What Exactly Defines Binge Watching?

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On-demand television has introduced both a blessing and a scourge to modern life: the binge watch. It’s never been easier to watch an entire television series in one go, sacrificing full weekends to couch time with your favorite characters.

But what exactly separates binge watching from just, well, watching? In a new study on the health implications of binging, published in the Journal of Health Psychology (spotted via Science of Us), UK and Canadian researchers had to nail down just how many episodes constituted a binge.

Their answer: watching any more than two episodes of one television show in a sitting. “We deemed that the move from two to three episodes to be the cut-off for when a standard watching of a television show began to be a ‘binge,’” they write. Previous studies on binge-watching have linked it to a compulsion to watch more [PDF], but haven’t been so specific.

The study’s 86 survey participants reported binge watching an average of 1.42 days a week, taking in an average of about three episodes. People who tended to binge-watch more also tended to say it got in the way of pursuing other goals, unsurprisingly.

However, there may be a way to stop yourself from undertaking a binge-watching session you'll regret later. The researchers hypothesize that auto-play can feed into binge-watching, and suggest that intermissions designed into streaming services (like Netflix’s “are you still watching?” pop-up) might keep people from unwittingly staying glued to their couch for hours at a time.

[h/t Science of Us]