The movies and TV shows watched by millions aren't just entertaining; a new study says they're affecting how people view romance and changing how they behave in relationships.
Researchers from The University of Michigan studied 625 college students (392 of whom were female) to determine if movies and TV shows were influencing their love lives.
Participants were given a list of 93 romantic films, such as "500 Days of Summer," "Crazy Stupid Love," and "In Time" and asked how many they had seen.
Next, they were given a list of 17 sitcoms including "How I Met Your Mother" and "Big Bang Theory" and were asked how many they watch and how often. Lastly, they were asked if and how often they watch marriage-themed reality shows like "The Bachelor" and "Millionaire Matchmaker."
Researchers then analyzed the students' ideas about love and also gauged whether or not participants believed that TV portrayed real life or saw it as total fantasy.
At the end of the study, three conclusions emerged:
- More exposure to romantic movies led to a greater tendency to believe "love finds a way" and can overcome all obstacles.
- More exposure to marriage-themed reality shows led participants to believe in "love at first sight" and that true love will be nearly perfect (what researchers call "idealization").
- On the other hand, watching TV sitcoms led to a negative view of romance and very little endorsement for concepts like "love finds a way," "love at first sight," "idealization" and the "one and only".
Thus, the researchers suggest that the behaviors shown in each entertainment genre are actually being imprinted into our views of romance. For example, watching lavish dates on "The Bachelor" leads viewers to idealize love, while watching a couple bicker on a sitcom leads to a more negative impression of marriage.
So what does this mean for your own love life?
"Previous research suggests that beliefs about relationships can have implications for relationship satisfaction and longevity," study author Julia Lippman wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.
Indeed, past studies have illustrated that people who can be classified as romantic appear to have more successful romantic relationships: they report high levels of love for a current partner, higher levels of relationship satisfaction, greater commitment, and a decreased tendency to engage in extramarital sex.
However, as Lippman points out, while certain romantic ideals can lead to stronger relationships, they can have negative consequences as well.
"Seeing your partner through rose-colored glasses is associated with higher levels of relationship satisfaction, but it is easy to see how seeing a partner who is bad news through rose-colored glasses (say, someone who is abusive) could have negative implications," such as staying in a bad relationship for too long. More research is needed to explore that topic further.
The findings were recently published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.