• Illustration by Sebastien Thibault
Illustration by Sebastien Thibault

If your mantra is “out with the old and in with the new,” then it’s time you learned the psychology behind RECONSUMERISM. And if you’re the exact opposite — congratulations, you no longer have to live in shame.


As a kid, watching M*A*S*H reruns on TV was a regular after-school pastime of mine. Today, almost every time my son comes to visit, a marathon of the animated comedy Family Guy is a sure bet, courtesy of the endless number of saved episodes on our DVR. And a bunch of my high school friends and I have camped every Easter at a certain Texas Hill Country spot for more than three decades.

Why do consumers watch shows, read books, listen to songs and vacation at the same place over and over? Because we are “reconsumers,” according to new research on the phenomenon. And if you think mere nostalgia motivates ­reconsuming, think again. It’s actually a complex process that involves returning to reliable sources of fun, looking for new nuances and even measuring our own personal growth since the last time we watched, read, listened to or visited said show, book, song or place.

The first thing to know about reconsuming: You’re not alone. Cristel Russell, a marketing professor at American University in Washington, D.C., began researching reconsumption by interviewing people in New Zealand and has ­continued her research in France and the U.S. She’s found that while many people reconsume, they aren’t aware others do too. “Often one of the first things they say is, ‘I must be one of the only ones doing this,’ ” Russell explains. “But this is something that a lot of us engage in.”

And we engage in it for some surprisingly good reasons. People don’t ­reconsume out of mere laziness, lack of imagination or fear of new experiences. Rather, reconsumption is, among other things, a way to re-experience ourselves — and a means of comparing the ways we’ve changed since the last time we had the same experience. “That was a recurrent theme in all the interviews,” Russell says. “They enjoyed rediscovering the details, but most of all they enjoyed assessing themselves.”