From the department of unintended consequences
Thursday, March 12th, 2009
In one experiment, Nelson, along with Tom Meyvis and Jeff Galak of New York University, had 87 undergraduates watch an episode of the sitcom “Taxi.” Half watched it as it was originally broadcast, with commercials for the Jewelry Factory Store and the law office of Michael Brownstein, among other ads. The other half watched the show straight through, without commercials.
After the show was over, the students rated how much they enjoyed it, using an 11-point scale and comparing it with the sitcom “Happy Days,” which they were all familiar with. Those who saw “Taxi” without commercials preferred “Happy Days”, but those who saw the original show, Jewelry Factory Store and all, preferred “Taxi” by a significant margin.
In similar experiments, using other video clips and a variety of interruptions, the results were the same: People rated their experiences as more enjoyable with commercials, no matter their content, or other disruptions. The effect wasn’t limited to watching TV; interrupting a massage also heightened people’s enjoyment, one experiment found.
The opposite was true for irritating experiences, like listening to vacuum cleaner noise: A break only made it seem worse, they found.