Before you plop down on the sofa and take hold of the remote to prepare for a hard spell of rejuvenation, consider that there are limits to all this. For one thing, the benefits seem to be tied only to reconsumption. “If they hadn’t watched the show before, or they were watching a new movie or hadn’t read the book before, it didn’t seem to have the same beneficial effects,” Derrick says.

Nor does it seem to work if you overdo it. When reconsumption devolves into a mindless habit or routine, the benefits don’t seem to accrue. There needs to be some distance between the current consumption and the last time you had the experience. “If you go back to that beach every day,” Russell says, “it’s not going to have the same outcome.” And, like anything done excessively or used improperly, reconsumption can have not-so-beneficial side effects. Rewatching movies and rereading books, for example, are sedentary activities. “There might be healthier ways to regaining self-control,” Derrick observes. “For instance, exercising can be energizing.” She also notes that many observers report negative consequences of becoming deeply absorbed in certain types of fictional worlds. “For example,” she says, “violent programming is associated with greater aggression.”

Insights into reconsumption would seem relevant for everyone from tourist-­development organizations to Hollywood filmmakers. But, according to Russell, there’s been surprisingly little research on it. She blames that on a societal emphasis on the new that governs fields from technology to fashion — it also tends to make people ashamed to admit that they redo.

“We tend to think that the normal is the new,” she says. “Why would you do something old, if you can get something new and different and better? But people are realizing that is stressful and not as enjoyable as doing something that you know is going to make you feel good.”


MARK HENRICKS has been rereading the same books off the same moderate-size shelf for years and is relieved to learn that this does not mean he is some sort of reject or deviant.