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Here’s why you get so emotionally attached to TV and movie characters

It happens to all of us — these psychological reasons explain our hangups on fictional characters.

This content was produced by Vox Creative, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

Have you ever found yourself in tears after a TV character’s death? Ever wondered whether you, too, might be meant for a life on the run after bingeing hours of your favorite crime show? You’re not alone. We’ve all gotten emotionally attached to fictional characters or lost ourselves in the world of a TV show or movie, especially when we binge watch. According to a survey by Deloitte, 90 percent of American millennials watch three or more TV episodes in one sitting. And all of this time we spend with our favorite fictional characters can actually affect our personalities and behaviors.

When we watch a TV show or movie, we empathize with fictional characters as we would with another “real” person right in front of us. We experience psychological effects such as identification, self-other taking, and the proximity effect. One particularly interesting effect is the formation of parasocial relationships: one-sided relationships with celebrities or other media persona. All these effects work together to make us empathize with and feel emotionally attached to these characters to the point where, sometimes, they can even seem real. Watch the video above to learn more about all of the psychological effects of binge watching on our fictional and non-fictional relationships.

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