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

WATCH MORE: Science & Health News


    I've been rewatching The Big Bang Theory and it's actually motivated me to study for physics and maths so I guess this is somewhat true.

      Seriously? Makes me want to kill myself. Horrible television.

        + 1

          yup, canned laughter TV really is the cesspit of television altogether. Big Bang theory truly is dire

        Such a hipster comment right there.

          And there it is folks -- the moment the word "hipster" lost all meaning.

            Hipster had a meaning in the first place?

    Great, I really needed another reason to procrastinate.

    I can vouch for this. whenever i'm upset, depressed, unmotivated and just chillaxing after a days work before bed, I will always watch an episode of Stargate SG1 and I immediately feel warm, better and just generally happier.

    I think this is probably more comfort zone rather than tv shows helping us. When we are distressed and uneasy, comfort zones always make things feel better and can motivate. for some people (like me) comfort zone might be your favourite tv show, or favourite video game etc etc.

    Still an interesting read.

    anything with 7 of 9 in a skin tight outfit is worthy of some willpower and Self control.

    It's the only way I keep going at the moment. I work from home and have 2 year old and a 7 week old bub who doesn't sleep. My first didn't sleep for nearly 18 months.

    So I'm chronically sleep deprived and the only way I can muster the willpower to actually keep trotting on is to watch endless repeats of Doctor Who.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now