‘Reality’ TV’s Impact On Viewers: How Shows Like ‘The Real Housewives’ And ‘The Hills’ Affect Perceptions Of What’s Normal
Most of us can't help it: We find loathsome reality shows full of self-promoting blockheads so doggone entertaining. We might admit our TV guilty pleasures to close friends under the confidence that they'll keep our peccadillos under wraps. Or maybe we admit them openly, but always with an air of shyness to let the listener know that we know our addictions are shameful.
But what is "reality" television's real impact on viewers? How do shows like "The Real Housewives," "Jersey Shore," "The Hills" and "Laguna Beach" affect how people perceive "the real world" to be? Like any addiction, what are the negative consequences of our collective reality TV compulsion?
Like Us on Facebook
In a paper titled "A Snooki Effect? An Exploration of the Surveillance Subgenre of Reality TV and Viewers' Beliefs About the "Real" Real World," researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that shows that purport to be "real" actually negatively impact the way TV viewers think of the world. For example, they found that people who watch shows like "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" were more likely to report thinking that the cattiness and backstabbing that takes place between the sisters is par for the course.
Pacific Standard reports that after surveying 145 undergraduate students about their reality TV habits, University of Wisconsin researchers discovered that people who watch lots of "reality" shows were more likely to think that bad behavior, cheating, and having sex on the first date were status quo. From the paper:
Heavy viewers of surveillance programs were more likely to think females in the real world engage in inappropriate behaviors (e.g., arguing, gossip) more than males. Exposure to surveillance programs also positively predicted beliefs about the prevalence of relationship discord in the real world. Implications for cultivation research, reality TV, and accessibility are discussed.
The researchers note that producers of what we've come to call "reality television" employ various tricks to keep the audience entertained. In addition to letting us peek into the often-glamorous worlds that are not our own, reality show producers like to show dramatic scenes between people in romantic relationships. It's aggression, not admonition, that make for what they consider good television.
"The data presented in this study are correlational, and thus definitive claims about reality TV's effects on viewers' beliefs cannot be made from the data," lead researcher Karyn Riddle cautions, according to Pacific Standard. "After all, it could be the case that people who see the world as filled with relational strife and drama-especially on the part of females-might simply be attracted to reality TV programs."
Riddle says that more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be made, but that there's certainly a link between watching "docu-soaps" and how viewers perceive reality.
Read more from iScience Times:
© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.