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Get Lucky on TV: Reality Television and One-Night Stands

Get Lucky on TV: Reality Television and One-Night Stands

Watching reality tv about sexual relationships is associated with one-night stands.

reality television, sexual relationships, sex, one-night stand, sexual permissiveness, perceived realism, sensitivity theory, social interaction theory, romance, dating

There is nothing more shameful then admitting to your colleagues that you let your weekend pass by sprawled out on the couch binging on snacks and reality television. Since Big Brother, the Real World and celebrity reality shows took over the television landscape in the nineties everyone has rendered themselves guilty to mindless absorption of the fortunes and mishaps of other people. You would be inclined to think that this uneventful activity of impassively watching other people’s lives will deprive you of anything eventful happening in your own life. However, a recent study by J. Fogel and L. Kovalenko published in the Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies shows that reality television shows focusing on sexual relationships are associated with college students engaging in one-night stands.

The theoretical framework of this study was made up of the Social Cognitive Theory – which states that behavior is influenced by observing and replicating other people’s behavior – and Sensitivity Theory – which states that media use is motivated by people’s needs and is linked to 16 basic needs as romance, acceptance and social contact. In reality television, this entails that characters that are rewarded for certain (promiscuous) behavior are the characters that viewers like and that those who watch reality TV shows show greater scores on the basic need for romance than people that do not watch reality shows.

In their research, Fogel and Kovalenko interviewed more than 600 college students from a commuter college in New York City, where most of the students still live with their parents. They made a distinction between reality shows that focus on dating, like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, and shows that focus on sexual relationships, like Temptation Island and Paradise Hotel, since the former category does not focus as much on sexual relationships

They found that those students who watch reality shows with a focus on sexual relationships have a greater chance to engage in one-night stands than those who do not watch these. Also, greater sexual permissiveness and perceived realism are associated with one-night stands. Other studies showed that people that perceive reality TV as more real are associated with using reality television for entertainment, relaxation, social interaction, and companionship.

Thus, the next time you hesitate to tell your colleagues about your boring weekend, remember that the hours you spend watching Temptation Island, Paradise Hotel or Jersey Shore raise your statistical chances of being associated with one-night stands and the accompanying rock and roll lifestyle.

Fogel, J., & Kovalenko, L. (2013). Reality Television Shows Focusing on Sexual Relationships are Associated with College Students Engaging in One-night Stands Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies

Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective Annual Review of Psychology DOI: 10.1111/1467-839X.00024

Reiss, S., & Wiltz, J. (2004). Why people watch reality TV Media Psychology DOI: 10.1207/s1532785xmep0604_3

Papacharissi, Z., & Mendelson, A.L. (2007). An exploratory study of reality appeal: Uses and gratifications of reality TV shows Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media DOI: 10.1080/08838150701307152

Photo: Flickr, Yann!s

Nura Rutten

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