It Off

Monday, November 24, 2008

John P. Robinson, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, talks about why happy people don't watch TV.


John P. Robinson

Comments [19]

Madcapn from NJ

What a pompous arse. He could't leave his cell phone conversations until after the segment? You could hear him talking in the background during the last two calls.

Nov. 24 2008 10:28 PM
Alex from brooklyn

Understanding sample size.

* The sample must be representative of the larger population. Randomness is generally accepted as a good way to do this. Systemic exclusion of one group or another -- even if it is not intentional -- undermines that. (For example, if you are doing a phone survey and don't call cell phones, you are excluding more young people than old people. Not good.)

* The margin of error is a function of the square-root of the sample size. This means that you have to quadruple (x4) the sample to halve (/2) the margin of error.

So, if the study here has 2000 respondents, compared to the typical political poll of around 800 people, that bring the margin or error from around 3.5% to around 2%.

All of this is only true with a representative sample, or at least a random sample.

So, are you better off spending your resources on getting a bigger sample, getting a more representative sample or ensuring that you have good questions/accurate answers in the first place?

Don't be too impressed by large sample sizes. There are more important factors than that, especially once you are talking about hundreds of respondents.

Nov. 24 2008 12:06 PM
Lauren from Port Jefferson

Um, how is the happiness of the people in this study being assessed? By the participants? By the researchers? Are you serious? "Happy people"? What is that? As if it were a permanent state of being... Oh, dear.

Nov. 24 2008 11:58 AM
Charles from NYC

what about the radio

Nov. 24 2008 11:57 AM
Carrie from Maplewood, NJ

Does movie watching count as TV watching? Did you research people watching specific shows while watching TV, DVDs, or just have the TV on?

Nov. 24 2008 11:57 AM
Debra Oaks from Westchester

Check this out about the loss of productivity and TV

Nov. 24 2008 11:56 AM
hustleandfloe from brooklyn

Haven't had a tv for 12 yrs. Happened by accident, not agenda - I didn't notice after two weeks into a move that I forgot to buy one. Haven't had it since. I don't miss it and it does feel like the house is "lighter." But, tv is ubiquitous; so, it's still hard not to know what's on it or have IT follow YOU.

Nov. 24 2008 11:56 AM
Miranda from NYC, NY

I am JUST coming out of a deep depression - the worst I've had. I was watching hours of TV a night. Sitting, catatonic, staring at the television the minute I got home from work to the second I went to sleep. Part of my recovery has involved turning it off... and it feels amazing. I listen to...well, more NPR. I read. I think. I bake! And I am clearly happier. It has been a big improvement.

Nov. 24 2008 11:55 AM
James from Brooklyn

Turn off your TV! Go outside! There's a whole world out there with people in it. You can even talk to the people. I'm telling you, it's true!
(When I got rid of my TV in 2005, I noticed an uptick in energy and general clear headedness. I've also met many other NYers who don't have TVs. It's not as uncommon as you'd think.)

Nov. 24 2008 11:55 AM
michael from manhattan

did the study differentiate network or cable television and videos of films, movies?

Nov. 24 2008 11:54 AM

I think this dependent on the content you are watching, and more importantly, the extent of the advertising in the programming.

Nov. 24 2008 11:51 AM

The happy people in the study still watched 19 hours of TV a week. No one is really shutting off their TVs.

Nov. 24 2008 11:50 AM
AWM from UWS

Actually, to be honest, watching the Mets in September makes me unhappy...

Nov. 24 2008 11:41 AM
Megan Browne from Brooklyn

We have 5yr old twins, Olivia & Lucas. Aside from raising them tri-lingual (German, English, French), we also do not have television. The difference in their socialization speed and cognitive development is totally different from their friends who spend many hours watching tv. Our kids are more mature, more articulate, more interesting...largely because the time not spent watching tv is used for: reading and imaginitive play. Our recommendation? Don't just turn it off; Throw it out the window!

Nov. 24 2008 11:39 AM
Gary from UWS

I'm 40 years old and was addicted to TV for the first 35 years of my life. Although I can easily afford the highest end HDTV, I find most television programming absolutely unwatchable accept for a few select shows on PBS and HBO, and therefore can't bring myself to "upgrade" from my old analog TV.

Nov. 24 2008 11:24 AM
Gary from UWS

The television programming model of either:

1) the absolutely stupidest shows focused on celebrity or humiliation of contestants


2) newscasts and documentaries focused on death, disease and destruction ruin both the mind and the soul.

I now mostly listen to public radio, audiobooks and music--all delivered over the Internet. And I'm much happier.

Nov. 24 2008 11:23 AM
hjs from 11211

this is might be true BUT
last year there was a story out (covered by BL or lopate) that americans are happier than europeans & i don't think europeans watch more TV. i said at the time americans only think they are happy because they don't think about being happy or not. deep thinkers despair over the state of the world, happy people just blindly go though life and can some how enjoy it.

Nov. 24 2008 11:13 AM
Lilym from NJ

The best shows are out, on the streets of New York: Great characters, great stories, amazing settings, lots of drama and even more comedy. Watch, participate and enjoy! You don't need the antena.

Nov. 24 2008 10:57 AM
AWM from UWS

Is it the act of watching TV or the content of what you're watching that makes you unhappy? I guess it's a combination.

I ask because I really enjoy watching sports on TV, it makes me happy!

And I don't really consider it "TV"

Nov. 24 2008 10:49 AM

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