If you love to curl up on the couch and watch a re-run of your favorite TV show (who doesn’t?!), you’re in luck. Research by Jaye Derrick has shown that watching re-runs might actually provide a mental boost.
Derrick, a researcher at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions, conducted two related studies that were covered in Science Blog. In the first, half of the participants were asked to perform a structured task, while the other half were asked to do a less structured task. Then, half of the participants were asked to write about their favorite TV show, while the others listed items in their room. Finally, participants were asked to complete a difficult puzzle.
Overall, those who wrote about their favorite TV show wrote for longer if they had completed the structured task (rather than the unstructured task). According to Derrick, this indicates that they were seeking out their favorite TV shows and wanted to spend more time thinking about them. In addition, those who wrote about their favorite TV shows performed better on the difficult puzzle.
Similarly, in the second study, participants were asked to complete a daily diary; and those that reported effortful tasks were more likely to seek out a rerun of their favorite show. Derrick explained,
“When you watch a favorite re-run, you typically don’t have to use any effort to control what you are thinking, saying or doing. You are not exerting the mental energy required for self-control or willpower,” Derrick explains. “At the same time, you are enjoying your ‘interaction,’ with the TV show’s characters, and this activity restores your energy.”
But, this effect is specific to re-watching favorite TV shows; just watching television does not provide the same benefit. So, if you’re going to veg out, make sure you’re watching a re-run!