Reality television has become of the most watched genres of TV of the decade. Whether it be American Idol, Survivor, or Toddlers & Tiaras, many Americans have seen at least an episode of a reality TV show. Many others have even developed an addiction to a reality show or two. Recent studies have shown that despite how entertaining reality shows are, they can potentially do more harm than good.
The Huffington Post claims that watching reality television can give people a false sense of reality. After watching Khloe Kardashian curse out her mother on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the mothers relentlessly gossiping and isolating newcomers to the dance team on Dance Moms, and young twenty-somethings partying constantly and getting punched in the face on The Jersey Shore, it’s possible for viewers to mimic the actions of reality TV stars. Even though many viewers recognize many reality shows script these events for dramatic effects, people watching these shows cannot help but feel influenced by the actions of Honey Boo and Kim Zolciak. If these so called “real” people can misbehave on television without reprimand, why wouldn’t viewers believe they can do the same?
This concept is known as media priming; in other words, a fictional character has the power to influence a person’s cognitive performance. That is, watching dumb people do dumb stuff on national television, can, in turn, make you do dumb things as well. In plain English, watching reality TV can make a person dumber.
Researchers recommend that next time you watch a reality show, take time to list the differences between you and the people on the show. In other words, if you have developed an unhealthy addiction to a show like The Bachelor, fear not. Finding dissimilarities between you, Olivia, Lace, and other crazy contestants can stop you from acting like them in the future, thus making you a smart person who also happens to enjoy watching reality TV.