394 TV & Cognition


Research by Fancourt, Daisy. & Steptoe, Andrew. (2019).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

We’ve all told children to play outside, rather than sit watching TV. Research supports TV having a negative effect on children’s cognitive abilities, but what about adults?

Psychologists Fancourt and Steptoe studied whether viewing TV is associated with a cognitive decline in adults over the age of 50-years. They used data from over 3,500 participants from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.  Participants reported the number of hours spent watching TV in 2008-2009 and again six years later between 2014-2015. Individuals engaged in multiple tests to assess reasoning and thinking, ease of language, and immediate and delayed memory for words.

Results? After six years, Individuals who reported they spent more than 3.5 hours a day, showed a decrease in their ability to remembering words from a list previously given. However, whether or not they watched 3.5 hours TV, they spoke equally fluently.

Our brains and memory are not actively engaged watching TV.  But our brains must work to read a book, play a sport, socialize, or volunteer to make the world a better place! So, limit your TV viewing. Instead, live! Read a book, go for a walk, talk to a friend, or play a game!


Fancourt, D. & Steptoe, A. (2019). Television viewing and cognitive decline in older age: Findings from the english longitudinal study of ageing. Scientific Reports. doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39354-4


About Author

Adele Hall is the administrative assistant for the School of Psychology in charge of uploading the Psychology Science minutes. The authors of the minutes are listed in the written portion. The Psychology Science Minutes are coordinated by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D., faculty emerita, and reviewed by former Dean Mary Beth Kenkel, faculty emerita.

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