Once upon a time, viewers had to patiently wait each week for the release of a new episode of their favorite series. Streaming services have turned this model upside down, allowing unhindered access to an entire season of episodes – triggering the phenomenon known as binge-watching. Recent research on the behavior suggests that it may be similar to other addictive activities, for example online gaming. A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry identified factors that can help predict unhealthy binge eating.
While the marathon viewing of multiple TV episodes has been around for decades, frenzy watching has burst onto the scene with the popular streaming service Netflix. Since then, it has become a popular way to spend free time, especially during the current pandemic.
A growing body of research suggests that such an escape can have negative consequences by leading to unhealthy eating habits, antisocial behavior, and poor performance at work or school, among other problems. This galvanized social scientists, like those who conducted the most recent study in Poland, to understand what factors can lead to binge behavior.
The researchers interviewed a group of 645 people between the ages of 18 and 30 who admitted to watching two or more episodes of a TV show in one sitting. Participants answered a series of questions that measured their impulsivity, emotional regulation, and motivations to quickly air a series.
Up to 20 episodes in one session
It is perhaps not surprising that lack of impulse control and foresight are both important predictors of problematic binge-watching. However, motivators such as wanting to be entertained or avoiding being bored were also major factors.
“I think the most interesting result of the study was that motivators were more powerful predictors of problematic binge eating than personal predispositions, such as impulsivity,” said Jolanta Starosta, senior author and doctoral student. at the Institute of Applied Psychology at Jagiellonian University. , in Krakow, Poland.
Another finding emerges from the data: Lack of emotional clarity and motivation to entertain were found to be the strongest predictors of the number of episodes watched during a binge-watching session. While most participants said they watched between two and five episodes in a single binge-watching session, almost 20% of the group responded that they would watch between six and 20 episodes in a single session.
“This may be related to the fact that problematic Frenzy viewers embark on marathon TV series, mainly because they want to escape their everyday problems and regulate their emotions, but decide to keep watching others. episodes of television series for more entertaining reasons, ”Starosta noted.
Is binge-watching highly addictive?
It would be premature to assume that over-watching is as risky or serious as other addictive behaviors until more research is done, Starosta said, although there are some similarities. “We have found that anxiety and depression are important predictors of problematic binge eating,” she noted.
The streaming services themselves can influence binge-watching. Cliffhanger endings encourage viewers to click through to the next episode, while some platforms automatically line up and start the next show shortly after the end credits start for the last episode.
“A few seconds to decide whether or not someone should keep watching is not enough to make rational decisions and can lead to loss of control over the time spent watching TV shows,” Starosta said. “However, some platforms have already made some changes to help viewers control their behavior. For example, Netflix added the ability to turn off autoplay for another episode.
The researchers admitted that the study has its limitations, as it focused on a uniquely Polish volunteer population. Future research, they noted, should extend to all nationalities.
Frontiers in Psychiatry
The title of the article
Impulsivity and emotional regulation difficulties as predictors of binge behavior
Publication date of the article
The authors state that the research was conducted in the absence of any business or financial relationship that could be interpreted as a potential conflict of interest.
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