On Repeat: Why People Watch Movies and Shows Over and Over

By Derek Thompson
Children sit down in red movie-theater  drift watch chairs, wearing disposable three-D glasses.
William Hong / Reuters
SEPTEMBER 10, 2014
The millisecond that Dumb and Dumber clicks into attention at the tv display, something magical takes place to me. It may be a terrible day, a demanding day, or a unwell day, but inside seconds of seeing Jim Carrey’s bowl cut, I’m 10 years vintage once more. The range of films I even have as soon as memorized is small (The Lion King, A Few Good Men, and, inexplicably, While You Were Sleeping), however Dumb and Dumber is possibly the most effective one where I actually have reasonably thought, “I should perform this complete movie from start to finish, on my own.” On a couple of events in college, I assume I tried.

I’m a creature of repetition in terms of entertainment: Law and Order marathons go with the flow by on lazy Saturday afternoons, Arrested Development episodes move at night, and sure lugubrious British singers, specially the ones sounding like they have got a chilly, play relentlessly in my earbuds. In all of the hours I’ve spent re-eating films, suggests, books, and songs, I may want to have learned a actual skill, like playing an device or speakme several languages. Instead, I’ve perfected fake talents, like appearing an uncanny impersonation of Jack Nicholson’s final court monologue.

Going returned to the same pop-lifestyle fare for seconds, thirds, and thirtieths isn’t so ordinary. If something, my re-consumption conduct are tame in comparison to a number of you, who’ve have study Harry Potter more than 10 times, watched Friday more than one hundred times, and spent more of your waking lifestyles with The West Wing than Aaron Sorkin has. Musicologists estimate that for each hour of music-listening within the regular character’s lifetime, fifty four mins are spent with songs we’ve already heard. Forget the following massive element. We’re all suckers for the final big component.

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Pop subculture is a continuing system of newness and synthetic wonder. We queue across the block for brand new comic-ebook-movie installments and crash HBO Go to observe season finales. And yet, I even have spent a hundred hours of my life watching a movie I should carry out verbatim in my residing room.

Why can we spend so much time with testimonies whose endings we already recognise?

* * *
The question “why do humans do the equal factor again and again?” has entranced philosophers, anthropologists, economists, and psychologists for centuries. “That that is repeated has been, otherwise it could not be repeated, however the very reality that it has been makes the repetition into something new,” wrote Kierkegaard (whom I actually have not reread).
The most durable theories fit more or less into 4 categories: habits, addictions, rituals, and status quo bias.
Habits, which includes going for a run to begin your day, are normal and automated. We don’t even need to reflect onconsideration on them, and that’s a part of their price. Addictions, consisting of smoking, are like behavior on evil steroids. They are unmanageable and result in bodily dependence. Then there are rituals, which include Thanksgiving or carrying lucky socks earlier than displays. Unlike addictions, we choose our rituals to be symbolic and expressive in place of be ruled via them. Unlike habits, they’re rare.
Finally there’s fame quo bias, the observation that humans have a tendency to stick with preceding selections, due to the fact the value of coming to a new decision is mentally laborious. Perhaps you recognize this type of excuses …
“I don’t love this activity, but some thing, I don’t need to search for a brand new one.”
“[I’ve already decided for reasons I don’t remember that] international warming is a delusion, and you could’t convince me otherwise.”
“No, I may not go to Club Monaco. Gap’s pants are best. I’m a Gap individual!”
When Cristel Antonia Russell and Sidney Levy interviewed folks who had reread a e-book, rewatched a movie, or revisited a sentimental website online, their experiences failed to smartly match into any of these categories. Instead, Russell and Levy found that human beings sought out familiar amusement for precise reasons—to recapture a lost feeling, as an instance, or to understand the passage of time. Summing up their studies, right here are 4 reasons why such a lot of people select their entertainment caught on repeat.
The Simple Reason
The least complex motive why humans rewatch a film (e.G.) is that … Nicely, they sincerely like that movie!
Familiar fare calls for much less mental energy to manner, and whilst some thing is straightforward to consider, we generally tend to don’t forget it excellent.
If this explanation sounds too unsophisticated for you, experience free to use intensely multisyllabic names for the phenomenon, like “reconstructive consumption.” That’s the term Russell and Levy use to describe interviewees who rewatched episodes of Battlestar Galactica and Seinfeld to remind themselves what befell and choose up on smaller information that they could recognize when they caught as much as the general plot.
Watching something over and over seems like it might make leisure lose its preliminary attraction. But psychologists have located that repetition breeds affection. Familiar fare calls for much less mental strength to process, and whilst something is simple to consider, we generally tend to consider it right. A film we’ve visible seven instances before is blissfully smooth to method.
The clinical term for this is “mere publicity effect,” which means that we like something extra simply because we’ve been formerly uncovered to it. So there is evidence not handiest that we replay songs that we adore, but also that—up to a positive point!—we like songs the more regularly that we play them.
The Nostalgic Reason
The identical manner that it’s fine to watch acquainted movies merely due to the fact they’re acquainted, it may be quality to consider the beyond simply because it’s the past.
The word nostalgia—a combination of the historical Greek phrases nostos (homecoming) and algos (ache)—changed into coined inside the seventeenth century to explain a neurological disorder amongst depressed Swiss mercenaries combating overseas. The idea became that squaddies have been homesick for the snowcapped mountains, or perhaps cognitively impaired with the aid of the constant ringing of cowbells in Swiss pastures (seriously, that became the idea). In the 4 centuries seeing that its not going start, nostalgia has converted from a doubtful sickness into a bona fide enterprise version, fueling pop-subculture retrospectives on VH1 and Simpsons marathons on FXX.
Clay Routledge, a psychologist who studies nostalgia at North Dakota State University, says there are two traces of this cultural pain: ancient (a nostalgia for the beyond, in popular) and autobiographical (nostalgia for an man or woman’s beyond, especially). Sometimes, we watch an antique film to extract a keenness approximately the way matters have been. Often, we’re extra self-involved than that. In considered one of Routledge’s research, subjects exposed to popular songs and lyrics from their more youthful days had been more likely to report feeling “loved” and that “lifestyles is really worth living.”
We like repeating pop-lifestyle reports because they help us don’t forget the past, and the act of remembering the past feels desirable. Heidegger called it “redredging.” The researchers offer another time period: regressive re-consumption. It’s the usage of entertainment as a time machi

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