We human beings just love us some violent content. Boy howdy, if an action-jawed man-pile ain't blowing something's face inside out with a pornographic hand cannon, we just plain don't want to see it. But a study by Indiana University revealed that we might not like our entertainment served with quite so large a dollop of violence as we think. In the study, researchers created two different descriptions for a TV show: one sanitized, nonviolent version, and one that was all killing and stabbing and maiming and America! Then they created two versions of the TV show in question: a violent and a nonviolent one.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"They're a band, but they also solve crimes."
To the surprise of no one, the violent version was initially chosen more often. However, even when they had chosen the show based on the more violent description, participants enjoyed watching the nonviolent version more than the violent one.
So wait -- if we don't enjoy it, then why do we flock toward promises of violent content? One possibility is that we assume the presence of violence means that there will also be other elements we do enjoy, like intense action sequences, bitchin' Camaros, and sweet-ass jump kicks. But perhaps the most interesting theory put forward by the researchers is based on evolutionary psychology: Our brains are simply wired to pay closer attention to violent images, "given the severe costs and potential payoffs associated with violence." But just because your distant ancestor Ugg had to pay close attention to the gore-slathered fangs of roving packs of saber-toothed cats every time he set foot outside his cave, that doesn't necessarily mean he liked it. So, too, you may not actually enjoy the high stakes of violent content any more than, say, the gripping drama of a friendly snuggle-fest.
"Game of Thrones is OK, but why couldn't it be Game of Teddy Bears?"
Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images
It's clear that commercials are the one thing we universally hate about our TV- and movie-watching experiences. After all, multimillion-dollar companies have based their entire bottom line on creating technologies that allow us to enjoy our entertainment commercial-free. But multiple studies have shown that commercial interruptions not only do not detract from our enjoyment of our favorite shows -- they occasionally make us enjoy certain media more.
"Wow, this is damn near tolerable."
In each study, groups of participants were shown commercial-free and commercialized versions of TV shows, and in every case, participants enjoyed the shows more when they were interrupted by commercials. In fact, one study found that when shown a nature documentary, participants not only enjoyed it more with commercial interruptions, but were also more willing to donate money to a nature charity. Where it gets really interesting is that the phenomenon isn't limited to movies and TV, but extends to any enjoyable experience. For example, one study found that participants enjoyed a massage more when it was interrupted in the middle -- presumably via a clown face popping up halfway through and screaming "HE WAS DEAD THE WHOLE TIME HUHUHUH!!!"
So how is it that something we're all convinced we hate is actually heightening our enjoyment? Researchers propose that, as with any experience, we adapt to it over time. Our first kiss is freaking fireworks; the tenth one's, like, maybe a firecracker; the hundredth one's pretty OK, but it's no burrito, you know? We'll kiss later; we're kinda hungry. So as we watch an hour-long TV show, our enjoyment of it lessens because we adapt to the experience over the show's run time. But breaking the experience up with commercials interrupts that adaptation process -- so each time the show comes back from a break, we're able to continue experiencing it with that higher level of enjoyment.
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"After an hour of the Home Shopping Network, I'm excited for Two and a Half Men."
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Jason is a freelance editor for this fine website, Cracked.com. Liking him on Facebook is currently at 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
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