Why Do We Like To Watch Rich People on TV?

Four Reasons You May Not Have Thought Of


Omar Medina from Pixabay

Watching other people’s lives captivates us–but why?

I am going to go straight into this: we love drama, specifically reality shows. 

We feel satisfied when a cast member we can’t stand doesn’t get their way or gets their “karma.” Or vice versa, it’s satisfying when our favorite cast member finally has something going for them or finally stands up for themselves.  The same with movies. We love to see our favorite actors and actresses take on certain roles, and we could watch those  movies over and over again.

There is a reason why we enjoy watching and looking into the lives of people we find interesting, whether the situation is dramatic, outrageous, or just entertaining.

But why is this exactly? What causes us to be willing to sit down before a screen for hours watching what other people do, say or how they live?  Why do we enjoy watching shows such as “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” “Real Housewives” and “Dance Moms” or movies like “Scream VI,” “Missing,” “Bones and All” etc.?

1. Social Comparison

Let’s try looking at it from a psychological standpoint.

One reason for this satisfaction we find in watching rich people on screen could be due to a psychological theory called social comparison. In 1954, a psychologist by the name of Leon Festinger first coined the term “social comparison”. This theory, in summary, says that people compare themselves to others in order to define and to estimate their own perspectives and abilities.

According to an article published in the “Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being,” “It was originally thought that individuals do this [social comparison] partly in order to limit hostility and deprecation of others, given that the act of comparing oneself with others is one of the ways to strengthen bonds and ensure uniformity within a social group.”

So, could it be that maybe we find satisfaction in having someone to compare ourselves to? Maybe we like to see what a celebrity’s got going on in their life to base ours on. Maybe we aspire to have the kind of money and live the kind of lifestyle they have. 

2. Endorphins, Morphine and Heroin

So why do we actually crave reality TV, movies, or just TV in general? Is it something in our brains sending us a signal indicating that we need to watch TV?

Well, watching TV can create an addiction in both the physical and psychological sense. An article from the Morning Meadow Preschool and Kindergarten website, “The Effects of TV on the Brain,” in short, says that when we watch TV, it causes our bodies to unleash chemicals. These chemicals, called endorphins, are natural sedatives similar to opiates such as morphine and heroin.

This may be a reason we crave TV so much and can glue ourselves to the television for several hours at a time. 

3. Enjoyment and Stress Relief

We may enjoy watching rich people on TV for enjoyment or stress relief. We might view watching TV as a stress reduction. After all, it does not require any physical activity. All you have to do is lose yourself in what you see as you forget about the world around you.

Some might see it as stress relief in that television personalities make us laugh and all our troubles just melt away. It’s human nature to enjoy something we find very interesting or that makes us laugh, or is just really entertaining to us. 

Watching rich people is an escape from the day-to-day stressors of the average American life. We may dream of escaping our own work and money woes OR get a thrill watching some who seems to have it all struggle with their own issues.

In stressful times, it’s only natural that we desire some comfort. It just so happens that the main place we find our comfort in is TV, or simply entertainment. 

4. Maybe We Just Enjoy Watching Our Favorite Celebrities, Period. But Why?

Everyone has a favorite movie star or reality star that they look up to or “stan.” But why is it exactly that we enjoy watching films that features them?  Could it be we are inspired by their hard work and where it has gotten them?

Maybe we see their success and are attracted to it because it uncovers our own potential for success. Hey, maybe we simply just love the way they portray their characters and play the roles. Maybe they can just act their socks off. 

So with that being said, it is clear that we like to watch rich people on TV and in the movies because we just find it entertaining, and it gives us comfort and enjoyment.