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Does your favourite TV show make you cynical?

Judging from recent findings at the University of Michigan, your favourite sitcom may actually be making you cynical towards love and soul mates.

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Even though we often feel like mushy little balls of feelings whilst watching our favourite sitcoms, it turns out they may be making us more cynical… So, next time you’re watching Ross and Rachel exchange longing glances or Ted Mosby run after Robin for the billionth time, remember that the warm orb of emotionality you’re feeling in the pit of your stomach is just good ol’ pessimism.

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According to a study in the upcoming issue of Psychology of Popular Media, the views on amour differ vastly between viewers of sitcoms and viewers of reality TV dating shows. Per research at the University of Michigan, those of us opting to watch popular sitcoms like Friends and How I Met Your Mother have a more cynical and unornamented perception of love, whereas fans of shows like The Bachelor tend to be more idealistic in regards to love and soul mates. Neat, eh?

This may be directly linked to the fact that sitcoms nowadays aim to represent flawed relationships between their characters to mimic reality, while reality TV dating shows are very improbable and epitomise cliché romance ideals. This study may also serve as a great example of how television subconsciously embeds itself into our psyche and can be traced in some our most fundamental values.

Is there a hitch?

What caught our attention is that this study does not connect the findings to the possible effects on the lives of the participants. What is the purpose of the study? If watching sitcoms does indeed make viewers cynical, how does that affect their life? Are their relationships suffering as a result? What about the participants who opted to watch romantic reality TV? How do their private lives compare to those who watch sitcoms? It’s an interesting study, but we would like to know more about how this could possibly influence the choices we make in life.

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Causation vs. correlation

This is also an interesting point to consider, do certain TV shows make us more pessimistic or do we watch certain shows because we already are pessimistic? It is plausible that the participants of the study chose to watch sitcoms over reality TV because they were already cynical about love. Similarly, participants watching The Bachelor (and the like) chose to do so, because they are romantics with an idealised view of love.

It would have been curious to request cynical individuals to watch reality TV dating shows for an undisclosed period of time and have the romantics watch popular sitcoms, in order to observe possible alterations in their attitudes towards love during the course of the study.

Very interesting food for thought. Maybe our favourite shows have a bigger influence on our everyday lives than we thought. What do you think?

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