By: Chris O'Shea
If you're a TV addict, you've likely been criticized for watching too much of it. You've heard all the complaints: It dulls your mind, it's not good for you, not everything in life is related to Seinfeld so please for the love of god stop citing it in every situation. The list goes on and on. However, according to a new study, TV is actually very good for one thing — increasing your self-control.
The report, titled "Energized by Television: Familiar Fictional Worlds Restore Self-Control," was published by Jaye Derrick, a psychologist at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions. Derrick wanted to see how people can replenish their self-control "tank," which she theorized empties after it's used. Derrick is not the first person to claim that we have limited self-control. In a study titled "Too Tired to Tell The Truth," a research team at Florida State University found that when people used their self-control right before being asked to grade themselves on a test, they were more likely to cheat and give themselves a higher score.
"The opportunity to profit from dishonesty evokes a motivational conflict between the temptation to cheat for selfish gain and the desire to act in a socially appropriate manner," reads the Florida State study."Honesty may depend on self-control given that self-control is the capacity that enables people to override antisocial selfish responses in favor of socially desirable responses."
Derrick took the idea that we have a limited amount of self-control, and that when it's drained, we falter, to heart. She agreed that we lose self control, so she wanted to see how we can get it back. The answer? More TV. Not only does Derrick suggest more TV, she suggest more of the same TV. In other words, watching reruns is the best way to replenish your self-control tank.
"One experiment and one daily diary demonstrate that people seek familiar fictional worlds (e.g., a favorite television program) after exerting effortful self-control," wrote Derrick in her report. "Moreover, immersion in this familiar fictional world restores self-control. Supplementary analyses suggest that it is the social nature of this familiar fictional world that contributes to restoration."
Derrick came to this conclusion by asking one subgroup of volunteers to write a daily diary, while asking another sub group to do the same thing, but not use the letters "i" or "a." This made the latter sub group exercise a lot of self control. Afterward, both groups were asked to write about their favorite TV show. The depleted sub group all wrote more about their TV show than those who could use any letters, suggesting that the depleted group actively sought out a fictional world in order to make themselves feel better.
So the next time someone yells at you to get off the couch and cancel that Game of Thrones marathon, you now have the proper response. Simply tell them that watching reruns of TV shows makes you a better person. They can't argue with that.
[Pic via Flickr - Espensorvick]