You may have thought about what binge-watching TV can do to your social life, your workout routine, and/or your plans to leave the house at least once over the weekend. In fact, you may have experienced these effects firsthand. But, have you considered what television does to your brain — and why it's so addictive?
Don’t worry, we’re not about to tell you to swear off the Netflix (that would be hypocritical of us). But, it’s worth considering why, exactly, the average American watches five hours of TV per day. As our friends at Shape report, we’ve actually evolved for it: Television’s continuously changing visual and audio stimulation triggers our “orienting response” — the heightened attention we devote to anything new in the environment. We developed this response in our cave-people days while on the lookout for food, predators, and mates. Now, every time a new sight or sound emanates from a screen, our attention is recaptured. This happens again and again in rapid-fire instants that easily add up to hours.
Constant newness isn’t the only way TV sucks you in. Over the first half hour of viewing, most of your brain activity transfers from the left hemisphere (the seat of reason) to the right (the seat of emotion). And, your brain releases endorphins, leaving you relaxed and craving more of the good stuff, i.e. the next shocking twist or fiery explosion. Click through to find out what else happens to your brain as you descend into the depths of couch-potato-dom. (Shape)