Why You Veg Out In Front Of The TV At The End Of A Hard Day
Can watching reruns on TV replenish your willpower and self-control? Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times reports:
“Research published recently in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that far from zoning out in front of the tube, ‘people seek out familiar fictional worlds to become rejuvenated.’
The study demonstrates this by showing in several experiments that subjects who have engaged in arduous mental activity or had to maintain tight control over their emotions were far more likely in the following hours to seek out a rerun to watch, and overwhelmingly chose to watch a reliable favorite rather than to see a new show or movie or to zone out in front of whatever was on when they turned on the tube.
And for those that watched a beloved rerun, mood and mental focus—as demonstrated by subjects’ willingness to respond to a prompt with a longer essay—came back more quickly.
‘Media use can have unexpected psychological benefits,’ writes the author, an addiction researcher at the University of Buffalo, N.Y. ‘Television, movies and books can be more than leisure activities; in some cases, they fulfill needs, like restoring self-control.’
The author, Jaye L. Derrick, suggests that returning to ‘fictional worlds’ that are familiar to us is akin to another strategy—socializing—that we humans also use to recharge our batteries after mental or emotional exertion. But while seeking out the comfort and company of others can often yield unpredictable results, we know that a half hour with [familiar sitcom characters] will deliver a reliable dose of decompression and good feeling.
In that sense, says Derrick, we use reruns as a sort of rejuvenating ‘social surrogate.’” Read more here.
An amusing contribution to the research literature suggesting that willpower is not like a muscle, getting stronger with use, but rather is more like a pool of water that is drawn down and needs to be periodically replenished.