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Watching Reruns Leads to Better Mental Health

We keep hearing that we need to turn off the TV, get off the couch, and go outside and exercise. Anne Strieber's diet book--which has been REDUCED in price to help YOU reduce--has a chapter about exercise titled "The Tyranny of the Body."

Research scientist Jaye Derrick disagrees: Her study found that watching a rerun of a favorite TV show may help restore the drive to get things done in people who have used up their reserves of willpower or self-control.

Derrick says, "People have a limited pool of these valuable mental resources. When they use them on a task, they use up some of this limited resource. Therefore, they have less willpower and self-control for the next task. With enough time, these mental resources will return. However, there may be ways to more quickly restore them." And one of these ways is to re-watch your favorite TV shows.

Doing this taps into the surrogate relationship people form with the characters in their favorite shows. We find it comforting, mainly because we already know what the characters are going to say and do. All we have to do is sit back and enjoy it.

According to Derrick," When you watch a favorite re-run, you typically don't have to use any effort to control what you are thinking, saying or doing. You are not exerting the mental energy required for self-control or willpower. At the same time, you are enjoying your 'interaction' with the TV show’s characters, and this activity restores your energy."

But "Just watching whatever is on television does not provide the same benefit. And perhaps surprisingly, watching a new episode of a favorite television show for the first time does not provide the same benefit."
It's hard to form that kind of relationship with TV villains. Other research explains why the evil eyebrows and pointy chin of a cartoon villain makes our "threat" instinct kick in.

Psychologists have found that a downward pointing triangle can be perceived to carry threat just like a negative face in a crowd (previous research by these scientists showed that people can pick out a negative face in a crowd more quickly than a positive or neutral face). When participants were shown positive, negative and neutral faces, and triangles facing upwards, downwards, inward and outward, the study shows that downward triangles are detected just as quickly as a negative face.

We suspect that cartoonists somehow instinctively know this, since so many animated villains have faces this shape. Researcher Elisabeth Blagrove says, "If we look at cartoon characters, the classic baddie will often be drawn with the evil eyebrows that come to a downward point in the middle. This could go some way to explain why we associate the downward pointing triangle with negative faces. These shapes correspond with our own facial features and we are unconsciously making that link."



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