Binge-watching (i.e., seeing multiple episodes of the same TV series in a row) now constitutes a widespread phenomenon. However, little is known about the psychological factors underlying this behavior, as reflected by the paucity of available studies, most merely focusing on its potential harmfulness by applying the classic criteria used for other addictive disorders without exploring the uniqueness of binge-watching. This study thus aimed to take the opposite approach as a first step toward a genuine understanding of binge-watching behaviors through a qualitative analysis of the phenomenological characteristics of TV series watching.
A focus group of regular TV series viewers (N = 7) was established to explore a wide range of aspects related to TV series watching (e.g., motives, viewing practices, and related behaviors).
A content analysis identified binge-watching features across three dimensions: TV series watching motivations, TV series watching engagement, and structural characteristics of TV shows. Most participants acknowledged that TV series watching can become addictive, but they all agreed having trouble recognizing themselves as truly being an “addict.” Although obvious connections could be established with substance addiction criteria and symptoms, such parallelism appeared to be insufficient, as several distinctive facets emerged (e.g., positive view, transient overinvolvement, context dependency, and low everyday life impact).
Discussion and conclusion
The research should go beyond the classic biomedical and psychological models of addictive behaviors to account for binge-watching in order to explore its specificities and generate the first steps toward an adequate theoretical rationale for these emerging problematic behaviors.
Binge-watching (i.e., watching multiple episodes of a TV series in one session) has recently become standard practice among TV series viewers; this expansion generates concerns regarding the potential negative outcomes associated with this habit. However, the investigation of its psychological correlates remains fragmentary, with few initial studies a priori conceptualizing this behavior as a new addictive disorder. This study explored these psychological correlates using cluster analysis of binge-watching behavior based on three key psychological factors: motivations, impulsivity, and emotional reactivity.
An online survey was completed by 4,039 TV series viewers. Data were analyzed using hierarchical and non-hierarchical cluster analyses, the validity of the clusters being finally determined through mutual comparisons with a selection of external correlates.
Four clusters were identified: recreational TV series viewers (presenting low involvement in binge-watching), regulated binge-watchers (moderately involved), avid binge-watchers (presenting elevated but non-problematic involvement), and unregulated binge-watchers (presenting potentially problematic involvement associated with negative outcomes).
Discussion and conclusions
This study underlines the heterogeneous and multidetermined nature of binge-watching. Our findings suggest that high engagement in binge-watching is distinct from problematic binge-watching, thus reinforcing the notion that conceptualizing binge-watching as an addictive disorder is of low relevance and might actually lead to the overpathologization of this highly popular leisure activity.
The paper by Sassover and Weinstein (2022) contributes to a timely and complex debate related to the classification of Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD). The recent inclusion of CSBD as an impulse-control disorder in the ICD-11 has generated debate since a competitive view is that CSBD should rather be classified as an addictive disorder. Sassover and Weinstein (2022) reviewed existing evidence and concluded it does not support the conceptualization of CSBD as an addictive disorder. Although we agree regarding the relevance and timely nature of considering the classification of CSBD, we respectfully disagree with the position that relying on the components model of addiction (Griffiths, 2005) is the optimal approach for determining whether or not CSBD is an addictive disorder. In this commentary, we discuss potential pitfalls of relying on the components model to conceptualize CSBD as an addictive disorder and argue that considering a process-based approach is important for advancing this timely debate.