Movies And Books Really Are Better The Second Time

New research reveals why people like to reread books, re-watch movies and generally repeat the same experiences over and over again. It’s not addictive or ritualistic behavior, but rather a conscious effort to probe deeper layers of significance in the revisited material, while also reflecting on one’s own growth through the lens of the familiar book, movie or place.

Cristel Russell, a consumer behavior researcher at American University, and her colleagues interviewed 23 people to identify the underlying reasons for what they call “re-consumption.” As detailed in a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, the researchers found that re-consumption is not merely a nostalgic attempt to retrieve the past, but rather an active search for new meaning, and one that has great emotional value.

“Because re-experiencing offers a way to look at oneself through the same lens but with different eyes, it offers many therapeutic benefits,” Russell wrote in an email. “So long as one is actively conscious of the re-experience (and it’s not a passive, uncontrollable addiction), it can offer many self-reflexive opportunities.”

For example, one study participant was a church minister who regularly rereads the Bible. He said he sometimes interprets familiar passages differently and therefore has to amend the views he might have expressed publicly. “He saw this as a sign of growth,” Russell told Life’s Little Mysteries.

The authors said their finding confirmed an assertion of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who in 1953 argued that repetition enables one to achieve an understanding of one’s personal past. More importantly, re-consuming causes the contrasts between our past and present selves to become manifest. We recall how we interpreted words or footage in the past, and reflect on the differences with our current interpretation.


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