Why does it feel so good to collapse in front of the TV after work?


“…immersion in (a) familiar fictional world restores self-control.”

Work depletes self-control and willpower. Socializing can restore energy but it can also require effort.

Favorite TV shows are like pseudo-socializing. They effectively restore self-control without you having to get off the couch.

Enacting effortful self-control depletes a finite resource, leaving less self-control available for subsequent effortful tasks. Positive social interaction can restore self-control, but hurtful or effortful social interaction depletes self-control. Given this conflict, people might seek an alternative to social interaction to restore self-control. The current research examines social surrogate restoration—the possibility that people seek a social surrogate when depleted, and that seeking social surrogacy restores self-control. One experiment (Study 1) and one daily diary (Study 2) demonstrate that people seek familiar fictional worlds (e.g., a favorite television program) after exerting effortful self-control. 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.

Source: “Energized by Television: Familiar Fictional Worlds Restore Self-Control” from Social Psychological and Personality Science

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