The value of the pause?

by on June 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm in Books, Television | Permalink

…research suggests that taking breaks between episodes can increase your enjoyment.  Perhaps most amazingly, commercials can improve the experience of watching television.  Even entertaining shows start to drag after five to seven minutes, decreasing our enjoyment.  Commercials disrupt that adaptation process, so when the show comes back on, we can fall in love with Jim and Pam all over again.

The quotation is from Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, and the underlying research is here.  I believe this hypothesis does not apply to me, nonetheless I am glad to season two of Borgen does not arrive until later in June.  I am never tempted by binge viewing, and in general I do not like to watch two episodes in a row.

Alex Godofsky June 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Endogeneity problem; shows are written with commercial breaks in mind.

ohwilleke June 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Agreed.

Benny Lava June 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm

This

JCE June 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm

tyler when is it that you are going to tell us how it is that you manage your time? that is, how do you manage to teach, blog, write books and articles, read 20 books, 50 papers, 30 newspapers and magazines at a time, watch movies and tv, be with your family, sleep and eat.

Tyler Cowen June 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I don’t watch much TV, right now only Borgen, and that is on pause, that’s how…

prior_approval June 8, 2013 at 10:54 am

And to think that many of the people I used to know at GMU used students and staff to stretch their time – much like how most public figures do not write the op-eds that appear under their name.

MC June 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Without any resentment, I assume that the time the rest of us spend working, he can devote to books and articles and blogs as part of his research (liberally construed, of course).

x June 8, 2013 at 1:22 am

In other words, he has tenure and does whatever the fuck he wants.

Willitts June 8, 2013 at 1:44 am

Nice job if you can get it.

middle aged vet June 8, 2013 at 11:59 pm

As a former economics “major”, I would have loved to have (in addition to the wonderful professors I had) someone who read for informational purposes an extremely wide variety of published and unpublished info in all genres… as to microeconomics, at least, much of it would signal some possible avenue to follow (or some unfruitful avenue to avoid ) of student research. I am fairly certain that if TC were independently wealthy and not a professor he would spend a lot more time on uncontestably rewarding literature and art rather than on the mix of semi-good books and glorified sludge which he reports on at this website…

Hazel Meade June 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

They also permit you an opportunity to get up and go take a leak, get snacks, etc.

But who watches commercials anymore/ You either have a TiVo or your bootlegging commercial-free shows, or streaming them on Netflix.

Only the technically illiterate are still forced to sit thrugh commericals. Everyone else has a pause and a fast forward.

Millian June 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm

At last, a worthwhile TV series that European viewers get to see before Americans.

sfmitch June 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm

This fails the smell test.

Commercials annoy me to no end. There is no way that interrupting a show with crummy commercials can make the experience more enjoyable.

“Even entertaining shows start to drag after five to seven minutes” = nonsense. Quote must come from someone with ADD.

There is nothing better than watching a good show on DVD/Blu-Ray. No breaks (even commercials skipped via DVR) gives a superior watching experience.

Marie June 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Agreed. We’ve totally cut out cable and have turned to Netflix and Hulu because neither my husband or I would watch a show we enjoyed in real time because the commercials would make it so annoying. Actually, my husband would record football games and start watching them about two hours into the game. Skipping commercials and using the +30s button between plays meant that by the end of the game we were caught up to “now”. Much better way to watch sports.

Andrew` June 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Someone once said the action of football was a few minutes. I thought now there is a plan.

Careless June 9, 2013 at 11:23 am

People with Sunday Ticket can watch 30 minute condensed versions of the games the day after they’re played. Play after play plus a few replays.

I found it a little too dense.

ohwilleke June 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm

“I am never tempted by binge viewing, and in general I do not like to watch two episodes in a row.”

Weird. Even the most temperate TV viewers I know prefer watching at least two break free episodes back to back at a time, mostly because it makes keeping track of even very subtle plot continuities effortless.

I also have yet to meet someone who actually prefers commercial breaks, although the frequent but short breaks on Hulu, for example, are quite tolerable compared to the long multiple spot breaks of broadcast TV.

Willitts June 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I don’t think many people prefer commercial breaks. I can stop live action and resume, and doesn’t get much better than that. If I want to see a commercial, I can stop it.

I agree with the others that TV shows are made to have breaks. But there is a rationality to the irrational. I can sit at my desk all day engaged in my work despite the fact I know it will be bad for my eyes and back. Even knowing this. When my mind is engaged in something interesting I ignore or postpone other needs. Some days I skip lunch. So to discipline myself, I set an egg timer to get up and stretch every 45 to an hour. My behavior reveals a orefernce for working to my own detriment, and an external form of discipline, even self imposed, is helpful. And despite the fact I’m constantly talking my clients down from cognitive biases, I catch myself in a few here and there. Positive time preference gives all of us an incentive to feed our insatiable appetites. Discipline or self-discipline helps us overcome myopia and bad habits. It is rational for some to seek the discipline of commercials.

