How TV Can Make You Smarter

By Stephanie Webster,

Most of us enjoy watching TV, whether it be for a respite from a hard day of work or to learn about what is going on in the world. Whatever your reason, TV can actually make you smarter.

In her book How TV Can Make You Smarter, Allison Shoemaker chronicles decades of television shows and breaks them down into learning tools.  She sorts television types into six different categories: “The Conversation Starters,” “The Lens Openers,” “The Empathy Generations,” “The Creative Challengers,” and “The Carousel.” Each type will provide a unique opportunity for learning and growth. Shoemaker provides plenty of examples (and a few spoilers–but she’ll warn in you advance) so anyone in any age group can relate.

Many of us spent time last year quarantining due to the pandemic and opted to binge our favorite television shows or maybe tried watching something new.  How did you decide what to watch? Was it a suggestion from a friend or family member? Pure curiosity? Shoemaker has a handy little quiz you can take to find out whether a series is worthy of binge watching or not.  It’s not quite Buzzfeed, but it’s still pretty fun to take!

Her strongest suggestion comes toward the end of the book:

“Want TV to make you smarter? Seek out the bold risk-takers, the shows that are trying something new, writing their own rules, and then finding creative ways to break those rules. They’ll challenge you to question what you know about storytelling and how stories should work, and in doing so, they will ask you to think about how those stories affect our perception of the world” (84).

How TV Can Make You Smarter is located in the Ratcliffe-Carnegie Reading Room. 

~Review by Stephanie W., Reference Supervisor