TV Reruns May Improve Overall Wellbeing

By: Jenna Savage

Television is often given a bad reputation because too much of it can result in negative consequences. “Couch potato” behavior – which involves relaxing on the couch and watching television for a long period of time, often repetitively – leads to obesity. Some controversial research has also determined that violent television is unhealthy. Wherever you turn, the message is usually that television results in more negativity than anything else, so TV-watchers should switch off the TV and do something better and more productive with their time. Now, however, research is beginning to uncover that benefits that may arise from watching TV.

According to an article on PsychCentral, a study conducted by Dr. Jaye Derrick has shown that watching TV reruns may have some benefits. Published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the study explored whether or not watching a repeat episode of a favorite TV show may impact willpower and motivation – in a positive way.

It turns out, TV reruns can do just that.

The study was conducted in two ways. The first participants were separated into two groups. One group worked on a structured task while the other group worked on a task that required less concentration. After those tasks were completed, half of the participants wrote about their favorite TV shows.

The study found that the individuals who wrote about their favorite TV shows wrote for a longer amount of time if they had participated in the structured task. From this, Derrick determined that the activity made them want to spend more time thinking about their favorite TV shows. In addition, Derrick stated that writing about their favorite TV shows gave participants more energy and improved their performance on difficult activities in which they participated after their writing sessions.

The second part of the study required participants to keep a diary every day, in which they would write about the tasks they completed, their energy levels, and how much media they enjoyed each day. Those who had difficult tasks that took a lot of effort were more likely to watch repeat episodes of their favorite TV shows, reread their favorite books, or re-watch their favorite movies. The study determined that doing so helped replenish their energy levels.

Derrick’s conclusion is that watching reruns of favorite TV shows functions as “social surrogacy,” as it allows individuals to relive a familiar and comfortable relationship. When the participants knew what would happen in the TV shows, they were able to enjoy it without having to focus too hard or expend too much effort. Doing so helped renew their energy levels and improved their willpower. Unfortunately, however, the same cannot be said for watching new episodes of a favorite TV show.

So while TV in large doses is still ill-advised, this study suggests that there are some benefits to watching reruns. It may actually improve overall wellbeing and, according to Derrick, may lead to an increase in pro-social activity as well.