Have you ever wondered why you are drawn towards a certain genre of shows and films? Why you spend all night watching shows that you’ve watched 10 times already? We finally answer your questions on why you watch what you do. 

1. We probably watch horror movies because we like being prepared for the worst

A study in the Journal of Media Psychology found that people watch scary movies for three main reasons: tension, relevance, and unrealism. Even though you know the movie is fake, watching it can trigger a very real fight-or-flight response in your brain – which some people tend to enjoy. In addition to this, you enjoy playing with danger but with a sense of security. Since you know you are scared, but you are in a safe space where no one can actually hurt you. 


For some people it teaches them how to deal with uncertainty, suspense and anxiety. Oh yes, watching horror movies is a strange but quite effective coping mechanism that helps release all the stress you’ve been holding in. It also helps to prepare for any upcoming calamities that may or may not happen (read pandemic), and feel superior about how you would respond better. If you find yourself connecting with the killer rather than the victims – then chances are that you use these movies to release your violent streak. 

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2. We watch sad, romantic stories that make us cry because we like the empathy that comes with it

Fondly known as ‘tragedy-addicts’, there are quite a few people who love watching sad movies that make them cry, and there are reasons behind it. Study shows that these movies help you reflect and realise how good your life is – tricking your brain into being happy. They give you perspective and actually can prove to be really therapeutic. 


According to Paul Zak, Professor, and Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, sad movies make us feel empathy for others through the release of oxytocin. Even when you know these characters are fictional, the empathy your brain releases is real, helping you connect with those around you better – usually in the form of hugs and tears. So if you really want to connect with someone – watch The Notebook with them. 

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3. We are obsessed with watching true crime stories because we like solving the puzzle and love feeling the fear

There are two sides to why people love watching true crime shows. On one hand, it is out of natural curiosity that people enjoy it – like putting together a puzzle, figuring out how it was done. On the other hand, people like keeping tricks up their sleeves in case they have to solve a crime in the future, preparing them for the worse and preventing something similar happening to them – as in the case of horror films. 

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According to American Psychological Association, humans react to and learn more from negative experiences than we do from positive ones. Sociology and criminology professor Scott Bonn, in an interview with Psychology Today said,”The public is drawn to these stories because they trigger the most basic and powerful emotion in us all: fear.”


4. We binge-watch as a form of escapism

In a survey by Netflix,  76% of respondents said binge-watching something is a welcome refuge from the busy world we live in. It is a kind of escapism that we prepare for in advance, and it gives us something to look forward to. In addition to this, we prefer binge-watching because of the high that comes with it, of watch something at our own pace, available on demand. 

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Dr. Renee Carr, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist told Today that this was due to the chemicals being released in our brain. “‘This feels good. You should keep doing this!’ When binge watching your favourite show, your brain is continually producing dopamine, and your body experiences a drug-like high. You experience a pseudo-addiction to the show because you develop cravings for dopamine,” he said. Also, when we binge-watch, we tend to connect with characters on a deeper level and start living through them, even if for a short amount of time. 

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5. We watch the same shows again and again because the nostalgia reassures us

Why do you find yourself re-watching Friends and Mean Girls again and again? Well, one of the reasons is nostalgia. We tend to re-live through a happier time in our life when we first saw the show, bringing back fonder memories. “Nostalgia reminds and reassures us that our life is not as banal as it may seem. It also tells us that there have been, and will once again be, meaningful moments and experiences,” psychologist Neel Burton and author of Heaven and Hell: Psychology of the Emotions explained it to the Huffington Post

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Re-watching is also therapeutic simply because it gives you comfort and happiness, making you feel warm and fuzzy because you know exactly what to expect.  It triggers a set of emotions that can be seen when we re-read our favourite books or even listen to the same song on repeat. 

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6. We watch action movies because we live through the main character

The reason is simple, we live through the main character of the film. According to Washington University’s psychology professor, Jeff Zacks, “You know there is nothing up there on the screen that can touch you or hurt you or pull you out of your chair but we react as if they can.” Hence, to our brain, what we watch is real and creates an adrenaline rush of sorts. In your mind, you are travelling with the hero, going through the same pain, same happiness, same excitement – in short you are living through the lead. 

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7. We are fascinated by serial killer shows because of intense curiosity

The number one thing that attracts us towards serial killers – be it Charles Manson or the Night Stalker, is curiosity. According to Scott Bonn, Ph.D.and a criminology professor, people are often drawn towards them because of how gruesome their crimes are. “They and their crimes are exotic and tantalising to people much like traffic accidents and natural disasters. Serial killers are so extreme in their brutality and so seemingly unnatural in their behaviour that people are drawn to them out of intense curiosity,” he said. 

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In addition to this, he wrote in Physiology Today that many people are morbidly drawn to the violence of serial killers because they cannot understand it and feel compelled to. People are drawn towards understanding the dark side, and finding meaning behind why these crimes are committed. 

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8. We watch trashy reality TV because it lets us watch strangers like their lives

You may not like the answer, but Psychology Today says there’s a pretty direct connection between watching reality TV and voyeurism. Voyeurism is defined broadly as a disorder that causes a person to gain pleasure from watching unsuspecting individuals – either naked or engaging in sexual activity (eeks). Therefore, people who score higher on a voyeurism scale are more likely to prefer watching reality TV. And since these people on-screen are ‘seemingly’ normal, it gives us a false sense of knowing them and gives us access into their daily lives. 


Apart from that, there is one more reason which attracts people. The desire to watch reality TV could stem from fantasies about easily acquiring fame. A dream we watch come to life with many contestants on shows. 


9. We enjoy watching porn because we want to forget about our problems

While there is a safe amount of porn that you can consume, there are a few underlying reasons behind why people excessively watch porn. Apart from the basic arousal and satisfaction, there is a large percentage that uses porn for not-so-simple reasons. According to Robert Weiss, Ph.D. and an expert in the treatment of adult intimacy disorders and related addictions – 73.8 percent of users use porn hoping to alleviate stress, 70.8 percent try to assuage boredom, and 53 percent want to forget their daily problems. 

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Using porn to escape can cause negative consequences, which usually includes sexual dysfunction with real-world partners, in particular erectile dysfunction in men.