As a psychology major, I have found that I try to justify habits/actions in my life through different theories. One of my true passions in life is binging on Netflix. Whether I’m racing through all 10 seasons of "Friends" or re-watching "American Horror Story" (for the third time), I feel so much better after a marathon of my favorite shows.
One of the things that I have found about watching Netflix is that it takes you on a journey. Netflix purposely has a smooth flow in that there are no commercial breaks and the next episode starts as the credits for the previous one end. You tell yourself you're only going to watch one episode, but you've finished a season before you realize the time (happens to me all the time!)
A main aspect that goes hand in hand with a break from reality is the complex nature of story lines in the plethora of shows that Netflix offers. We get so emotionally attached to characters (don't deny it), and this is due to a phenomenon called "cognitive empathy." Cognitive empathy refers to the inner connection we have to fictional characters and their story lines. No matter how much the plot and mechanics of a show deviate from reality, we can find a way to latch ourselves to a character, a situation, or an idea.
A study done by Paul Zak, a neuroeconomist, found that cortisol (the stress hormone) and oxytocin (usually referred to as the "cuddle hormone") were very prevalent in subjects' brains after watching a video. The study did not specify which video, but this gives us some insight into what people are thinking during Netflix binges.
Although Netflix marathons may seem impulsive, it really comes down to our brain mechanics. Psychologically speaking, this modern-day couch potato replacement is totally normal. So don't feel bad about finishing all seven episodes of the first season of "Breaking Bad" in one sitting. (According to Netflix, three out of four viewers did too!)
The article "Why We're Wired to Binge-Watch TV" by Jordan Gaines Lewis featured on PsychologyToday.com provided information about the Paul Zak study and the statistic about "Breaking Bad."