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How Reality TV Preferences Reveal Personality
The difference between living vicariously and voyeuristically
Posted Jan 04, 2018
Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D.
Psychology Today © 1991-2018 Sussex Publishers, LLC | HealthProfs.com © 2002-2018 Sussex Directories, Inc.

MADG Disclaimer: Psychology Todayis not a scientific journal; it is a pay-to-publish outlet for psychology-related content. Any published research should be considered preliminary; and readers should not accept anything therein to be sound, clinical advice. (This is especially true of the Psychology Today blogs.) Consult qualified professionals for advice or therapy.

Source; excerpts follow:


Personality and Voyeurism: More Than Meets The Eye

Even die hard news junkies periodically break from their steady diet of information and current events to take a peek inside the world of reality TV. Whether it is Mob Wives or some version of The Real Housewives, you can usually catch an eyeful of drama, from a heated argument at a nightclub to flipping over tables at a dinner party.

If you prefer other reality genres such as cooking or real estate, instead of flipping tables you might watch flipping pancakes in a contest, or flipping houses for profit. Yet does any of that make you a voyeur? It depends on how broadly we define voyeurism—a term that is consistently the subject of much debate.

You Are What You Watch: Personality Traits and Viewing Patterns

Bagdasarov et al. in "I Am What I Watch: Voyeurism, Sensation Seeking, and Television Viewing Patterns," (2010) sought to investigate the role of voyeurism in preferred television show consumption.[1] They found that people who score higher in voyeurism preferred reality TV. They also cited a prior researcher´s observation that reality TV was created to satisfy voyeuristic inclinations…

[Lemi] Baruh argued that a common form of voyeurism that may predict reality TV watching is "trait voyeurism," defined as "seeking safe (and often reciprocal) ways of having access to information and/or experience that would be otherwise (and normatively) inaccessible, and something enjoyed opportunistically (rather than compulsively)."

Baruh also emphasizes the need to distinguish voyeuristic use of television and enjoying sexual content on television—two separate concepts, which Baruh says prior research has conflated within the context of voyeuristic television use.

Reality Television Satisfies Social Stimulation

Watching reality television certainly does not mean you are a voyeur in a sexual sense. Bagdasarov et al. note that previous research found people with low levels of personal interaction and mobility were more likely to view reality TV not only to meet voyeuristic needs, but also to satisfy the need for companionship…

Read full editorial.

This primarily caught my eye because I am not a fan of reality TV, and am often frustrated by its ubiquitousness. (For example: Remember back when the History Channel actually focused on history-related programming?) I have previously (and smugly) asserted that "I'm not a voyeur", and (full disclosure) Patrick's opinions here are giving me a nice, warm feeling of confirmation bias.

I've also asserted that modern, social media is: "where voyeurism meets exhibitionism"; and I think it's no coincidence that social media and reality TV are concurrently so popular.

The interesting aspect here is how the author is so careful to distinguish between types of voyeurism ("trait voyeurism" versus sexual); and also give a nod to the DSMV definition of the paraphilic disorder. I think many folks, when they happen across the term "voyeurism", jump to the sexual connotation. (This is also true of "fetish".)

Finally, the last paragraph cited above notes what I think is a key aspect to reality TV popularity: The need for companionship. There is much research and commentary on how our culture has become one of incorporeal relationships; where folks can become deeply involved with others without meeting them face-to-face (or even knowing them personally). On the positive side, folks who are unable to get about due to immobility or isolation can feel connected to others (the necessary companionship). On the other hand, cyber skills are not the same as social skills, and overreliance on electronics can abate positive growth and learning experiences.

I like the various facets of the article.

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