Why do you watch reality TV?

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When watching a reality show, what do you think most people get out of it?

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200109/why-america-loves-reality-tv

Well in the article in Psychology today, Steven Reiss, Ph.D., a professor at Ohio State University (OSU) and James Wiltz is a Ph.D. candidate at OSU, describes that our viewing wants when watching reality TV is because we have a need for status. This could be correct, they do say also that we enjoy watching other people mess-up and going against our moral understanding, which is why Temptation Island is popular.  Yet, not only Temptation Island, but MTV's Real World, is full of people that everyone enjoys to watch and criticize the behavior. Then there is Rehab and Intervention, these shows are about people with addictions and treatment, why is that important to show on air, and what would motivate someone to watch this?

Another reason why people watch reality shows is to live viciously through the contestants, to win that prize or fall in love with that person. I find that funny because I started watching the bachelor recently when I lost that feeling of intense love that I use have from my partner and family, since I don't get to see them that often.  Also, could that be why many people watch the Biggest Loser, because we aspire to lose that amount of weight? What about watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire, can we see ourselves in the game winning the million?

So do we watch reality TV for status, are we living through these people on the show?

Does their behavior make ourselves feel better for ourselves?

Can we relate to the people on the show?

Are we fulfilling a psychology need or personal need that we wish to have or need?

Is all of this just TV and have nothing to do with interpersonal reasons?

How about the show is structured?

 Does the flow of the show create interest, or play to our emotional needs, such as love, fear, and anger?

Is the option to participate in the participants surival on the show important, if so do you feel personally connected with them once they are booted off?

In looking at all of these options, why do you think you watch reality TV show?

 

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4 Comments

I am actually a huge fan of reality T.V. Me and a friend will always get together and watch it because we are both Reality T.V. junkies. My boyfriend always asks me why I watch that crap and I always respond with I dont know! After reading this article I think some of it has to do with relating to the people on the show, because when watching the Biggest Loser I compare myself to them and say if they can work out and lose weight then so can I! It motivates me to know that someone a lot heavier can do some stuff that I wouldn't even imagine, but knowing that they can do it, and I must be able to too. So for my its a little motivational to watch the Biggest Loser. I have got online at juilianmichaels.com, one of the Biggest Loser workout instructors and she has a whole webpage dedicated to losing weight and tips and tricks to jump start the weight loss. So if watching a Reality T.V. show can help someone become motivated is a great thing. But when it comes to MTV's Real World, it is more mere entertainment and also thinking that I am actually not as worse off as others.

I honestly believe most reality is for pure entertainment purposes. This may be different for everybody, but most of the time I dont put myself in the other person's shoes. I mean, of course when I watch game shows, I try to play along and say 'oh my gosh, If I were playing right now i could've been the big winner!'. But other times, I just like to sit and watch something that doesn't take any brain activity-- like when Rock of Love was on (Bret Michaels... LOVED that show). The people on that show weren't even real to me. I feel if I had to write a story about a guy looking for love, there was no way I could come up with some of the crazy stuff that actually happened! There are some 'better' reality shows though, that may motivate people, as said above by Nicole. I personally find it awesome that people put themselves out there and let America watch them lose all of that weight. The show itself helps people who aren't on the show start, continue or maintain their weightloss... or also it may just be for entertainment if you don't fit into one of those categories. Project Runway? Maybe someone is an aspiring fashion designer and watches the shows for the critiques and not the drama? I believe it's extremely individual how motivating a reality tv show can be... but overall, I kind of like watching it all :-)

I think each individual's motivation for watching reality tv is as unique as the individual. People watch it for many different reasons, and because there are so many different reality shows, almost anyone could find some motivator that draws them in.

For example, someone could be motivated to watch biggest loser either because it's inspiring and encourages the viewer to try weight loss themselves, or because it gives the viewer satisfaction in that they don't have it quite as bad. For the person motivated by the show, they might have a need for achievement and use the show to give them extra encouragement to stick to their goals.

The bachelor could also draw several different types of audiences. Someone motivated by wanting vicarious experiences and is looking for love would be drawn into the show to live in a sort of fantasy for the hour (or however long) the show lasts. This type of motivation to watch the show could be feeding a need for relatedness that they're not getting outside of the tv world. Being mentally involved in the show could help satisfy that need to some extent. They could also be drawn by the entertainment factor, which I would imagine is a huge motivator for many to watch any kind of reality tv.

For me personally, I've not found any tv show that provides motivation for me to watch it. But, I do see how tv could be extremely persuasive and provide lots of different motivation factors for watching to many different types of people.

These are all great ideas and its great that these shows can motivate some people, but I really dont like watching reality TV. I don't really know why, but something about the whole idea behind watching reality TV doesn't really appeal to me, especially because I tend to beleive that they're all acting and none of it is really real anyway (the pessimist in me, I suppose). I tend to be more sceptical about the shows such as the Bachelor or Biggest Loser (there has been alot of controversy about the true effectiveness of the diets and exercises implicated in this show)anything else, which in turn doesn't really make for an entertaining show for me.
As far as the status need goes, I think it could be a deffinate possibility, for some people. As with anything in psychology, individual differences are always present when talking about how people think and process things. If people can truely see these characteres on TV as someone who they can relate to, or at least imagine themselves meeting or knowing, then I think it can deffinately work as a form of status recognition, as well as a motivator. Although I can see these people as "real," I also see them as "real actors," which is why my personal view on reality TV shows doesn't really account for my 'status need.'
As for the emotional aspect of the shows, I can deffinately see how these shows could provoke many different emotions. In me, it happens to bring out frustration, annoyance, or even anger. In some people it brings out laughter, happiness, sadness, or anyother emotion that we get from entertainment in general. These emotions are very clear when people are talking about who got voted off of the Bachelor the night before, or who got kicked off of Survivor (is that show even on anymore?) last episode on campus. People love gossiping and choosing who they think will win, which play on their emotions, and even their competitive side sometimes. In this way, reality TV may be considered the same as anyother movie or type of entertainment, because the whole point of entertainment is to capture our interest (by pulling at our emotions, regardless of the type), keep it through out the season/movie, and end on a new or strengthened emotion. However, the difference with reality TV is that people either become more involved because they feel they can relate, or they become annoyed or irritated at the 'false realness' of the whole thing (like me!:) )

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