A New Study Claims Watching Good Television May Actually Make You A Better Person

We can all agree that there are a lot of television shows to keep track of nowadays. In fact, there are roughly 400 programs included in the current season, and many items can fall through the cracks if you let them. However, compared to five years ago, the quality of compelling storytelling on the small-screen has increased to a level never-before-seen, which is the main reason this writer has been known to sometimes not leave the house for days on end.

Alas, fellow TV fanatics, we now have a reason to celebrate, as NY Mag is reporting on a new study published last week in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts — which is totally a thing — that claims the viewing of high-quality television dramas can increase one’s emotional intelligence. It may have taken Jon Hamm seven seasons to win an Emmy, but just a few episodes of Mad Men will allegedly grant you a bit more empathy skill points.

The experiment used in the study had roughly 100 people watch an episodic drama, like Mad Men or The West Wing, or an educational reality series like How the Universe Works or Shark Week: Jaws Strikes Back. Once the viewing concluded, those involved in the study took part in a test often used by psychologists in order to measure emotional intelligence. According to the report, the participants were “shown 36 pairs of eyes” and were then told to “judge the emotion each pair is displaying.” Those who watched Don Draper drink and cheat on his wife achieved better results as opposed to the people who opted to watch sharks for an hour.

The main conclusion here is that those who take in a complex fictional narrative, whether through TV or books, are forced to consider a problem from multiple character perspectives, which tasks the audience to fill in the gaps regarding the inner lives of those whose stories are playing out in the written word of on screen.

The Flash, American Horror Story: Hotel, and The Walking Dead are all coming back to TV this week. Sure, the term “good television” may be relative, but I’ll rest easy knowing certain personal goals for self improvement are being achieved while taking in some Sunday night zombie carnage. Ah, science!

(Via NY Mag)