Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of British Columbia found that switching on the tube helps distract people from their personal failings.
The study, which appears in the January issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, examined the TV viewing habits of undergraduate students after they received either positive or negative results on an intelligence test.
The students who received low scores watched television longer and waited longer before the first instance of averting their eyes from the television than students who had high scores.
The students with poor results watched television for 4.03 minutes out of a possible 6 minutes and did not avert their gaze for the first 72 seconds. The students who scored well on the test watched television for 2.46 minutes out of a possible 6 minutes and first looked away from the television after 11 seconds.
The study also found the students perceived less challenge to their chosen self-image after they watched television. That was true whether they watched an image of a waterfall accompanied by soft classical music or more evocative images accompanied by sad music.
Much attention is given to how television affects us. This site discusses children and violence on television.