MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — “The Big Bang Theory” has captured hearts for 12 years. Fan favorites like Sheldon and Penny have offered viewers every range of emotions.

“You can kind of quote-unquote feel like that’s a friend, right? That there’s a shared experience that you’re having,” said Rich Lee, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota.

It’s a called a parasocial relationship.

“We’ve relationships in the past with TV reporters, or when a baseball team we root for loses,” Lee said. “That in turn kind of feeds our own sense of belonging and connection, and of course, that’s just fundamental to our identity.”

Often times, people will identify with a character.

(credit: Warner Bros. Television)

“The range of emotions they’re doing through and their relational experiences are things we can relate to,” Lee said.

Watching a show, especially one that air the same time each week, is also a routine that gives people a comfortable and safe place in a chaotic world. But, what if the character is nothing like you?

“There are some who talk about how we have an ideal self,” Lee said.

For Lee, that show was “Thirtysomething.” He and his friends would watch it in college.

“The reason we loved watching it was there was an aspirational quality to it,” he said.

Finally, Lee also points out that watching television is often a shared experience, especially now with social media.

“We might have an attachment with characters, but it’s in part because it allows us to talk about that with another person,” he said.

Heather Brown