Healthwatch Essex – Research Reflections Blog…
Why am I Rewatching the same TV Show again?

In this month’s Research Reflections blog, Research Ambassador and Young Mental Health Ambassador Gemma Wood draws on a fascinating body of research to explore why people living with anxiety like to rewatch TV shows and reread books.
Do you find yourself always gravitating to the same book or turning on the same TV show? Because I certainly do. I re-read the same light-hearted romance books and constantly have the same series on repeat. I refer to these as my ‘comfort’ books and shows but as a psychology student my brain is always questioning everything. How do these provide me with so much comfort, is it because I have anxiety and just…why?
I think everyone can relate to the feeling of warmth (I’d call these fuzzy feelings!) when you see someone you know, are in a familiar place or do something you’ve done many times before. That warm, happy feeling then reinforces the desire to repeat the action. The positive feelings occur because of the mere-exposure effect. This is a psychological phenomenon which suggests that repeated exposure to a stimulus increases perceptual fluency. This means the ease with which a stimulus can be processed. In other words, it means developing a liking to something just because you’re familiar with it (Bornstein & D’agostino, 1992; Burgess II & Sales, 1971). It can also be referred to as the familiarity principle.

This is why individuals find comfort in the familiarity of watching their favourite TV show that they’ve seen perhaps 100 times before, whereas watching something new could bring up feelings of distress or unease, especially when it’s suspenseful. So even though that TV show might be a bit terrible, you may still choose the comforting option over the best option as the most effective course of action is unfamiliar to us.

Watching the same show repeatedly increases your perceptual fluency (Nessler, Mecklinger & Penney, 2005). This means the brain processes it easier than it would if it were something new. It’s lighting up the same neuropathways over and over again, priming them for activation.

Read the full article here: