What are implications of the prevalence of "passive entertainment" in the lives Western children, according to Jared Diamond? 

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Jared Diamond raises this issue in the Prologue to Guns, Germs, and Steel. The context is his argument that so-called "primitive" peoples are not intellectually inferior to people in developed societies, and in fact, may be more intelligent, on average. One reason for this is biological, having to do with the fact that diseases and wars, the major causes of mass deaths in western socieites, killed people without regard to intelligence, unlike the causes of death in "primitive" societies. The second reason is that technologies available in Western societies have meant that the children in these socieites have access to "passive" entertainment, like TV, video games, and so on. By contrast, in New Guinea, where Diamond has done most of his work:

...children have virtually no such opportunities for passive entertainment and instead spend almost all of their waking hours actively doing something, such as talking or playing with other children or adults. 

Diamond cites developmental psychology studies to suggest that New Guinea children do not suffer some of the "irreversible mental stunting" that Western children do because of extended exposure to passive entertainment. He suggests that these traits are probably true of developed and hunter-gatherer societies in general, and that therefore mental inferiority is not a valid explanation for why people in Western societies were able to conquer other, allegedly primitive peoples. 

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