Science

Watching Your Favourite TV Episodes Can Help Restore Willpower, Self-Control

I’ll often queue up old Star Trek episodes as I settle in for the night as I’ve found it helps me to relax. I assumed it was just something I found comforting, but new research out of the University of Buffalo in New York suggests that watching old episodes of your favourite TV shows “may help restore the drive to get things done in people who have used up their reserves of willpower or self-control.”

A media release from the university’s press centre talks about two studies conducted by the institution’s Jaye Derrick, used to gauge the “restorative effect” of old TV shows, as well as other mediums including movies and books:

…half of the participants to complete a structured task which required concentrated effort. The other half were asked to complete a similar but less structured task that allowed them more freedom and required much less effort. Then half of the participants were asked to write about their favourite television show while the other half listed items in their room (a “neutral” task).

Those who wrote about their favourite television show (rather than listing items in their room) wrote for longer if they had done the structured task than if they had done the less-structured task. This, Derrick says, indicates these participants were seeking out their favorite TV shows and they wanted to spend more time thinking about them.

The second study had participants keep a journal of “effortful tasks, media consumption and energy levels”. According to Derrick, the participants sought out favourite shows, movies and books they’d previously experienced, if required to engage in so-called “effortful” tasks.

The benefits were specific to viewing old episodes and not new ones from the same show, or simply vegetating on the couch in front of the TV regardless of what’s on.

Derrick posits that we have a “limited pool [of] mental resources” and the “social surrogacy” and familiarity of content we’ve previously consumed helps regenerate these resources. We get the benefits of social interaction, but without any of the mental exertion or concentration required by new experiences or relationships.

Sounds good to me. Anything to help justify the nightly Star Trek marathons to my partner.

[University Of Buffalo]

Image: Paramount / TrekCore


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