Reality programs allow people to participate without risk

August 03, 2000

Television programs such as "Survivors," "Big Brother," and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" allow people to participate in a dramatic social event without risk, a Virginia Tech psychologist says.

Scott Geller, professor of psychology and behavioral psychologist, says the appeal of such reality television lies in the reluctance of people these days to invest any of themselves in a relationship interaction. In Survivor, for example, they can watch the participants struggle for survival without risking their own safety or even their own direct emotional involvement. "It also depicts a typical win-lose competition, which people in our society can relate to from everyday experiences, from road rage to daily conflicts in the office," Geller said.

In Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which often has very easy questions up to a point, the viewers can answer the questions in the safety of their own home without risking the embarrassment of being incorrect in front of a nationwide audience, Geller said.

The latest program, Big Brother, fulfills today¹s desire to know people intimately without risking rejection or giving up one¹s own personal privacy, Geller said. "We can view the privacy of intimate relationships without giving of ourselves."
Researcher: Scott Geller

PR CONTACT: Sally Harris

Virginia Tech

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