TV Viewing Figures vs. IQ Ranking by Country

Since coming to Japan, the amount of time I spend in front of the television has plummeted. I think it’s fair to say that I watch less than two hours of TV a week now. Some of you will find that hard to imagine, but it’s not surprising when everything on TV is in a foreign language.

The internet as an alternative to TV

These days I get my entertainment fix from the internet, and keep informed about the world via the web, too, but there’s a big difference between TV and the internet. For starters, you can choose what to read, and what to believe. Television doesn’t give you that choice, imposing its own version of the news on you.

That means the internet gives you a more well-rounded view of the world, drawn from multiple sources. Also, actively reading a news article on the web gives you a better understanding of the topic than passively digesting information from TV. Of course, you also have the power to research the topic further on the net.

Does TV have a negative effect on IQ?

I managed to track down two charts, one listing countries by TV viewing times, and the other by estimated IQ, and while there’s no perfect correlation to show TV makes you stupid, the results are still interesting.

TV viewing times by country

The U.S leads the way, with TV addiction consuming over 8 hours a day of the average American’s life. Turkey comes next with 5 hours, and those wacky game shows encourage the Japanese to watch close to 4 hours of TV a day.

As for IQ…

IQ rankings by country

South Koreans, who watch just a little over 3 hours of TV a day, are second only to the geniuses of Hong Kong. Japan, a country whose citizens watch half as much TV as Americans, are ranked as the third most intelligent nation. Our friends, the drooling couch potatoes from the U.S., rank a lowly 23rd.

This argument holds no water!

I’m plucking at straws here trying to make a case that television fries your brain, and my argument falls apart when you consider Ireland. The Irish watch just two and a half hours of TV a day, but are only the 36th most intelligent country in the world! All I can assume is that the free time gained from watching less TV is obviously wasted at the pub, rather than swatting up on world issues on the internet.

I am stunned that the average American watches over 8 hours of TV a day. No wonder they are so fat! It makes me wonder how many hours of commercials they are exposed to everyday…. wow…

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If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

24 thoughts on “TV Viewing Figures vs. IQ Ranking by Country

  1. Ha ha ha – interesting. But I have another theory about why my fellow countrymen (and women) are more rotund than yours. We have far superior junk food. If you had our junk food, you’d put on a pound or two, too. On the other hand, our TV is pretty crap most of the time…so…

      1. I had Sky Perfect TV for a few years and I was glued to FOX and AXN. It was so easy to crash out in front of the telly and just go into zombie mode. Thankfully, when I moved house and couldn’t find a way to get the cable from the dish through the wall and into the TV (probably because of my reduced IQ), I gave Sky Perfect up!

      1. What!?!?!??!

        I would have to disagree with you here. Americans make some horrid junk food when compared side by side with Japanese snacks.

        * American junk food is oily/greasy/soggy, whereas Japanese junk food is less oily/greasy/soggy.
        * American junk food all tastes like corn, whereas Japanese junk food only tastes like corn if that’s the goal
        * I can only eat one 500g bag of Doritos in America before calling it quits, whereas I can easily pack away a kilo of Doritos (if the wife’s not around) in Japan
        * American junk food comes in simplistic shapes (triangles, circles, rectangles), whereas Japanese snacks come in all shapes and sizes, including semi-sphere — I have a soft-spot for meron pan 😛
        * American junk food is expensive, whereas Japanese junk food is dirt cheap. $2.99 for a 350g bag of Doritos, or 210 Yen for the same size in Japan.
        * In America, you know you’re eating junk food. In Japan, you’re told that your snack is actually good for you because of whatever marketing slogan they’re using that month.
        * The tongue doesn’t lie … Japanese treats generally taste better. Give me some Japanese Pringles over the bland American ones any day! 😮

        Hehehe. That should be good for a little debate. Perhaps you can write a post comparing Japanese snacks to their American cousins, Nick.

        1. You’ve done your research, Jason, but from what you’ve said, we can only conclude that Japanese junk food isn’t really “junk” food at all, so America keeps its junk food crown. 😛

        2. Especially if we factor in the “junk” part of “junk food,” which implies that it’s bad for you… 😉 And I was comparing American junk food to junk food from the U.K., too…

    1. It depends on what kind of Internet Usage.

      If you are simply playing games or downloading pr0n, I doubt that it will be too stimulating for your brain. However actively blogging is a different matter.

      Either way, I feel much less depression ever since I stopped watching the daily news on TV.

      1. Yeah, I don’t think the South Koreans can attribute their high IQ average to World of Warcraft! There must be more mysterious forces at play, such as education in schools!

        You know, everyone agrees that TV news is depressing, but still they all watch it! 🙄 You’re a rare exception.

        1. Thanks.

          I just don’t need to be made to feel that the world is about to end so they can boost ratings. Generally today is the same as yesterday is the same as tomorrow, the weather is the most important point for me.

  2. I don’t really watch much tv anymore either! I think it sucks that you have to pay for cable which gives you a million commercials. So you are paying to watch commercials! That’s no good! I love tv, and if it were free I might watch more of it but until then, I will be on the net! At least there I can choose where I want to go and what I want to see, most importantly without 30 second long commercials!

    1. That’s a very good point. Fair enough if it’s fees for the basic cable setup, but there shouldn’t be commercials when you are paying for the channels. And then they rub it in by giving you the shopping channels for free! 😮

  3. I learned a lot from TV when I was a kid, but I think that’s because I had a weird ability to remember way too much, including a lot of crap. Once I studied math and science at university, I lost that kind of memory. I think I fried my brain with physics.

    Anyway, I think the Japanese watch less TV because so much of it is crap, IMO. Why do my fellow countrymen rank lower on the IQ scale? Hmm… Maybe if our IQs were higher, we could figure it out.

    1. Maybe cram schools and working hours cut into Japan’s TV watching time. I’m surprised they can still squeeze in nearly 4 hours a day.

    2. I still learn a lot from TV. Well, when I watch, anyway. I love the “nerdy” shows. I’d rather watch a documentary or something on Discovery or TLC (for random crap) or the Food Network (for useful stuff). I’m a big fan of infotainment.

  4. I watch internet TV quite a bit ….. World On Demand …. pretty cheap and exactly what channels you want. I have E2 at home now …. 70 channels of … ho hum TV …. just takes me longer to work out there’s nothing i want to watch.

  5. 8 hours of tv a day for Americans? Man, did they only survey unemployed potheads? That might explain the low IQ scores as well.

    1. Indeed. And then there’s the problem of who actually responds to surveys … it’s typically the people with ample time on their hand.

      In Canada, I would watch about 10 minutes of TV per month, and that was only because I went to an electronics store to buy some blank DVDs or whatever. That said, I’m still an idiot, so the TV to IQ theory needs a little work 😛

      I wonder what the IQ of LongCountdown readers would average out to be. The last time I had mine checked (about five years ago) it was 142.

      1. Yeah, I thought as much. The average LongCountdown reader is likely a member of Mensa and looks down on anything under 200 😕

        Perhaps it’s time to cut out the internet and focus more on calculus and other difficult concepts. I shouldn’t forget the pocket protector, either 😮

  6. 8 hours seems extreme. I could never fit that in a day, even if I did want to. Well, maybe if there was a marathon of bad Godzilla-movies on. There are always exceptions 🙂

    I’m glad to see that Sweden is at the bottom of the first chart though 🙂 I thought we’d be almost as “bad” as the US.

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