How Watching Reruns Helps Us

Study finds it can restore our self-control

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 14, 2012 12:28 PM CDT | Updated Aug 18, 2012 7:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – All those hours spent on the couch watching old episodes of Friends were not wasted after all, a new study finds. Watching reruns actually has a beneficial impact, although probably not anything you might guess: It boosts your self-control. Read all the steps of the complicated study at Pacific Standard, but the end result was that participants who had their self-control depleted through one activity were able to replenish it by writing about a favorite TV program, and they then in turn exercised more self-control (and were happier) during a subsequent activity than participants who did not reflect on a beloved show.

Psychologists have long believed that people have limited amounts of impulse control, meaning that those who are disciplined at one point (avoiding the donuts at work) are more likely to give in to temptation later (eating an unhealthy dinner). In order to avoid that problem, self-control must be restored, and that can be accomplished by getting in a good mood. There are many ways to do that: self-affirmation, interacting with loved ones, exercising—and, apparently, watching reruns. Or, as the study author puts it, immersing yourself in a "familiar fictional world."

  (Shutterstock)
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