Disturbing Reality Television
A student of mine just sent me a link to a new Fox Reality Channel show called “Solitary“, where the goal of the show is to take “contestants to the threshold of tolerance by challenging their individual psychological and physical endurance.” Apperantly, the participants are placed in solitary confinement and only win when everyone else breaks down enough that they leave the show. This comes on the heels of another program called “Shock Treatment“, where participants are taken to an abandoned mental hospital and “undergo experiments designed to scare them” and “create an environment of powerlessness, uncertainty and stress.”
I have not been able to see either of these shows since I don’t have access to that channel, but the premise of both is disturbing. I’m also troubled by the idea that there are likely psychologists working as consultants in designing the shows and the experiments. Sure the participants sign informed consent forms and undergo a battery of tests to ensure they are healthy before they begin, but to manipulate them psychologically to engender extreme panic and fear (which may actually do harm to them) for entertainment of viewers is unethical. It is unfortunate that new, informative, psychology-oriented TV programs like “The Human Behavior Experiments” are offset by these other programs.
Meek, W. (2006). Disturbing Reality Television. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 31, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2006/06/12/disturbing-reality-television/