Why the Golden Age of Television is Bad for Our Health

By Noah Kaufman |

This guy loves, LOVES, Orang is the New Black. Kostiantyn Kostenko / Alamy

The Emmy’s are on Monday and there are not nearly enough of them to go around. Just when you thought the end of Breaking Bad was the end of your lifeTrue Detective showed up to take its place. But all this good TV could actually be threatening our health. According to a study, presumably funded for by the producers of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, television with good narrative structure and interesting stories can actually make us fatter. Or at least it will make us eat more.

Published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the research involved supplying subjects with as much Coke, chips, nuts and chocolate as they wanted while they watched television, commercial-free, for an hour.

No one really doubts that people tend to eat mindlessly while they watch TV. Take a minute and see if you can actually think of the last time you watched TV without putting anything in your mouth. What’s interesting is that a variable researchers refer to as “narrative transportation” was correlated with eating more bad-for-you food.

Narrative transportation basically means that viewers thought the show told a good story, as opposed to one about 30 desperate men trying to date one woman in order to get themselves seen on TV. The conclusion is that if we are distracted by a good story we will ignore whatever effect eating mass quantities of chips has on our body until the story is over, at which point we will presumably really notice them.

We’re suddenly starting to think that binge watching the first two seasons of House of Cards is not such a good idea. 

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