Paying Attention, Anyone? takes

Flipping around the TV dial and finding nothing that catches your fancy, you may wonder how people can stand to watch such dopey shows. In many cases, the answer is simple: by not paying attention. A study conducted by Nielsen Media Research for the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau asked people who were watching TV to say how closely they’d been paying attention to the show. (Respondents were phoned at home during prime-time viewing hours.) Fewer than half (44 percent) said they’d been paying “full” attention. At the other end of the spectrum, 17 percent said they were paying little or no attention, while 39 percent were paying “some.” One would be curious to know whether the viewers who weren’t paying attention enjoyed their shows as much as those who were, but the survey didn’t address that question. Instead, it found fully attentive viewers had higher unaided recall of commercials than those paying little or no attention, by a margin of 17 percent to 10 percent.