BUSTLE / TMS & Brain Health

How Watching Re-Runs Of ‘The Office’ Affects Your Brain

December 11, 2019

The Office

If you’re like me, you’re on your sixth rewatch of The Office and there’s no real end in sight. It’s just one of those classics that seems to get funnier and more ridiculous every time. But do you know what goes on in your brain when you keep coming back for more? Though it’s easy to pinpoint how you feel when you watch the show, it takes a little more research to learn what happens to your brain when you watch reruns of The Office.

Shows like The Office feel addicting because of the way your brain reacts to watching them. “Our brains respond very well to getting the same things multiple times,” Sophie Scott, PhD, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, tells Bustle. Because of a phenomenon called the “mere familiarity effect,” you might tend to appreciate things that repeat just because they’re familiar. Knowing something good is coming can be a source of comfort to you, which helps explain why you re-watch the same thing twice.

Ben Spielberg, M.S., founder and CEO of TMS Brain Health, a Los Angeles brain health center, explains that pleasure also plays a role in why you watch shows like The Office over and over again. “When we engage in positive behaviors that are supposed to feel pleasurable, a neurotransmitter called dopamine is released into the brain,” he tells Bustle. “Dopamine release leads to positive mood changes such as happiness and comfort, but dopamine can also lead to perseveration and compulsive behaviors.” So when your brain realizes that watching Michael make crass and ridiculous comments is enjoyable, you keep watching to get those positive feelings.

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