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Reality TV Collection

Nov 29, 2022

The Reality TV genre exploded in popularity in the 1990’s- early 2000’s . The documentary style filming and confessional techniques have filled our screens ever since. However long-gone are the days of authentic interactions among ordinary people.

As time goes on, the gap between reality and reality TV continues to widen. Today the genre is a highly dramatized, stereotyped, and predominantly scripted form of entertainment/advertising, dominated by aspiring celebrities.

The effect is not neutral, especially for young girls. Changes in both perception and behavior have been documented by researchers.  It’s one thing to watch these story lines and characters in fictional media, but the impact is very different when presented as normal behavior or an attainable lifestyle.  

This isn’t to say everyone should give up their favorite shows! Shared or anticipated viewing experiences have merit, as points of connection and release. Some shows model undeniably positive behavior. And some people are simply less easily swayed or fooled by these false “realities”. But it is critical for us to divorce the concepts of reality and TV in our minds. 

This research review is a reminder of the increasingly blurred lines of reality.  Whether it be staged scenarios, veiled advertising, artificial enhancements etc. our screens are filled with false impressions making very real impact. It’s more important than ever to be mindful and stay grounded, as we become immersed in more convincing fakes.


Think about the reality TV you watch, and ask yourself the 5 following questions for each show:

  1. Does this ever give me the urge to buy things I don’t really need?
  2. Does this ever make me feel dissatisfied or insecure about the way I look?
  3. Does this highlight or glamorize certain habits I’m trying to manage or avoid?
  4. Is this typically a solo experience?
  5. Do I typically end up watching more episodes than I‘d like or intend to?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, consider what other media or activities you could incorporate to help unwind in a more uplifting way.

READ FULL STUDY : Just “Harmless Entertainment”? Effects of Surveillance Reality TV on Physical Aggression.

Key Quote: “Surveillance reality viewers exposed to relational aggression were more aggressive than those watching either a supportive family surveillance reality program or a violent crime drama.”

Publication:  Psychology of Popular Media Culture

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brad J Bushman, Ohio State University
  • Bryan Gibson, Central Michigan University
  • Beini Hou, N/A
  • Judy Thompson, N/A

Competing Interests : Not stated or referenced

Disclaimer: Other studies have failed to find the connection between aggression and reality tv viewing. However, as with all research, different methods and ways of defining things (like aggression for example) lend themselves to different conclusions. We feel this study still has merit.

READ FULL STUDY:  Real Mean Girls? Reality Television Viewing, Social Aggression, and Gender-Related Beliefs Among Female Emerging Adults.

Key Quote: “Findings suggest that female emerging adults who perceive the lifestyles in reality programming to be realistic and desirable hold more stereotypical views of women and see greater value in social aggression.”

Publication:  Psychology of Popular Media Culture

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, University of Missouri
  • Jennifer Lewallen, University of Missouri
  • Brandon Miller, University of Massachusetts Boston

Competing Interests : Not stated or referenced

READ SYNOPSIS OR PURCHASE FULL STUDY:  Reality Television Predicts Both Positive and Negative Outcomes for Adolescent Girls

Key Quote: “Reality television viewing was positively related to increased self-esteem and expectations of respect in dating relationships. However, watching reality television also was related to an increased focus on appearance and willingness to compromise other values for fame.”

Publication:  The Journal of Pediatrics

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. Ferguson, PhD, Department of Psychology and Communication, Texas
  • Kamla Modi, Girl Scout Research Institute
  • Kimberlee Salmond Girl Scout Research Institute

Competing Interests : The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

READ FULL SUMMARY OF FINDINGS : Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV

Key Quote: “Of girls surveyed, regular reality TV viewers* differ dramatically from their non-viewing peers in their expectations of peer relationships, their overall self-image, and their understanding of how the world works. Our findings also suggest that reality TV can function in the lives of girls as a learning tool and as inspiration for getting involved in social causes..”

Publication:  Girl Scout Research Institute

Competing Interests : Not stated or referenced


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