Do we use TV as a substitute for real relationships?



The current research examines the Social Surrogacy Hypothesis: parasocial relationships in favored television programs can provide the experience of belonging. Four studies support the hypothesis. Study 1 demonstrated that people report turning to favored television programs when feeling lonely, and feel less lonely when viewing those programs. Study 2 demonstrated that experimentally activating belongingness needs leads people to revel longer in descriptions of favored (but not non-favored) television programs. Study 3 demonstrated that thinking about favored (but not non-favored) television programs buffers against drops in self-esteem and mood and against increases in feelings of rejection commonly elicited by threats to close relationships. Finally, Study 4 demonstrated that thinking about favored television programs reduces activation of chronically activated rejection-related words. These results yield provocative preliminary evidence for the Social Surrogacy Hypothesis. Thinking about valued television programs appears to yield the experience of belongingness.

Source: “Social surrogacy: How favored television programs provide the experience of belonging” from Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 45, Issue 2, February 2009, Pages 352-362

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