New Study Gives You a Great Reason to Binge-Watch TV Shows

posted: 10/07/15
by: Mara Betsch
watching tv
Iain Watson

Load up your DVR and find your roommate's boyfriend's sister's login to your favorite streaming site, because you now have a free pass to watch a dozen episodes of your favorite show. OK, not exactly, but there is an upside to watching award-winning television. According to a 2015 study in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, watching a high-quality television series may actually increase your emotional intelligence.

The study randomly assigned their participants to two TV-watching groups, one that watched an award-winning drama (think Mad Men or The Good Wife) or one that viewed a TV documentary (like NOVA Colosseum). After they watched the shows, all participants were given the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, a quiz that asks people to look at various sets of eyes and determine the emotion each is displaying. It is often used to measure emotional and social intelligence (try it for yourself), and in both studies, participants who viewed a TV drama performed significantly higher on the tests. When they introduced a control group, both the drama and documentary groups scored higher on the test than the group who didn't watch anything.

The authors hypothesize that following complex plot lines, like Don Draper's downfall and subsequent rise back to the top, makes viewers consider a number of motivations for a character's actions. By getting involved in these characters' journeys, we may actually better understand the people in our own lives.

So though we don't recommend spending your entire weekend on the couch, it's nice to have a (researched-backed) excuse to stay home every once in awhile.