Mark Thorson June 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm

If this result is true, shouldn’t it also be applied to lectures? And maybe some other break would be even more effective, like tossing a firecracker toward the audience. I remember in a college calculus lecture the professor accidently knocked something over that made a loud noise. That really snapped me out of a semi-hypnagogic state! BANG! It might be best to plan these to coincide with fundamental concepts necessary to understand the rest of the material.

I suppose the effect might diminish if it’s overused. Different effects (bells, horns, buzzer) might extend the effect with novelty, but eventually the audience will be on the edge of their seats anticipating the next sound effect.

Go Kings Go! June 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I think my antiquity professors had discussed this in their lounge. One would periodically say in stern tone “on the test” (with no context), another would say “look at that” (no context) and my favourite (of blessed memory) would periodically just shout: “hossana, hossana, hossana!”

Todd June 7, 2013 at 5:56 pm

This book brought to you by the fine people at CBS Corporation.

Also, as more and more people view more and more video content online and on devices without ads, they will become more accustomed to watching multiple episodes at one time (or watching a larger number of episodes without waiting a week).

Edward Burke June 7, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Perhaps most amazingly, NOT WATCHING does improve the experience of watching television.

To amend Schopenhauer: “The art of NOT watching television is a very important one . . . One precondition for reading good books is not watching bad TV shows: for life is short.” (with thanx to Schopenhauer and Hollingdale)

abcd June 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Just curious, what about very good TV shows?

Edward Burke June 8, 2013 at 6:57 am

I’m a “very good TV show agnostic” as a consequence of having an anachronistic mind and being an atavistic soul.

boldface June 7, 2013 at 8:05 pm

This can’t be right. We have over a century’s worth of moviegoers who prove it. If we really needed commercials after 5-7 minutes, who would sit through a two hour movie beginning to end?

wiki June 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Interesting that long films used to have intermissions in the 1960s. They assumed that two hours was the limit of what audiences could stand. Was it optimal? Also hasn’t filming changed to have more rapid cuts and action with changes every few minutes or even thirty seconds? Isn’t that because people get bored when watching slower, more continuous stretches of dialogue? Of course the study sounds bogus for all the reasons mentioned, especially endogeneity.

Edward Burke June 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Tarkovsky films never came with intermissions, that I’m aware. In the VHS era the only interruption arrived with the need to load the second reel.

Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI offers a well-placed intermission, even in DVD format.

David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA offered a welcome intermission for crawling off to find something to drink.

Marcel Carne’s CHILDREN OF PARADISE provides an intermission that permits four years to pass by.

Yancey Ward June 7, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Research brought to you by the Advertisers Association of America.

Yancey Ward June 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Damn, Todd, above, beat me to it!

Shane M June 8, 2013 at 1:05 am

Maybe there will be an Emmy for “the best commercial enhancement.”

Rory Sutherland June 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm

“I believe this hypothesis does not apply to me…..”

You may be right, however we are notoriously bad judges of our own mental influences – and of the factors which affect affect. If everyone who said “I’m not affected by advertising” was truly not affected by advertising at all, there wouldn’t be any ads.

Robert Olson June 7, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Exception: Battlestar Galactica

JKB June 7, 2013 at 11:51 pm

It’s not just entertainment. I’ve been going through a few of the segments in MRUniversity’s Development Economics and Mexico’s economy… Not organized study but for my own edification. I’ve found that I’m sensitive to the segment length. But broken up as they are, I find I keep thinking “just one more”. I don’t think I would have even started if it was all organized in long talks. I also find that having the segments provide the breaks, I more easily stop and “weight and consider” than stopping a long lecture. Which, of course, is what study is all about.

By the way, I had the thought the non-technical segments could be offered in an additional manner as, I guess, geek entertainment, such as “Your random lesson in economics for the day” or something. Hey, stranger things have taken off on the internet.

Read not to contradict and confute;
nor to believe and take for granted;
nor to find talk and discourse;
but to weigh and consider. – Bacon

Riz Din June 8, 2013 at 6:24 am

Had an interesting experience with Godfather. I’d watched it a few times already and thought it was due a re-watch. I split it in to roughly half hour chunks and watched it over a week or so. The pauses made the movie more enriching, giving time to ponder and appreciate the different aspects of the movie.

Similarly with really good books. After the half way mark, I will try to ration out the pages so as to prolong the enjoyment. Good meals also have natural intervals between courses.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: