Who says watching TV can't be good for you? A recent study suggests that watching top notch television dramas like Mad Men and The Good Wife can help you develop your emotional intelligence and empathy.
Photo by Al Ibrahim
The results of the study led by researchers Jessica Black and Jennifer L. Barnes, and published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, compared two controlled groups of TV-watching participants. The first group watched highly-rated television dramas like Mad Men, The West Wing, The Good Wife, or Lost, and the second group watched nonfiction programming like Nova or Shark Week.
Then all participants took the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" test, which is commonly used by psychologists to measure emotional intelligence. After it was all said and done, the drama-watching group's empathy scores were substantially higher than the nonfiction-watching group. Black and Barnes speculate that watching fictional people experience hardship causes you to consider their problems from multiple perspectives; including what it would be like to be in the character's shoes. Empathy and emotional intelligence are what many consider to be the basis for "being a good person," so you might as well use it as an excuse to watch some more great TV.
Fiction and Social Cognition: The Effect of Viewing Award-Winning Television Dramas on Theory of Mind [the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts via NYMag]